Group psychotherapy for eating disorders: A meta-analysis

Int J Eat Disord. 2017 Sep;50(9):997-1013. doi: 10.1002/eat.22744. Epub 2017 Aug 3.


Objective: In the current meta-analysis, we review the effect of group psychotherapy compared to both wait-list controls and other active treatments for adults with eating disorders (EDs).

Method: Twenty-seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that provide direct comparisons with a total of 1,853 participants were included.

Results: Group psychotherapy is significantly more effective than wait-list controls at achieving abstinence rates of binge eating and/or purging (RR = 5.51, 95% CI: 3.73, 8.12), decreasing the frequency of binge eating and/or purging (g = 0.70, 95% CI: 0.51, 0.90), and reducing related ED psychopathology (g = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.32, 0.66) after treatment. The effects of group psychotherapy and other active treatments (e.g., behavioral weight loss, self-help, individual psychotherapy) did not differ on any outcome at post-treatment or at follow-ups. Group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of group psychotherapy did not differ significantly on outcomes at any time point.

Discussion: Additional research is needed to evaluate other group psychotherapy approaches, along with CBT, to provide more evidence-based treatment options for individuals with an ED. Group psychotherapy appears as effective as other common treatments and is perhaps more cost-effective than the most popular treatment, individual psychotherapy. Only 8.33% of comparisons in the current meta-analysis had at least 80% power to detect a moderate effect (d = .50) and we recommend that future RCTs be adequately powered.

Keywords: cognitive-behavioral therapy; group psychotherapy; meta-analysis; randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*