Responsive Feeding Therapy:
How the RFT Framework Can Enhance Your Practice

Descriptions of the six sessions in the Foundational Series:

Session one - Peace, Love, and Understanding: Responsive Feeding Therapy, the Origins, the Journey, and the Future

Presented by Jo Cormack PhD, MBACP  

RFT centres on the application of responsive feeding concepts in a clinical setting. Before the core elements of RFT are considered in this webinar series, this initial session looks back at how the term ‘responsive feeding’ gained traction, how it came out of the responsive parenting literature, and how it has been developed clinically.  From the field of self-determination theory, the three basic needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence will be introduced, as well as what they mean for feeding. Finally, there will be a glance to the future, as research directions and clinical implications are discussed. Feeding professionals will get some valuable context for RFT as well as the opportunity to think about different definitions and interpretations of the term ‘responsive.’

Session two - I Did it My Way: Child Autonomy in Responsive Feeding Therapy

Presented by Jo Cormack PhD, MBACP

Autonomy is said to be a basic need essential to intrinsic motivation. It is at the heart of a responsive approach to feeding and there is a wealth of research evidence demonstrating what happens when children’s eating is externally rather than internally (autonomously) driven. This session will examine WHY parents may find it hard to give their child autonomy and how practitioners can work with this. Feeding professionals will learn about helping parents gain insight into their responses and unconscious processes, how to help them recognise that these may be getting in the way of child-autonomy, and what they can do instead. There will be a focus on working with parental expectations because parental feeding goals can interact with non-responsive practices that block autonomy. Whether working directly with parents or not, it is necessary for feeding professionals to appreciate the relational aspects of feeding challenges; a nuanced understanding of child-autonomy is essential to supporting the feeding relationship. 

Session three - What’s Love Got to Do With It: Relatedness in Responsive Feeding Therapy

Presented by Katja Rowell MD

Feeding is by definition relational, and humans are wired for connection. Beginning with attachment, adding recent learning about neurobiology and development points towards a theory of regulation and co-regulation as pivotal to wellbeing. This session will explore the importance of self-regulation for health, feeding and digestion, and then expand to consider how adults can offer co-regulation to support healthy feeding. Feeding professionals will learn concrete steps to offer co-regulation to children as well as their parents. Co-regulation and cue-based feeding has been utilized in pre-term infant feeding. There’s plenty of research suggesting it’s time to extend a relational focus for feeding beyond infancy. 

Session four - I Believe I Can Fly: Skills and Confidence in Responsive Feeding Therapy

Presented by Heidi Liefer Moreland MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, CLC and Jennifer Berry MS, OT/L

In order to be competent in feeding, children need to feel safe, enjoy positive relationships around food, enjoy mealtimes, and be allowed to develop skills at their own rate. This means that children need to be able to respond to their body’s cues confidently and develop their own preferences as their skills mature. Parental competence is important as well, as they learn to support children as they grow and change. This course will cover the importance of presumed competence, the benefits of building on strengths instead of targeting weaknesses and ways that therapists can help families provide scaffolding/support for kids in a timely way.

Session five - “I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want...” : Intrinsic Motivation in Responsive Feeding Therapy

Presented by Heidi Liefer Moreland MS, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, CLC and Jennifer Berry MS, OT/L

When a child has eating differences, loving caregivers and well-meaning professionals often try a multitude of strategies to get them unstuck. Unfortunately, strategies and therapies often move ahead with the focus of getting children to eat through external motivation. Instead, therapies and interventions should be focused on helping a child discover internal or intrinsic drives to eat. When children learn to trust, understand and be intrinsically motivated to eat, skill development improves and progress is lasting. In this course, we will explore the natural intrinsic motivations to eat, their importance, and practical strategies to help children and families uncover the internal drives to eat. 

Session six - All of Me : Considering the Whole Child in Responsive Feeding Therapy

Presented by Katja Rowell MD and Jo Cormack PhD, MBACP

This session will discuss a  whole-child lens to feeding challenges. We begin with a brief reminder of child factors to consider (sensory, growth and nutrition, medical concerns…), then examine the interplay with the family and wider community. How might food insecurity, ableism, cultural feeding practices, or weight stigma impact a child’s eating? Real-world examples show how looking only to the child for assessment or treatment misses important opportunities for healing. We will examine definitions and models for integrative care from related fields and offer tools and assessment tips to help you see the whole child.