Definition of RFT
Responsive Feeding Therapy (RFT) is an overarching approach to feeding and eating interventions applicable to multiple disciplines and across the lifespan. RFT facilitates the (re)discovery of internal cues, curiosity, and motivation, while building skills and confidence. It is flexible, prioritizes the feeding relationship, and respects and develops autonomy.
The White Paper Responsive Feeding Therapy: Values and Practice defines RFT and describes its core values. Many of our TEAM members contributed to the White Paper, in which we set out the fundamentals of what we believe and what we do as RFT practitioners. It is our hope that this will be a useful resource for clinicians and researchers. The White Paper is part of an ongoing movement to develop and share RFT, on this site and beyond.
The RFT movement represents an exciting shift towards a shared approach to eating and feeding challenges, applicable across disciplines. It draws on the work of several pioneers in the field of child feeding as well as diverse areas of scholarship. We owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues who have both informed the development of RFT and helped us over the years to shape our practices.
RFT Values: Autonomy, Relationship, Internal Motivation, Individualized Care, Competence
Autonomy pertains to agency and respect for personal space and bodily integrity, enabling a person to be in control of their own actions.
Relationship refers to warm and attuned interpersonal connections.
Competence means the individual’s perceived (as opposed to objectively assessed) sense of having sufficient skills to manage a situation.
Intrinsic motivation describes a desire to act that is self-driven rather than brought about by external forces.
Holism (the whole child lens) refers to a focus on the whole person, in the context of their families, communities, and cultures.
For more, read the full Responsive Feeding Therapy: Values and Practice
What RFT is not
- RFT practitioners do not coach parents to encourage or ‘get’ the child to interact with food (although child-initiated food interactions may take place in therapy and at home). Parents are coached to provide a supportive environment, but are not expected to be the child’s feeding therapist.
- RFT is not simply ‘having fun’ with food. Just because an approach is playful, that doesn’t necessarily make it responsive.
- Accepting a child’s ‘no’ or giving a child a choice does not necessarily imply that an intervention is responsive. Children may comply for many reasons, including a desire to please or to escape from a situation.
- RFT is not simply ‘no pressure’ or doing nothing. The absence of pressure or coercion is one small piece of a holistic, relationship-building framework.