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January 18, 2018

Internet Intervention: Can We Motivate Disordered Eaters to Seek Treatment?

Woman using social media

Approximately a third of adult outpatients referred to specialized eating disorder treatment in the United Kingdom never appear for their first appointment [1].  The number is similarly dismal in the United States, with approximately only one in ten individuals with an eating disorder receiving clinical treatment [2].

Researchers from various UK universities are attempting to increase the number of disordered eaters that attend treatment by implementing a Web-based program known as “MotivATE.”  The program is designed to increase treatment attendance rates by addressing areas that can be treatment barriers but, when overcome, can become treatment facilitators.

Intrinsic Motivation

We have all heard the expression that change will only come if a person truly wants it for themselves. It is an expression because it is so often true.

Individuals who are intrinsically motivated to seek out assistance and affect change for themselves are those that achieve lasting recovery.

An online community can appeal to those that are intrinsically motivated by asking for little commitment and then capitalize on that motivation through its services.


Self-sufficiency, in this case, can also be combined with self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to achieve recovery. Self-sufficiency means having the proper emotional tools and resources to achieve this goal.

Positive online communities and programs can help in both of those areas, providing individuals with the information, stories, tools, and resources to increase their belief in their ability to achieve recovery.

Addressing Negative Treatment Beliefs

For many, “treatment” is a scary word. Not only does it conjure images of sterile doctors and cold rooms, it also brings up immediate concern over more practical issues such as cost and location.

Mature Woman Looking At Eating Disorder Volunteering Options On Her ComputerFinancial reasons, such as lack of health insurance coverage, are huge barriers to treatment. Lack of knowledge of various treatment programs, settings, and financing options often result in even those that want assistance shrugging their shoulder and assuming they cannot receive it.

Further, those struggling with an eating disorder often feel it is one of the few things they can control and consider it a false friend. Letting go of this is a scary thought and one that makes the idea of treatment, where the goal is to get rid of this “friend,” terrifying as well.

It is important for eating disorder clinicians, survivors, and advocates to share the truth about financing, and attending, eating disorder treatment.

With the internet, it has never been easier to find the information we seek.

Imagine an individual searching for information on the realities of eating disorder treatment and finding a positive and gentle community that shares just that.

Stages of Change

“MotivATE” rightfully considers an individual’s Stage of Change when providing them with insight and guidance.

Woman trying internet intervention

An individual’s Stage of Change indicates how ready they are to seek out, and actively work toward, making a change.

Knowing this is crucial, as providing treatment centers to an individual that can’t admit they have a problem will fall on deaf ears.

Considering an individual’s current Stage of Change allows clinicians to meet them where they are and begin their journey from there.

In addition to addressing these areas, the site includes stories about other individual’s eating disorder experiences as well as quizzes about change and the opportunity to request personal advice and information based on their unique experiences.

Cutting through barriers to treatment is the key to increasing attendance rates but only time will tell whether the “MotivATE” web-based approach will be able to do so.

Previous web-based treatment approaches have proven successful, making researchers hopeful.

Sponsored by Magnolia Creek

Peacefully nestled in 36 wooded acres and located just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders treats women (18 years and older) who struggle with eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorders, dissociative disorders, personality disorders, and co-occurring addictive behaviors. Magnolia Creek’s phenomenal team of therapists, doctors, nurses, and dietitians is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care using current research-supported methods in a cozy, retreat-like setting. With a dual license to treat eating disorders and mental health disorders, we work collaboratively with our clients to create an individualized treatment approach for each client that not only nourishes the body but also strengthens the spirit.

LindasmithAbout the Author: Linda Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders in Columbiana, Alabama. Prior to joining Magnolia Creek, Linda served as an Electronic Interchange Consultant for Comprehensive Radiology Groups throughout the state.

She also worked with one of the leading facilities in addiction, Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services located in Hattiesburg, MS. She has extensive experience in inpatient, outpatient, residential and partial hospitalization treatment, and is well versed in eating disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, substance abuse, and love and sex addiction.


[1] (2017). A web-based program aimed at overcoming resistance to treatment. Eating Disorders Review, retrieved on 05 December 2017 from http://eatingdisordersreview.com/web-based-program-aimed-overcoming-resistance-treatment/.
[2] Regan, P., Cachelin, F. M., Minnick, A. M. (2017). Initial treatment seeking from professional health care providers for eating disorders: A review and synthesis of potential barriers to and facilitators of “first contact,.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, 190-209.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 18, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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