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The Benefits of Group Therapy Treatment for Teen Eating Disorders

Youth Treatment Center- Paradigm Malibu

Group therapy is a unique form of treatment in which benefits for a teen are sourced from not only the relationship with the therapist, as in individual therapy, but also from the other participants in the group.


Group therapy includes one or more therapist, psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional who are facilitating treatment for a group of individuals. Participants of group therapy usually experience the same diagnosis or life challenge. For instance, adults who were sexually abused as children might make up a group in therapy. Typically, everyone in the room, aside from the therapist, is experiencing the same struggles, which is why the group can become a supportive community. Group therapy for teen eating disorders can be incredibly helpful and healing.


Group therapy has been proven to be effective within the mental health field and it is a form of treatment that many counseling and treatment centers use. They are as diverse as the wide variety of individual therapies. Some groups are more psychologically oriented, serving to address the specific issues that a teen might be experiencing while others are more social in nature. For example, support groups can be solely educational, teaching participants about their diagnosis or healthier coping mechanisms or skills to manage their illness appropriately. Or group therapy can be a time for participants to have a therapeutic experience that bring insight, healing, and hope.


With an Eating Disorder Therapy Group, an adolescent gains from the experiences of others. The opportunity to connect with and understand the experience of other teens in the room facilitates acceptance of the challenges of his or her diagnosis as well as creates compassion – not only for that other adolescent but also for herself.


Because challenges of an eating disorder stem from dysfunctional thinking, having a community as well as a professional to facilitate a healthy conversation, can be incredibly enlightening. For instance, Hilde Bruch was the first woman to identify the root cause of an eating disorder – the need to establish a sense of control. In her book, The Golden Cage, she points out that the expectation of women to have it all together, while inside feeling a complete lack of control ultimately leads to the illness. It is as though women turn to controlling food and her body as a way to feel powerful. An eating disorder is an act of self-assertion, amidst the habit of withholding her voice, her expression, and her power.


Therapist Catrina Brown put it well: “Women feel in control of their lives through controlling their bodies, yet the need to establish this false and precarious control suggests they are desperately out of control.”


In a group therapeutic experience, the facilitator might suggest that each individual in the group talk about how they might be controlling their food and their bodies. The remarks from everyone as well as responses can offer a group therapy participant a new perspective on the illness. Perhaps, the experience can even facilitate letting go of control in order to feel themselves again.


Group therapy can provide the following those suffering from a teen eating disorder:


  • Healthier coping mechanisms
  • A better way to manage life and emotional experiences
  • A teen’s maturity, independence, and autonomy
  • Explanation for why medication or other forms of treatment might be necessary
  • A clear explanation of an eating disorder and how it function in a teen’s life
  • Facilitation of identifying behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that keep an adolescent stuck in the disorder
  • Facilitation of healing and freedom from the bonds of an eating disorder


Lastly, if there are healthy relationships within the group, therapy can be a strong source of support when circumstances at home or school get rough. Of course, group therapy can be less expensive than individual therapy and might be another reason to choose this as a treatment option. It’s common, however, that a therapist recommend both group and individual therapy for the successful treatment of teen eating disorders.




Brown, C. (1990). The Control Paradox: Understanding and Working with Anorexia and Bulimia. Retrieved on April 29, 2014 from: http://nedic.ca/control-paradox-understanding-and-working-anorexia-and-bulimia



By Robert Hunt
If you are reading this on any blog other than Paradigm Malibu or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

2 responses to “The Benefits of Group Therapy Treatment for Teen Eating Disorders

  1. Thanks for going over some reasons to use a group therapy treatment for eating disorders. I’m glad that you mentioned that this is a great chance for you to be able to talk and connect with others who may have similar challenges. I can definitely see the benefits of this, especially if seeing others with similar problems can help provide some comfort and validation to them.

  2. My favorite benefit you mentioned of group therapy for eating disorders was how you pointed out that the healthy relationships it creates can great a good source of support. I can see why it would be beneficial since you can see you’re not alone in your struggle to overcome your eating disorder. I wonder if this is something my friend’s daughter could benefit from since I know she struggles with anorexia.

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