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Two trains, same track, no collision

Posted Dec 20 2010 9:21am
In an emerging field it is natural that we'd have a lot of uncertainty about how to treat an illness.

What is perplexing in the eating disorder field is how two completely opposing viewpoints on the role of parents could keep steaming toward one another without a crash: whether parents should back off or be engaged is one. Because this is a complex set of conditions and there are so many elements to debate, what often happens is we find allies in one area who disagree on another, derailing the issue at hand. Or a debate on one aspect of theory gets blown off the rails by a skirmish over another.

Most painful to me is when the debate on the parental role pits parents against parents. I often ask eating disorder professionals to take a stand in their field against other professionals and clinics operating poorly. But I myself try not to confront other parents - even those out there promoting ideas antithetical to my own message. Ouch. Hypocritical much?

I just watched a video of a mother advising parents to do the exact opposite of what I do. She told parents to fix themselves, let their children control their own food, back off, and realize that it is not about food but about deeper psychological issues. Had this message come from a clinician in the field I'd have been blogging it. But it is a fellow mother so I'm queasy. So much so that I'm not even telling you who or where it is.

There probably is a way to respectfully engage this mother's point of view, and I lack the skills to do it. I have a really thick skin now about critique from the profession but still get all weepy when parents criticize me. Earlier in my work I would have said "who am I to judge?" and now I feel that as a part of a huge community of families of like mind it would almost be bullying to call down that community on an individual. I have all kinds of justifications for not calling out parents and there do need to be boundaries on this - parents can't be expected to be held accountable in the same way as professionals. Parents - especially those who have lost their children to death or estrangement - deserve a special consideration, period.

Yet a sad truth is that much of the message out there for parents to back off, watch from a distance, leave food and therapy to the patient, and see the illness as a sign of failure or trauma in the family is coming from fellow parents. The message is no less damaging coming from moms and dads: perhaps more so.

The trains need to get close enough to see one another, or maybe they need to crash. I'm struggling with this.
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