In an effort to understand how to better treat women with eating and food issues, researchers conducted a study comparing the long-term effectiveness of a dissonance-based eating disorder program versus a traditional educational intervention. Eric Stice, Paul Rohde, Heather Shaw and Jeff Gau, all of the Oregon Research Institute, believe the study is vitally important. “Eating disorders, which afflict 10% of adolescent girls and young women, are marked by functional impairment, morbidity, mental health service utilization, and increased risk for future health and mental health problems,” they said.
The team enlisted 306 girls with eating issues and enrolled half into the dissonance based program. Over four one hour weekly sessions, the groups of girls were encouraged to critique thin ideal body types in exercises that elicited written, verbal and behavioral responses. “These activities theoretically produce cognitive dissonance that motivates participants to reduce their pursuit of the thin ideal, producing reductions in body dissatisfaction, unhealthy weight control behaviors, negative affect, and eating disorder symptoms,” said the team. The control group was enrolled in the educational brochure program, in which they were provided with a two page leaflet developed by the National Eating Disorders Association; that identified behaviors of positive and negative body image and eating issues.
Both groups were interviewed at the conclusion of the treatment, and again at six months, one, two and three years after. The results revealed that the dissonance based group had less body dissatisfaction at the end of the treatment through the third year follow-up. The team said, “It is encouraging that this brief 4-hour dissonance-based eating disorder prevention program produced intervention effects that persisted through 2- and 3-year follow-up, particularly in light of the fact that most eating disorder prevention programs have not been shown to reduce eating disorder symptoms. The present study is the first to find evidence that a prevention intervention significantly reduced eating disorder symptoms through 3-year follow-up.”
Stice, Eric, Paul Rohde, Jeff Gau, and Heather Shaw. “An Effectiveness Trial of a Selected Dissonance-Based Eating Disorder Prevention Program for Female High School Students: Long-Term Effects.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.4 (2011): 500-08. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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