A systematic review of the impact of carer interventions on outcomes for patients with eating disorders

Laura Hannah, Molly Cross, Hannah Baily, Keith Grimwade, Timothy Clarke, Sophie M. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Eating disorder (ED) prevalence and illness severity is rapidly increasing. The complicated interplay of factors contributing to the maintenance of EDs, including family/carer influences, highlights the importance of carer interventions within ED treatment. Carer interventions demonstrate positive outcomes for carers themselves, though are also hypothesised to benefit the patient indirectly. A systematic review was conducted to greater understand the impact of carer interventions on ED patient outcomes.

Methods: Eight databases, including CINAHL, MEDLINE and PsychINFO, were systematically searched. Intervention studies for parent(s)/carer(s) of a patient with an ED were included, provided they reported outcomes for the patient. No publication date restrictions were set. Included studies were quality appraised.

Results: Twenty-eight studies met inclusion for the review; all of which varied in intervention type, duration, content and setting. Patient diagnosis and treatment setting were mixed across studies, though the majority focused on Anorexia Nervosa within outpatient settings. Intervention content broadly included consideration of relationship issues and interactional patterns, psychoeducation, skill development, behavioural management, and peer support. Therapeutic models utilised were diverse, including but not limited to: family, interpersonal, cognitive, and psychodynamic approaches.

Conclusion: Several carer interventions showed positive outcomes for patients with EDs, with small group treatment formats being commonly used and proving effective through intervention content alongside a peer support element. Separate family therapy was suggested to be of equal efficacy, if not better, than family therapy alongside the patient. Recommendations for clinical practice and future research are considered.

Level of evidence: 1. Systematic review, evidence mostly obtained from randomised controlled trials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1953–1962
Number of pages10
JournalEating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity
Early online date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Carer
  • Eating disorders
  • Family

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