Monday, September 22, 2008

Using Dads

Hundreds of therapists, physicians, nutritionists and family members gathered this past weekend in Austin, Texas to talk and learn about eating disorders at the annual conference of the National Eating Disorders Association. I was there are one of the keynote speakers, but it was surprising how rarely the power and potential of fathers and stepfathers arose during discussions about prevention and treatment of serious problems like anorexia and bulimia. In fact, I don’t know that I heard that it come up at all in conversations in which I wasn’t already a participant.

Fathers and stepfathers tend to be invisible to most people working to help families with difficulties like mental or physical illness. This despite the fact that a father or stepfather’s meaning and influence is unavoidable at home.

It is a mystery why dads remain our culture’s greatest untapped natural resource—hidden in plain sight.

I speak about and train professionals on how to start recognizing – and making smart use of—this resource with such incredible potential. So, I spent a lot of time conversing with therapists and representatives of treatment centers, urging them to quickly learn how to integrate fathers more centrally into their work—if for no other reason that the fact that their work will get done more efficiently if they make smart use of this “new” tool!

It’s a safe bet that those organizations and institutions who do learn to more fully tap the power and potential of fathers will quickly (and deservedly) get the reputation for helping their clients get healthy quicker and stay healthy longer. I hope more of them start. You can learn more about this—and how to get training—at