Towards effective treatment of eating disorders: nothing is as practical as a good theory

A.T.M. Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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There is much room for improvement in the treatment of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa in particular. It is argued that for more effective treatment a radical change in thinking and doing is needed. First, the wide-spread multicausal model of eating disorders must be abandoned and replaced by (a) fundamental strategic research into the most parsimonious explanation of eating disorders and (b) interventions solely directed on the specific maintaining mechanisms. Second, evidence-based working is needed in mental health care. In daily practice, two of three psychotherapists do not treat their eating disordered patients with the best treatment available, i.e. cognitive behaviour therapy. The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport tried to improve the care for eating disorder patients by the nomination of several specialist hospital units. These units are, however, not selected for their treatment quality or the use of evidence-based treatment protocols. It is argued that this ministerial operation will not increase the supply of effective treatment. The Minister obviously should have done two other things to improve the amount and quality of treatment supply for eating disorders: First., she better could invest in a broad array of workshops, training and supervision programs in cognitive behaviour therapy for all psychotherapists working with eating disorders. Second, since nothing is so practical as a good theory, the facilitation of research into parsimonious models of the relevant mechanisms as well as the experimental tests of interventions on these mechanisms would have been a promising move to effective treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1022
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001

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