According to a recent study, the researchers have found that online group therapy can be just as effective as face-to-face treatment of bulimia nervosa. Bulimia is an eating disorder marked by recurrent episodes of binge eating (or eating an unusually large amount of food and feeling out of control) coupled with purging behaviors such as vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise.
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Published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the researchers launched a new kind of clinical trial eight years ago, to compare the effectiveness of online therapy – delivered through group chat sessions – to face-to-face group therapy for the treatment,
“Bulimia nervosa is a devastating and sometimes deadly illness, and research has shown for years that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for bulimia is the most effective treatment, said Stephanie Zerwas, the first author of the study.
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“I know that too many people have to travel for hours to find expert eating disorders treatment. Online treatment could help us bridge that gap,” he added.
In the study, 179 adults started 16 sessions of group therapy with a therapist at one of two study sites: UNC-Chapel Hill and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Assignment to either the online group or the traditional face-to-face group was completely random.
Researchers compared the results of the two groups at the end of treatment and then again 12 months later.
Immediately after treatment, the face-to-face group produced betterresults than the online group, when it came to helping patients reach a point where they were completely free of binge eating and purging.
But by the 12-month follow-up, the gap in treatment results betweenthe two groups had narrowed dramatically; neither method of delivery (online versus face-to-face therapy) was better than the other.