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Rice, T. (2016). On Targeting Emotion Regulation Deficits in Eating Disorders through Defense Analysis. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 15(4):319-336.

(2016). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 15(4):319-336

On Targeting Emotion Regulation Deficits in Eating Disorders through Defense Analysis

Timothy Rice, M.D.

Psychodynamic approaches to the treatment of individuals with eating disorders are underrepresented in research and in academia. This will increasingly deprive patients of a viable therapeutic alternate to the dominant behavioral family-based models. As psychodynamic approaches may have unique benefits, there is value in resolving this loss. Recent models of dynamic therapies for eating disorders within modern, empirically derived theory show promise for future psychodynamic viability. An attachment-focused approach targeting disordered attachment patterns that are common in individuals with eating disorders has recently been introduced. To complement this model, this article proposes an approach for individuals with eating disorders that is hypothesized to target emotion regulation deficits that are also commonly found in individuals with eating disorders. Observed parallels between the implicit branch of the emotion regulation system and that of contemporary constructs of defense mechanisms guide this proposal. Developmental considerations reveal important connections between this biologically based model and a two-person model based in attachment theory. In this way, this proposal offers a flexible psychodynamic approach that integrates with the existing literature. Further development of this approach could one day help patients to have a greater range of therapeutic options for recovery from eating disorders.

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