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Preferred therapist characteristics in treatment of anorexia nervosa: The patient's perspective


  • KSG and EMSE were supported by grants from the Norwegian Research Council; RHSN was supported by a grant awarded from the Health and Rehabilitation Foundation via the Norwegian Council for Mental Health.



Previous research in eating disorders suggests that treatment satisfaction is closely related to the manner in which care is delivered. The present research is a systematic in depth study of health professional characteristics preferred by AN-patients.


Thirty-eight women with AN aged 18–51 were interviewed in depth using a phenomenological study design. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the QSR-NVivo7 software program.


Four factors associated with patients' satisfaction with their therapists were identified: “acceptance,” “vitality,” “challenge,” and “expertise.” Patients' responses suggested that treatment of AN requires therapists who are capable of using a complex set of behaviors when interacting with their patients.


There is accumulating evidence that across treatment modality, the manner in which treatment is delivered is critical to therapeutic change. Our findings increase the understanding of factors that may be associated with treatment retention, further help seeking, and overall treatment outcome. These exploratory and informant-centered results could guide clinicians in developing a strong therapeutic alliance with AN-patients and promote increased knowledge about the mechanisms that engage this population. © 2012 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)