Archive for June, 2009

Teen Eating Disorders Benefit From Parent’s Help

Check out this informative article that we found online at about teen eating disorders and see the comment that our Associate Director, Beth Hossfeld, wrote in response at the end.

Happy Tuesday!


Teens With Eating Disorders Benefit From Parents’ Help

06.26.09, 09:00 AM EDT

Research shows that recovery improves with family involvement

FRIDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) — When a teenager has an eating disorder, it’s not just the teen’s problem. It’s a family problem.

So, parents should join in on the treatment, a growing number of experts believe.

With parental involvement, “the outcome is likely to be improved,” said Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, medical director of the eating disorders program at Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., and a member of the board of directors of the National Eating Disorders Association.

Nearly 10 million females and 1 million males in the United States have an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Federal government statistics show that more than 90 percent of them are females aged 12 to 25.

People with bulimia binge eat and then purge, whereas those with anorexia nervosa limit food and become dangerously thin because they believe they’re too heavy when, in fact, they’re not.

But the thinking about the causes of eating disorders and their treatment has come full circle, Bermudez said. Many years ago, experts blamed eating disorders on controlling mothers and distant fathers, among other theories. But today they generally concur that the disorders are not due to those factors.

“We know now that eating disorders are real illnesses, not lifestyle choices,” Bermudez said. And parents can play a crucial role in recovery, Bermudez and others now believe.

In fact, researchers found that teens were more able to control their disordered eating when they had family support.

One study involving 80 teens with bulimia put about half in a treatment program that included family therapy and the others in more traditional psychotherapy. Six months later, the success rate for those given family therapy was twice as great as it was for the others.

About 40 percent of teens whose families participated in their treatment had stopped bingeing and purging, compared with 18 percent of those treated without family involvement. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Another study, published in the journal Eating Disorders, followed 32 teenage girls with anorexia and found that 75 percent of them were in full remission three years after treatment that had included family therapy.

Just what does the treatment, generally known as behavioral family therapy, involve?

“The therapist works with the family to empower the family to get the [anorectic] child to eat the meals and recover the weight,” Bermudez said. “The family becomes the agent of change.”

He said that the approach has been studied more in anorexia than in bulimia but that it is used for both.

In bulimia, the parents’ role at home would be to get their teen to eat regular meals so the teen doesn’t binge then purge, Bermudez said.

It doesn’t always work, he said, but it is generally viewed as promising and effective.

The approach did work for the daughter of Deborah, a 50-something mother in Orlando, Fla. She and her husband were stunned when their daughter, Allison, now 25, told them she needed help. “She had lost a lot of weight,” Deborah recalled.

They sought help and participated in a family-centered treatment approach. “I was in the counseling session with Allison and the therapist,” Deborah recalled. It helped her understand the disorder, she said, and how better to help.

But Deborah did much more than sit in the counseling sessions. “We built a team around Allison,” she said. Besides the therapist, the team included the family doctor, a nutritionist, Allison and her parents.

Parents can take other steps to help a teen recover from an eating disorder. Suggestions include:

  • Educate yourself. “I would sit up at night and read,” Deborah said, “so I could understand Allison and what she was experiencing.”
  • Be there emotionally. For her daughter, Deborah recalled, knowing that she could count on her parents’ aid and support helped a great deal.
  • Don’t be in denial. If you suspected your child had cancer, Bermudez asked, wouldn’t you get help immediately? It’s just as crucial for a suspected eating disorder.
  • Follow directions.“Listen to your treatment team,” Bermudez tells parents. The best treatment plans are individualized.

Allison’s family-centered treatment, begun at the start of her senior year in high school, was successful. In college, she began to speak on the topic and now heads up the junior board of directors for the National Eating Disorders Association.

Comment Posted by BethGC | 06/30/09 01:02 AM EDT
Excellent information, thank you. Parents have more influence than they realize on their teens. Parental involvement means so much to teens,especially when it comes with consistency, empathy, listening, and caring. The Girls Circle model provides support groups with activity guides like “Body Image” for girls ages 9 – 18 for use in support groups, and a Mother-Daughter program to increase parent-daughter connection. These are prevention and early intervention approaches. Girls Circles provide safe and healthy connection and oppportunity for girls to gain critical thinking and self-care skills, challenge myths about appearance, and find strength and wellness through relationships and self-development. Girls with eating disorders often find support in these groups for healthy practices, and girls with concerns about their peers’ distorted or disordered behaviors find strategies to resist unhealthy practices or unintended social re-inforcements. Girls Circle in conjunction with eating disorder treatment protocols can restore girls’ to a balanced lifestyle anchored in caring relationships. For more info:

June 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

The Power of Michael Jackson’s Music

In the Girls Circle Facilitator Guide “Who I Am,” there’s an activity where we invite girls to bring a song to the group that expresses five things about who they are.

Do you know this one?

Which Michael Jackson song expresses something about you?

Michael Jackson was born ten months after me. When I was 11, the Jackson 5 were on the radio everyday with I Want You Back, ABC, and soon after, the love song of my early adolescence – I’ll Be There.

