Couple-based interventions in the treatment of adult anorexia nervosa: A brief case example of UCAN

Psychotherapy (Chic). 2016 Jun;53(2):241-50. doi: 10.1037/pst0000053.


Adult anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious and often fatal illness that significantly erodes quality of life for both the patient and loved ones. Treatment of adults with AN has focused largely on individual therapy, with recent findings suggesting that improvement is limited and dropout rates are high. In an effort to improve treatment response, we developed a couple-based intervention, Uniting Couples in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa (UCAN) as an adjunct treatment to standard multidisciplinary care. UCAN leverages the support of a partner and the relationship in treatment by decreasing avoidance around AN, teaching the couple how to effectively address the eating disorder, and helping to foster a more satisfying relationship. This paper presents a case study of a couple who completed UCAN, "Laura and Steve," including their experiences in treatment and outcome measures at pretest, posttest, and 3-month follow-up. Laura showed clinically significant change on the Restraint subscale of the Eating Disorders Examination at follow-up, and both partners showed clinically significant improvements in relationship satisfaction, as well as on self-reported and observed communication. Both partners reported very high satisfaction with the treatment. A discussion of therapists' experiences in delivering UCAN is provided, including common challenges for therapists with primarily a couple therapy or an individual CBT for eating disorders background, as well as important factors for therapists to consider in order to optimally leverage the benefits of including partners in treatment for AN. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Body Image
  • Body Weight
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy / methods*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Problem Solving