Enhancing motivation for change in treatment-resistant eating disorders

Kelly Vitousek, Susan Watson, G. Terence Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

468 Scopus citations

Abstract

Denial and resistance to change are prominent features in most patients with anorexia nervosa. The egosyntonic quality of symptoms can contribute to inaccuracy in self-report, avoidance of treatment, difficulties in establishing a therapeutic relationship, and high rates of attrition and relapse. Individuals with bulimia nervosa are typically more motivated to recover, but often ambivalent about forfeiting the ideal of slenderness and the protective functions of binge-purge behavior. Few attempts have been made to assess denial and resistance in the eating disorders, or to examine alternative strategies for enhancing motivation to change. Review of the clinical literature indicates a striking convergence of recommendations across conceptually distinct treatment approaches. Clinicians are encouraged to acquire a frame of reference that can help them understand the private experience of individuals with eating disorders, empathize with their distress at the prospect of weight gain, and acknowledge the difficulty of change. The Socratic method seems particularly well-suited to work with this population because of its emphasis on collaboration, openness, curiosity, patience, focused and systematic inquiry, and individual discovery. Four themes are crucial in engaging reluctant eating-disordered clients in therapy: the provision of psychoeducational material, an examination of the advantages and disadvantages of symptoms, the explicit use of experimental strategies, and an exploration of personal values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-420
Number of pages30
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Volume18
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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