Dialectical behavioral therapy: an update and review of the existing treatment models adapted for adults with eating disorders

Denise Ben-Porath, Florencia Duthu, Tana Luo, Fragiskos Gonidakis, Emilio J. Compte, Lucene Wisniewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Despite the effectiveness of CBT in reducing shape/weight concerns and dietary restraint, research suggests that patients considered recovered may still exhibit emotional difficulties related to eating disorders (EDs). Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been adapted for a variety of mental disorders characterized by emotion dysregulation and, more recently, for EDs specifically. The current review found that the majority of the research studies employed one of the following three adaptations of DBT for EDs: The Stanford Model, Radically Open-DBT (RO-DBT), or Multidiagnostic ED-DBT (MED-DBT). Therefore, this review sought to review and update the empirical research on each adaptation and (2) offer preliminary recommendations for when and which adaptation of DBT to use when treating adults with EDs. Findings from the empirical literature on DBT and EDs indicate that the Stanford Model has the most rigorous and numerous studies demonstrating efficacy and effectiveness in those diagnosed with binge eating disorder. Fewer studies have been conducted using the Stanford Model with bulimia nervosa; therefore, less strong assertions can be made about DBT with those diagnosed with bulimia. The MED-DBT model has been evaluated in several open trials within higher levels of care with promising results, but the lack of randomized clinically-controlled trials prevents a definitive statement about its efficacy. Finally, research on applying the RO-DBT model to anorexia-nervosa, restricting subtype is in its infancy, prohibiting solid conclusions or recommendations regarding its efficacy or effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-121
Number of pages21
JournalEating Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Mar 2020


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