Clinician adherence to guidelines in the delivery of family-based therapy for eating disorders




Clinicians have been shown to drift away from protocol in their delivery of evidence-based treatments. This study explores this phenomenon in the delivery of family-based therapy (FBT) for eating disorders, and the clinician characteristics that might explain such therapist drift.


The participants were 117 clinicians who reported using FBT for eating disorders. They completed an online survey, which included questions relating to clinician characteristics, caseload, and reported use of FBT manuals and core therapeutic tasks, as well as a measure of anxiety.


The use of core FBT tasks was higher than for other therapies, but there were still noteworthy gaps between recommended and reported practice. Approximately a third of clinicians reported delivering “FBT” that deviated very substantially from evidence-based protocols, often appearing to be on an individual therapy basis. Using an FBT manual to guide treatment delivery was associated with greater adherence to recommended techniques. Clinician caseload and anxiety were associated with differences in the use of specific FBT tasks.


Consistent with previous research regarding clinicians' use of other therapies, the delivery of FBT for the eating disorders is not homogeneous.


Further investigation of this phenomenon is needed to determine the impact of deviating from treatment protocols on the effectiveness of FBT for the eating disorders. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2015; 48:223–229)