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In the Media | Emotion-Based Psychotherapy: A Promising Treatment For Women With PTSD, Eating Disorders

By: Mike Richman
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

A new study exploring how PTSD may impact treatment outcomes for women with eating disorders suggests an emotion-based psychotherapy is a promising treatment for patients with or without PTSD.

The psychotherapy, known as the Unified Treatment Model (UTM), addresses problems with emotions that are relevant to many mental disorders. It helps patients improve motivation to engage in both PTSD and eating disorder treatment, to become aware of their emotions without labeling them as “good” or “bad,” to think more openly, to reduce avoidance of negative emotions, and to tolerate the physiological aspects of emotions, such as sweating and increased heart rate.

The UTM also focuses on learning to accept the shape of one’s own body and on exposure to feared or forbidden foods.

Dr. Karen Mitchell, a clinical psychologist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, led the study. She’s affiliated with the Women’s Health Sciences Division at the National Center for PTSD. Nearly 3,000 patients who were treated with the Unified Treatment Model at The Renfrew Center eating disorder facility in Philadelphia agreed to let Mitchell and her team access their data.

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