And when he stepped out on his own, his music streamed on: Got to Be There, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Something, The Way You Make Me Feel, The Man in the Mirror, Black or White, Heal the World…

 Michael’s rhythm, voice, beat, emotion, lyrics……moved us from inside out. You couldn’t NOT move to his music, you couldn’t NOT sing to his songs. They transcend time, boundaries, and limitations. They capture the electrical current that is always present in life. Such a genius.
I can’t begin to select just one MJ song to express who I am. MJ himself, his music, art, talent and gifts have been a backdrop to my entire life since pre-adolescence.
He made it easy to move when dancing didn’t come so naturally to me, with songs like The Way You Make Me Feel.


His message of acceptance with Black or White is a message for all time.
Man in the Mirror reminds me that there’s always something I can do to make the world a better place.
Michael’s personal life — fraught with suffering, isolation, and accusations of child abuse – leave us with many unresolved questions and sadness. Certainly his history as a victim of abuse is not unlike millions of girls and boys today. In Girls Circle and in The Council we see youth come out of isolation and into healthy connection. We can’t help wishing that it could’ve been different for him and all those in his personal circle.
Yet inside of him was also a healer, who gave of his talents to change the world. For that, I hope that his song Heal the World is one that says something about me. At 51, I feel like this song’s importance has never been more urgent.
For shaping and defining the sounds, rhythms, moods, and movement of my life, I am deeply grateful to Michael Jackson.


June 29, 2009 at 3:33 am 3 comments

What does Girl Power Really Mean?

Author Rachel Simmons is right on in her article in the Huffington Post of 6.25.09:

While girls can learn how to find power through a variety of methods, their real power lies not in knowing how to intimidate or dish out verbal punches but rather, in speaking truthfully, listening carefully, and connecting with other girls/young women and allies to address their needs and resolve issues in direct and respectful conversation.

Often that power is supported by a community of peers, or through collective voices engaged toward justice or standing up for one self. We have seen some of the most intimidating or angry girls become the greatest champions of justice and the leaders of caring, relational communities. Girls who often say they don’t trust other girls have realized the problem isn’t girls, it is a lack of safe and respectful environments where girls can learn to tell the truth to each other and listen to other’s experiences.

Girls Circle honors girls’ real strengths and wisdom and encourages girls’ power to be fully present, in respect and nonjudgment. Facilitators often share that these groups remind them as women to walk that talk too.  That has certainly been my own experience.

Thank you for joining with us to create these safe, respectful and powerful environments that engage girls’ best capacities:

June 25, 2009 at 7:02 am Leave a comment

Are You Aware of Abused Women and Children?

June 11 is Abused Women and Children Awareness Day.
Why? Because the fact is that one of every four women in America is injured or assaulted by her spouse or partner, and more than 1400 women will lose their lives to domestic violence this year. Now think about the children of these women, many of whom are also directly abused but all of whom are indirectly and traumatically affected by witnessing the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of their mothers, step-mothers, aunts, older sisters, grandmothers.
Abusive partners can be very attentive or charming, or otherwise “nice” people from every socioeconomic and racial sector, but they usually have a very unhealthy need for control.
If you or someone you care about may be suffering from an abusive or controlling relationship or in a family where domestic violence occurs, there are many people out here who have walked this path and can offer support, guidance, information to you.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for more information.

Calling can connect you or your friend or loved one to someone who can point you toward a way out of the pain and into safety and care.
At Girls Circle, we are grateful for the thousands of service providers, volunteers, professionals, students, and families that work every day offering safety, shelter, friendship, skill building, and empowerment through education and opportunity to abused women and children .
We’re also sincerely grateful for the hundreds of men and women working as facilitators of programs like Boys Council that challenge unhealthy masculinity concepts and foster healthy male development.

Empowering women and children ultimately restores well being for all boys and girls, men and women.

Take Care!

June 12, 2009 at 5:17 am Leave a comment

Announcement! The Council, for Boys & Young Men

Exciting news from our “brother” organization! Boys Council is changing its name! In response to requests from young men and the adults who work with them, BC is changing its name to The Council, for Boys & Young Men. More details, new logo and Web site look to come!

June 9, 2009 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Girls Turn to Facilitators in Crisis

Imagine yourself as a teen girl.  Now imagine yourself  homeless, pregnant,  depressed, living with an alcoholic parent, experiencing intimidation by a group of peers, or being sexually abused by a coach, or any potentially dangerous circumstance.  Now, imagine having no adult you can trust or talk to.

This scene is nothing new. Adolescent girls have faced these kinds of circumstances throughout time and across cultures.

Now imagine you’ve joined a Girls Circle group.  In addition to the general comfort you find with the girls, you notice the facilitator is consistently respectful, welcoming, empathic and supports a  safe environment.

Soon enough you realize you can trust her. You take the risk, stay after group and ask if you can talk to her.

This is exactly what two teens in a western state did just a couple of weeks ago – they approached their facilitator after group.  One told her she was depressed and needed help.  The other revealed that she was afraid to go home because her mother was likely to be drinking and she feared a fire or a fall at any time.

Now, they have support and encouragement, someone on their side,  who assisted them to develop a plan for their next steps-  speaking to  the family or community members who could comfort and protect, assist and embrace, or inform and connect.

A 2007 Girls Circle National Research Study found significant increases in girls communicating with adults. See

Props to these and all girls for taking the risk to talk to your facilitators when you know you need a trustworthy adult.  Props to all of you Girls Circle facilitators for being there for the girls in your groups.  Resiliency is in the connection.

June 3, 2009 at 3:25 am 2 comments

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