OBJECTIVE: Findings of a randomized trial of an identity intervention programme (IIP) designed to build new positive self-schemas that are separate from other conceptions of the self in memory as the means to promote improved health in women diagnosed with eating disorders are reported.
METHOD: After baseline data collection, women with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa were randomly assigned to IIP (n = 34) or supportive psychotherapy (SPI) (n = 35) and followed at 1, 6, and 12 months post-intervention.
RESULTS: The IIP and supportive psychotherapy were equally effective in reducing eating disorder symptoms at 1 month post-intervention, and changes were stable through the 12-month follow-up period. The IIP tended to be more effective in fostering development of positive self-schemas, and the increase was stable over time. Regardless of baseline level, an increase in the number of positive self-schemas between pre-intervention and 1-month post-intervention predicted a decrease in desire for thinness and an increase in psychological well-being and functional health over the same period.
DISCUSSION: A cognitive behavioural intervention that focuses on increasing the number of positive self-schemas may be central to improving emotional health in women with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.