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Dialectical behavioral therapy for the treatment of adolescent eating disorders: a review of existing work and proposed future directions


Over the past several decades, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been adapted for a range of presenting problems related to emotion dysregulation. Considerable enthusiasm exists regarding the use of DBT for treating eating disorders; however, to date, there have been no reviews summarizing empirical efforts to adapt DBT for eating disorders in youth. Accordingly, in the present narrative review, we provide a comprehensive summary of existing work testing DBT for adolescent eating disorders. First, we briefly review existing work applying DBT to eating disorders in adults and general adolescent samples. We then review research focused specifically on the use of DBT for adolescent eating disorders, including both those studies applying DBT as the primary treatment and investigations of DBT as an adjunctive treatment. Overall, initial results for DBT-based approaches are promising. However, rigorous empirical work testing DBT for treating adolescent eating disorders remains limited; the majority of existing research is comprised of case series and small-scale studies. Therefore, we close with specific recommendations for future research testing this approach.

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