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The experience of adults recovering from an eating disorder in professionally-led support groups

Archana Waller (Australian College of Applied Psychology, Sydney, Australia)
Chiara Paganini (Australian College of Applied Psychology, Melbourne, Australia)
Katrina Andrews (Australian College of Applied Psychology, Melbourne, Australia)
Vicki Hutton (Australian College of Applied Psychology, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 10 November 2020

Issue publication date: 10 November 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The aim of the study is to explore the experience of eating disorder support group participants. The research question is “What is the experience of adults recovering from an eating disorder in a professionally-led monthly support group?”

Design/methodology/approach

This qualitative study explored the experience of adults recovering from an eating disorder in a professionally-led monthly support group. Participants were 18 adults recovering from an eating disorder who attended a monthly support group. The data were collected using an online anonymous survey and then analysed using a thematic analysis.

Findings

The main themes that emerged were: (1) sharing the pain and promise, (2) cautions and concerns and (3) facilitators have influence. The findings indicate that the support group provided a safe space to share their lived experience, that it reduced stigma and isolation, and improved participants' motivation and engagement. Moreover, the results revealed some challenges to the functioning of the group. These included management of discussions and dominant members, need for psycho-educational information and managing intense feelings, relating to body-related comparison and other mental disorder comorbidities.

Originality/value

This is the first study highlighting the valuable role of the facilitator in balancing content with compassion, in ensuring safety in the group, and potentially fulfilling a valuable education function in supporting participants in their eating disorder recovery journey.

Keywords

Citation

Waller, A., Paganini, C., Andrews, K. and Hutton, V. (2020), "The experience of adults recovering from an eating disorder in professionally-led support groups", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 217-229. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-07-2020-0088

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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