DIAGNOSIS: Binge Eating Disorder
TREATMENT: Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Binge Eating Disorder

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Brief Summary

Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Binge Eating Disorder

Status: Strong Research Support


Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) for binge eating disorder is based on an intervention originally developed for the treatment of depression. In IPT, the focus is on interpersonal difficulties in the patient’s life. The connection between these problems and the development and maintenance of the eating disorder is identified at the beginning of treatment, but only implied thereafter. IPT for binge eating disorder is administered in either group or individual format, and is conducted in approximately twenty weekly sessions, which encompass three phases. The first phase of IPT is devoted to identifying specific interpersonal problems areas currently affecting the patient, and choosing which of these areas to focus on for the remainder of treatment. The four typical interpersonal problem domains are role disputes, role transitions, interpersonal deficits, and unresolved grief. Interpersonal precipitants of current binge eating episodes are highlighted during this phase. In the second phase of IPT for binge eating disorder, the therapist encourages the patient to take the lead in facilitating change in the interpersonal realm. The therapist’s role involves keeping the patient aware of the time frame of treatment and focused on the problem areas, clarifying issues raised by the patient, and encouraging change. The third phase covers maintenance of interpersonal gains and relapse prevention.


Key References (in reverse chronological order)

  • Wilson, G.T., Wilfley, D.E., Agras, W.S., & Bryson, S.W. (2010).Psychological treatments for binge eating disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 94-101.
  • Wilfley, D.E., Welch, R.R., Stein, R.I., Spurrell, E.B., Cohen, L.R., Saelens, B.E., Dounchis, J.Z., Frank, M.A., Wiseman, C.V., & Matt, G.E. (2002). A randomized comparison of group cognitive-behavioral therapy and group interpersonal psychotherapy for the treatment of overweight individuals with binge-eating disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(8), 713-721.
  • Wilfley, D. E., Agras, W. S., Telch, C. F., Rossiter, E. M., Schneider, J. A., Cole, A. G., Sifford, L., & Raeburn, S. D. (1993). Group cognitive-behavioral therapy and group interpersonal psychotherapy for the nonpurging bulimic individual: A controlled comparison. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 296-305.

Clinical Resources

  • Wilfley, D.E., Mackenzie, K.R., Welch, R., Ayres, V., & Weissman, M.M. (2000). Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Group. New York: Basic Books.
  • Wilfley, D.E., Grilo, C.M., & Rodin, J. (1997). Group psychotherapy for the treatment of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder: Research and clinical methods. In J.L. Spira (Ed.), Group therapy for medically ill patients (pp. 225-295). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Klerman, G. L., Weissman, M. M., Rounsaville, B. J., & Chevron, E. S. (1984). Interpersonal psychotherapy of depression. New York: Basic Books.

Training Opportunities

  • Contact Christopher G. Fairburn, DM, FRCPsych (Oxford University)
  • Denise Wilfley, PhD. (Washington University) at wilfleyd@psychiatry.wustl.edu (research only)

Treatment Resources

Note: The resources provided below are intended to supplement not replace foundational training in mental health treatment and evidence-based practice