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Research studies at The Center for Eating Disorders


The motivation for our research is simple: eating disorders are complex.

The Center's medically intensive approach is driven by our research, which is in turn motivated by our desire to learn as much as we can about the challenges of these complex disorders. Read more about our current studies, recently completed research and ongoing projects below.

 

CURRENT RESEARCH PROGRAMS:

The effect of a manualized in-home, post-hospital treatment on hospital readmission rate in eating disorder patients - Researchers at The Center are evaluating the efficacy of a manualized, mobile relapse prevention brief treatment for individuals transitioning to outpatient care from our inpatient and partial hospitalization units. The research team has developed a structured treatment manual focusing on environmental modification.  It is based on traditional cognitive-behavioral objectives, but for in-home treatment delivery, aimed to support behavioral changes initiated during an inpatient episode of care.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy has repeatedly shown itself to be the most efficacious evidence-based treatment for adults suffering from eating disorder pathology (Craighead & Agras, 1991; Dalle Grave, Calugi, Doll, & Fairburn, 2013; Fairburn, 2008; Fairburn et al., 2013).  Combining the behavioral goals of this treatment with the environmental changes made in inpatient hospitalization, it is the purpose of this study to identify if there may be an effect on readmission rates using this in-home treatment protocol.  This is a small-scale pilot study conducted to develop and refine mobile relapse prevention treatment, as well as to determine its potential impact on preventing readmission for individuals with severe eating disorders.  It is our hope that this pilot study will help assess the practicality and feasibility of this treatment as a preliminary step toward a more definitive, randomized treatment trial.  This study is currently in the data collection phase.

Cognitive remediation therapy for anorexia nervosa: Effects on a cognitive restructuring task - Researchers at the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt are interested in examining the effects of cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) for anorexia nervosa.  Anorexia nervosa is a relatively rare but serious mental health problem, which tends to run a chronic course with significant physical and psychological disability and high death rates.  As it is difficult to treat anorexia, researchers are often working to find new and effective treatment methods, as well as to better improve the methods that have already been established. CRT is a new treatment method that has been used as a supplemental therapy, and has been shown to be fairly effective for the treatment of anorexia nervosa (Craighead & Agras, 1991; Dalle Grave, Calugi, Doll, & Fairburn, 2013; Fairburn et al., 2013).  There is some evidence that suggests that CRT may be effective in helping individuals who are struggling with anorexia to be more flexible in their thinking (Abbate-Daga et al., 2012; Genders et al., 2008; Pretorius et al., 2012; Tchanturia et al., 2007), which may contribute to better success with evidence-based psychotherapeutic methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).  Researchers from The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt hope to learn about how CRT may affect the thinking process of individuals with eating disorders and how this addition to clinical treatment may affect an individual’s involvement in CBT.  The study is currently in the data analysis phase. 


RECENTLY COMPLETED RESEARCH:

Eating disorder patients’ response to yoga sessions: An exploratory pilot study of state-based anxiety, self-esteem, and body image - Researchers at the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt completed a pilot study examining the effects of yoga group sessions on problems associated with eating disorders.  There is some evidence that suggests that yoga may be a helpful practice in decreasing some of the negative emotions and thoughts that are associated with eating disorders (Carei, Fyfe-Johnson, Breuner & Brown, 2009; Carlson, Speca, Patel, & Goodey, 2003; Clance, Mitchell, & Engelman, 1980; Dale, Mattison, Greening, Galen, Neace, & Matacin, 2009; Daubenmier, 2005; Deshpande, Nagendra, & Nagarathna, 2009; McIver, McGartland, & O’Halloran, 2009; Smith, Hancock, Blake-Mortimer, & Eckert, 2007).  Results indicated that participants in the partial hospitalization program who completed weekly yoga group sessions had significant differences on objective measures of state-based anxiety, self-esteem, and body image prior to and following yoga sessions.  Such differences reflected a decrease in anxiety, low self-esteem, and negative body image following yoga group.  Results were consistent between child and adult participants.  These findings suggest that yoga may be a helpful supplemental treatment component to support patients in coping with mood and thoughts associated with their eating disorder. 

International Anorexia Nervosa Treatment Study ~ The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt was part of a multi-site international research study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The main focus of this study was on family therapy for adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN).  Despite the seriousness of AN, there is limited research on possible treatments, especially among adolescents. However there are two models of family therapy that have been proposed to be effective: Behavioral Family Therapy and Systems Family Therapy. The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, along with five other treatment sites, participated in a five-year study comparing these two types of family treatment. 


ONGOING OPEN-ENDED RESEARCH:

At the Center, we understand the critical need for sound scientific research to better comprehend the intricacies of eating disorder characteristics and efficacious treatment approaches.  It is our goal to make significant contributions to the field’s scientific research by evaluating clinical interventions so we can help ensure that our patients have the opportunity to receive the most up-to-date, validated treatments, based in scientific knowledge.  With this commitment, we are able to inform our Center’s treatment program to provide increasingly superior, scientifically-driven services that serve real patient needs.  Along with our more formal, larger-scale studies outlined above, we also have several program improvement and exploratory projects that rotate based on the needs that we see as a program.  Some examples of project topics include:

  • Evaluation of patient and family satisfaction with our treatment to inform programming changes
  • Collection of outcome measures to determine the efficacy of our treatment and to inform programming changes
  • Development of a brief screening tool to recognize symptoms of avoidant/ restrictive food intake disorder
  • Establishment of an outpatient eating disorder tele-psychiatry program (to better disseminate specialized, evidence-based treatment) and assessment of its efficacy
  • Exploration of anxiety as a potential moderating variable for the severity of eating disorder symptoms 6- and 12- months following inpatient admission
  • Collection of qualitative data on the effect of a therapist’s pregnancy on the therapeutic process
  • Assessment of rate of weight gain, and evaluation of trends related to weight gain, on our higher level of care units
  • Assessment of lab work trends during the first days of inpatient admission
  • Systematic evaluation of current treatment protocols and their fit with up-to-date research to inform programming changes

 

RESEARCH ASSISTANTSHIP:

The research team is looking for new volunteer research assistants to join the team.  Under close supervision, but frequently requiring the use of independent judgment, the Research Assistant will participate in supporting with the design, execution, analysis, and/or evaluation of research projects initiated at the Center.  A strong candidate will be detail-oriented and organized and able to follow specific, detailed instructions.  The Research Assistant position also requires high personal motivation, self-management, and an ability to take responsibility.  The Research Assistant must be motivated to engage in a wide range of duties, including taking part in data entry tasks.  Research assistants must have strong computer skills, particularly with Microsoft Word and Excel.  Currently, responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: Assisting in the maintenance and data collection of outcome measures; completing procedural demands of innovative clinical research studies; and assisting with literature reviews as necessary.  A strong applicant will be able to handle and protect confidential and sensitive data with integrity.            

The Center is committed to providing student volunteers with educational and professional experience and a congenial team atmosphere.  Candidates must make at least a one-year commitment.  The hours each week can be flexible; though will be about 10 hours per week.  Candidates from graduate institutions are preferred, though undergraduate candidates will be considered.  An ideal candidate comes from a psychology background.  Though this is an unpaid position, the supervisor can work with a candidate’s institution to determine if field work credits may be available for the experience. 

To apply for this Position: Please send your resume and cover letter via email to Lsproch@sheppardpratt.org.  Start date can be flexible.  Position will remain open until a qualified candidate is found.

 

 

Please check back for updates and future research opportunities at The Center for Eating Disorders.  You can also contact The Center's Research Coordinator via email here.
 

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