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Eating Disorders and Therapist Emotional Responses

Colli, Antonello PhD*; Speranza, Anna Maria PhD; Lingiardi, Vittorio MD; Gentile, Daniela PhD; Nassisi, Valentina PhD; Hilsenroth, Mark J. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 2015 - Volume 203 - Issue 11 - p 843–849
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000379
Original Articles

The aims of this study were to identify (a) patterns of clinicians’ emotional responses to patients with eating disorders (ED); (b) patient, clinician, and treatment variables associated with therapist emotional responses; and (c) the influence of patient personality on therapist emotional responses. A random national sample of psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapists (N = 149) was asked to examine one patient (>18 years old) with an ED. Clinicians completed the SWAP-200, the Therapist Response Questionnaire, and the Clinical Questionnaire-Eating Disorder Form to provide general information about themselves, patients, and therapies. Results suggested a therapist pattern of emotional response in relation to different ED diagnosis and indicated meaningful influence of therapist experience and patient variables (such as sexual abuse, dissociative symptoms, and self-harm) on therapist emotional reactions. Finally, regression analysis suggested that therapist responses are more related to patient personality than ED symptoms. This study confirms the importance of patient personality in evoking specific therapists’ reactions.

*Department of Human Science, University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, Urbino; †Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, University of Rome “Sapienza”, Rome, Italy; and ‡Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY.

Send reprint requests to Antonello Colli, PhD, Department of Human Science, University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”, via Saffi 15, Urbino, Italy. E-mail:

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