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Family Treatment for Adolescents With Anorexia Nervosa

This study has been completed.
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Duke University
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
C. Alix Timko, Towson University Identifier:
First received: January 19, 2011
Last updated: May 16, 2014
Last verified: May 2014

This treatment development study seeks to investigate the most effective way to treat an adolescent's eating disorder and how best to involve the parents or caregivers in this process.

Typically, parents and their child are seen together in therapy. However, this can sometimes be difficult for both the parents and the adolescent. Both parents and adolescents have different concerns and are struggling with different aspects of the eating disorder. Therefore, the treatment in this study involves the parents in treatment, but the majority of therapy sessions are conducted with the parent(s) and adolescent separately.

Participants meet with a therapist for 20 sessions over the course of 24 weeks. For the first 16 weeks parents and the adolescent meet individually with the therapist. For the last 8 weeks families meet with the therapist every other week. These last four sessions are conjoint - that is, adolescents and parents will meet with the therapist together. This is to help parents and adolescents come together as a family to continue to aid the adolescent in the treatment of his/her eating disorder.

The investigators hypothesize that adolescents who receive this treatment will demonstrate improvement in eating disorder symptoms and body-mass index and that caregivers who participate will demonstrate decreased distress and caregiver burden. Furthermore, the investigators hypothesize that increases in psychological acceptance will be seen for both adolescents and caregivers post-treatment, and that treatment will be viewed as both credible and acceptable to both caregiver and adolescent.

Condition Intervention Phase
Anorexia Nervosa
Subthreshold Anorexia Nervosa
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Primarily Restriction
Behavioral: Acceptance-based separated family treatment
Phase 1

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Non-Randomized
Intervention Model: Single Group Assignment
Masking: Open Label
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: Acceptance Based Separated Family Treatment for Adolescents With Anorexia Nervosa

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by Towson University:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Body Mass Index (BMI [ Time Frame: 9 months (6 months active treatment, 3 months follow-up) ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Eating Disorder Examination (16.0D) [ Time Frame: 9 months (6 months of treatment and 3 month follow-up) ]

Enrollment: 26
Study Start Date: May 2009
Primary Completion Date: May 2012 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: Active Treatment Behavioral: Acceptance-based separated family treatment
Family treatment that combines Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for the adolescent with Parent Skills Training for caregivers. The treatment package is designed to increase willingness to experience difficult thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in order to engage in effective behavior. To facilitate this, caregivers are provided with psychoeducation on eating disorders and skills in behavior management, self-regulation, and emotion regulation.

Detailed Description:
The purpose of this study is to develop and gather preliminary data on an acceptance-based behavioral treatment for adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN) that is delivered in a separated family format. The treatment will combine a parent's skills curriculum that has demonstrated preliminary effectiveness in the treatment of AN, with a novel adolescent component based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT has been found to be useful in the treatment of an array of psychological difficulties, and may be particularly well-suited for the cognitive and behavioral avoidance and rigidity that characterizes individuals with AN and their caregivers.

Ages Eligible for Study:   12 Years to 18 Years   (Child, Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Adolescent is between 12-18 years of age and living in home with caregivers
  • Parent or primary caregiver willing to attend therapy sessions
  • Adolescent meets diagnostic criteria of anorexia nervosa (either restricting or binge/purge subtype) or subthreshold AN (relaxation of weight criterion to 90% of ideal body weight as determined by weight history and CDC growth curves) or eating disorder not otherwise specified (with restricting as the primary symptom) according to the DSM-IV TR
  • Adolescent is appropriate for outpatient care and receives medical clearance from a primary care physician

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Caregiver or adolescent with a co-morbid diagnosis of psychotic disorder, bi-polar disorder, or substance dependence
  • Caregiver or adolescent with diagnosis of mental retardation or a pervasive developmental disorder
  • Adolescent with a diagnosis of eating disorder not otherwise specified with the primary symptoms of bingeing and purging, binging without compensatory behaviors or spitting food or with restricting patterns but a BMI greater than 90% ideal weight (as determined by weight history and CDC growth curves)
  • Adolescent with extreme malnutrition or other medical complications/ diagnoses that require a higher level of care
  • Acute suicide risk
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT01280799

United States, North Carolina
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, North Carolina, United States, 27713
United States, Pennsylvania
University of the Sciences
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, 19104
Sponsors and Collaborators
Towson University
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Duke University
Principal Investigator: Alix Timko, PhD Towson University/University of the Sciences
  More Information

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: C. Alix Timko, Assistant Professor, Towson University Identifier: NCT01280799     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: R21MH08597
Study First Received: January 19, 2011
Last Updated: May 16, 2014

Keywords provided by Towson University:
Anorexia Nervosa
Family Treatment
Eating Disorder
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Feeding and Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa
Mental Disorders
Signs and Symptoms, Digestive
Signs and Symptoms processed this record on April 21, 2017