Cognitive-behavioral therapy for eating disorders in primary care settings: Does it work, and does a greater dose make it more effective?

Int J Eat Disord. 2017 Dec;50(12):1350-1355. doi: 10.1002/eat.22778. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Objective: This study aimed to determine whether cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for eating disorders can be effective in a routine, primary care clinical setting, and to assess dose response.

Method: The participants were 47 patients who commenced treatment with a publicly-funded primary care eating disorder service. They attended 7-33 sessions of individual CBT (mean = 17), using an evidence-based approach. Routine measures were collected pre- and post-therapy.

Results: Three-quarters of the patients completed treatment. Using intention to treat analysis (multiple imputation), the patients showed substantial improvements in eating attitudes, bulimic behaviors, and depression. However, there was no association between the level of improvement and the length of therapy past the 8th to 12th session.

Discussion: The level of effectiveness shown here is comparable to that previously demonstrated by more specialist services in secondary and tertiary care. The nonlinear association between number of sessions and recovery highlights the importance of early change, across the eating disorders.

Keywords: cognitive-behavioral therapy; community sample; eating disorders; treatment dose.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult