Intensive Family Treatment Program

Program Overview

Eating disorders are among the leading causes of chronic illness in adolescents, with symptoms often lasting many years, and causing drastic reductions to both quality of life and overall lifespan. When an adolescent suffers from an eating disorders, they don’t suffer alone, as all members of the family are profoundly impacted. Just as all members of the family are impacted by the presence of an eating disorder, our team’s research has illustrated how everyone in the family can be a key part of recovery from an eating disorder. Leading research in the field of eating disorders now shows that parents and families are often the best resource to help adolescents recover from an eating disorder. Our unique team at UCSF has spent many years developing and testing treatments that capitalize on family individual strengths in guiding their child through recovery.

The purpose of Eating Disorder-Intensive Family Treatment (ED-IFT) is to provide parents and families with an immersive and intensive dose of treatment that is specifically designed to bring about rapid symptom change. This program provides families with the practical skills necessary to successfully steer their child through an eating disorder, in addition to equipping families with a deeper understanding of eating disorders, which helps develop strategies for all members of the family to play a key role in recovery. As such, ED-IFT benefits all members of the family, and provides a comprehensive guide for each member of the family in how to navigate the steps required throughout recovery. Treatment components are drawn from family-based treatment, dialectical behavior therapy, parent management training, meal coaching, and leading neuroimaging research.

The Intensive Family Therapy Program (IFT) was developed at the UC San Diego Eating Disorder Treatment and Research Center under the direction of Walter Kaye and in collaboration with Ivan Eisler, Roxie Rockwell, Stephanie Knatz-Peck, and ​colleagues. The program was originally developed in 2006 based on the family-based treatment model (FBT). Since then, the program has undergone numerous evolutions based on expert input and groundbreaking advances in the field of adolescent eating disorders. The current program includes multiple modalities of treatment developed and refined at UCSD and designed to bolster traditional FBT including adolescent and parenting skills training, psychoeducation, in-vivo interventions, and multi-family therapy. Several outcome studies have been published demonstrating efficacy.  ​


Rockwell, R. E., Boutelle, K., Trunko, M. E., Jacobs, M. J., & Kaye, W. H. (2011). An innovative short-term, intensive, family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa: case series. European eating disorders review, 19(4), 362-367.

Knatz, S., Murray, S. B., Matheson, B., Boutelle, K. N., Rockwell, R., Eisler, I., & Kaye, W. H. (2015). A Brief, Intensive Application of Multi-Family-Based Treatment for Eating Disorders. Eating disorders, 23(4), 315-324.

Marzola, E., Knatz, S., Murray, S. B., Rockwell, R., Boutelle, K., Eisler, I., & Kaye, W. H. (2015). Short-term intensive family therapy for adolescent eating disorders: 30-month outcome. European eating disorders review, 23(3), 210-218.

Program Structure

ED-IFT runs over the course of one week, from Monday through Friday, and involves approximately 40 hours of intensive treatment. The program is conducted in a multi-family format, with up to 6 families participating in one group, which fosters powerful inter-family support and learning, in addition to reducing the isolation many families feel when grappling with their child’s eating disorder. Families will receive a combination of many distinct treatments throughout the week, including psychoeducation, family therapy, multifamily therapy, meal coaching, adolescent coping skills, parent training, and behavioral contracting. 

Who will benefit from ED-IFT?

Family therapy has been shown to be a powerful intervention for adolescents with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and restricting type atypical eating disorder presentations. Our team has worked extensively in developing cutting edge developments in the treatment of eating disorders, and out ED-IFT program is available to both male and female adolescents between the ages of 12-18, who have a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or a restricting type atypical eating disorder.

Medical Assessment

Adolescents must receive medical clearance from their local pediatrician prior to attending our program to ensure medical stability and appropriateness to participate in this outpatient treatment program. We require families to set up appointments with a local physician to complete the necessary medical tests, and forward the results to our program before attending.

How Effective is ED-IFT?

Data collected from our colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, where the IFT program was originally developed, shows that ED-IFT can be a very powerful intervention. This program is effective in reducing eating disorder symptoms, with long-term benefits being observed. A scientific study showed that even after 2.5 years after IFT treatment had been completed, the vast majority of patients (87%) had maintained full or partial symptom remission. This study also revealed that IFT reduces the risk of hospitalization or treatment in higher levels of care.

How Can I Find Out More Information?

For more information about our ED-IFT program, please contact our clinic coordinator, Simar Singh, at either 415-476-0622, or