The Integration of Exposure Sessions into Family-based Treatment for Adolescent Anorexia: A Treatment Development Study

Catherine Byrne

Major Professor: Sarah Fischer

Committee Members: Christianne Esposito-Smythers, Tara Chaplin

David King Hall, VIP III
April 01, 2020, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


Introduction: Family-Based Treatment (FBT) is an efficacious outpatient intervention for adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN) who are medically stable. Although FBT has shown significant success in helping individuals reach weight restoration, psychological concerns of AN, such as weight and shape concerns, have been less amenable to change. Exposure therapy is fundamental for the treatment of core fears in anxiety disorders and has been studied with adult AN. The present study examines the efficacy of the addition of exposure sessions onto FBT as a mechanism to decrease psychological consequences on AN. Methods: Participants receive 8 individual exposure sessions that target fear of fatness in the context of FBT treatment. As this study is exploratory in nature and will be used as a training platform for future studies, the sample size will include 15 participants. Results: The current study has enrolled 10 patients, aged 10 to 16 (M = 12.8), and their families, all of which have begun FBT. The mean percent of expected body weight at baseline is 89.71%. This study is ongoing and as more data is gathered, we aim to better understand the long-term outcomes and feasibility of utilizing exposure therapy as an adjunct to FBT. The content of the sessions is being refined via feedback from participants related to session delivery and content. Results from session evaluation forms to date have been largely positive, finding the exposure sessions to be feasible and beneficial. Conclusions: After completion of recruitment, we should be able to establish the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of targeting fear-based symptomatology in AN through the use of exposure sessions.