Covert therapeutic micro-processes in non-recovered eating disorders with childhood trauma: an interpersonal process recall study

To uncover therapeutic micro-processes from the perspectives of eating disorder (ED) treatment non-responders with childhood trauma (CT) late effects, we explored in-session experiences of poor long-term outcome patients.

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Abstract

Method: To uncover therapeutic micro-processes from the perspectives of eating disorder (ED) treatment non-responders with childhood trauma (CT) late effects, we explored in-session experiences of poor long-term outcome patients. Female inpatients aged 28–59 (M=40.2, SD=5.0) from a randomised trial comparing Compassion Focused Therapy for EDs (n=3) with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for EDs (n=3) were interviewed with video-assisted recall about a self-selected session. Data were analysed through Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) with Grounded Theory (GT) elements.

Results: Covert patient strategies included self-efacement, regulating therapeutic distance to open up, and engagaing with refective rather than experiential interventions. First, self-efacement included submissive, passive or pretend responses to perceived criticising or violating therapist behaviours as well as other orientation and submission for approval. Second, some preferred a close patient–therapist alliance with therapist self-disclosure and reciprocity was a requirement for opening up; others required distance. Third, informants detached from experiential trauma work while engaging in joint refection on post-trauma responses.

Conclusion: Informants were preoccupied with calibrating the emotional–relational landscape in session; we hypothesized that psychological insecurity and afective intolerance from CT limit their freedom to explore own in-session experiences.

Journal of Eating Disorders, 2022, 10 (42), doi.org/10.1186/s40337-022-00566-1

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Published June 20, 2022 6:00 AM