Practical Body Image (PBI)

A pilot study looking at the effectiveness of an innovative adolescent body image treatment known as Practical Body Image (PBI) has been given the green light by the NHS Research Ethics Committee.

Body dissatisfaction is a strong predictor of onset, maintenance and relapse in eating disorders, making this study key in providing the first systematic evaluation of a body image intervention specifically designed for adolescents.

PBI has been developed at Newbridge House over several years and was recently manualised into a structured, individual treatment for young people with Anorexia Nervosa. The treatment is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) based, and involves a number of practical tasks and behavioural experiments delivered over 10 weeks to challenge body dissatisfaction and increase acceptance of a healthy weight.

Early results from the development phase of this treatment showed a significant decrease in social avoidance and significant improvement in self-esteem. Furthermore, the young people reported PBI to be highly acceptable and highlighted sessions tackling errors in perception and negative beliefs as particularly helpful.

Now that ethical approval from the NHS Research Ethics Committee has been obtained, a pilot study will take place comparing PBI to standard treatment at Newbridge, including a focus on the role of mirror exposure in achieving greater body acceptance.

Newbridge House Assistant Psychologist Sarah Astbury explains: “There is a lack of body image treatment for young people with anorexia and much of the research has looked at the effectiveness of group treatments with adult populations.

“This will be the first study to compare an individual body image treatment for young people with standard treatment, allowing us to measure how effective this approach is in reducing body dissatisfaction and increasing acceptance of a healthy weight.

“Furthermore as PBI is a manualised treatment, if it is found to be effective, the hope is that it could be made more widely available for other adolescent eating disorders services and form part of specialist treatment.”

Professor Hubert Lacey, Medical Director of Newbridge House comments: “We know that body dissatisfaction is often a strong causal factor and if untreated, a persistent feature in eating disorders and yet for adolescents, we do not currently have a targeted and proven intervention. So this work is extremely important.

“I would like to thank our Assistant Psychologists Sarah Astbury and Amanda Beavan, and our Research Supervisor Dr Richard Sly and Statistician Dr Sarah White for all their work in achieving full approval for this study.