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Acceptability and feasibility of a brief distress tolerance intervention in a community Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Service

Adolescents with eating disorders experience higher levels of psychological distress compared to the general population. Distress is particularly pronounced during the first stage of the Family-Based Treatment (FBT) due to the focus on refeeding and weight restoration. It is feasible that equipping adolescents to manage distress early on in treatment may positively impact on later engagement and recovery.

This service improvement project describes the feasibility and implementation of a brief distress-tolerance intervention delivered alongside the first phase of FBT in a community Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Service.

This study was approved by the service NHS Research and Development team (ID: 286525). 15 adolescents (aged 11-18) in the first phase of FBT received two fortnightly 1-1 sessions with an Assistant Psychologist. Intervention content was based on distress tolerance dialectical-behavioural strategies. The Distress Tolerance Scale (DTS) was administered at pre-test and two-week follow-up. Participants were interviewed about their experience and usefulness of the intervention sessions. Paired sample t-tests were used to identify preliminary effectiveness of the intervention. Thematic analysis was used to examine qualitative data.

Early qualitative evidence suggests that the intervention is highly acceptable and empowering for participants starting FBT. More sessions may be needed to ensure consolidation of newly learnt skills. Further themes will be shared at presentation. Next steps regarding wider service implementation and empirically evaluating impact (e.g. on crisis referrals) will be discussed.

Dr Lucas Shelemy

Dr Lucas Shelemy is a trainee clinical psychologist at the University of Oxford. Lucas completed a PhD at the University of Reading researching the integration of mental health support and training in schools.

Lucas is passionate about mental health support for young people and equity of access for marginalised groups.