When the Therapist Has Had an Eating Disorder

Is treatment expectation affected when a therapist self-discloses an eating disorder history?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
July/August Volume 25, Number 4
©2014 iaedp

Despite relatively high estimates of lifetime prevalence of eating disorders among eating disorders therapists (ranging from 29% to 43%), little information is available about any clinical implications. In a presentation at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in New York City, Melissa Stone, MA, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Newton, MA, Dr. Debra Franko, Northeastern University, Boston, and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital reported that results of their study of 133 women with eating disorders showed the outcome of therapy was the same whether or not patients knew their therapist had a prior eating disorder. The subjects, all women 18 to 65 years of age, were recruited either online through a well-known eating disorder author’s Facebook page or in person at the Massachusetts General Hospital outpatient program. The women were randomly assigned to watch one of two simulated psychotherapy videos. The videos were identical except that in the experimental session, the therapist disclosed her personal recovery from an eating disorder. Self-report measures then assessed perceived credibility, and expectation of treatment success, suitability and therapist characteristics such as warmth and honesty. The authors concluded from their analysis that women in the experimental group rated treatment credibility, suitability of treatment, and trustworthiness of the therapist significantly higher than did those in the control group.

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