diagnosis: Eating Disorders


Evidence of the effectiveness of group therapy for eating disorders shows promise, although the quality of studies remains modest in most cases (Grenon et al., 2017; 2018). The resources we provide include randomized controlled trials of group therapy for eating disorders and manuals for the treatments where available. We included only studies that test group treatments against a wait-list control condition. Studies were published after 1980 and included participants who were 18 years of age or older diagnosed with an eating disorder according to DSM III, IV, or V criteria (Grenon et al., 2017). Treatments qualified as group therapy if they included at least 5 sessions of three or more participants who received simultaneous therapy together (Huntley, Araya, & Salisbury, 2012). At least one of the treatment groups per study qualified as group therapy and met the following criteria: a) was conducted by licensed, trained therapists, b) was a viable treatment, such as a treatment based on a professional manual, and c) was based on established theories of change (Grenon et al., 2017). Studies were excluded if they did not provide sufficient information to compute effect sizes, included in-patient group psychotherapy in which the effects of group psychotherapy alone could not be isolated, or were dismantling studies. 

Group therapy studies for eating disorders have been challenging to conduct and so randomized controlled studies vary in quality (Grenon et al., 2018). We defined a group treatment as “evidence-based” if it was tested in a randomized controlled trial, outperformed a no treatment control condition, and in which each condition had at least 30 participants. Some trials included on this web site were very small in size (N < 30 per condition) which could limit their reliability. The results of these smaller trials should be interpreted with caution. Smaller trials with 20 to 30 participants per condition can be found in the “promising group treatments” page for each disorder. 

Manuals used in each randomized controlled trial are listed with links. While some manuals reference individual treatment, these treatments were adapted to a group context.


Huntley, A. L., Araya, R., & Salisbury, C. (2012). Group psychological therapies for depression in the community: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 200, 184–190.

Grenon, R., Schwartze, D., Hammond, N., Ivanova, I., Mcquaid, N., Proulx, G., Tasca, G. A. (2017). Group psychotherapy for eating disorders: A meta-analysis. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(9), 997-1013. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22744

Grenon, R., McKenna, A., Maxwell, H., Carlucci, S., Brugnera, A., Schwartze, D., … & Tasca, G. A. (2018). The quality of randomized controlled trials of psychotherapy for eating disorders. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 27(3), e1734.