The abrupt transition from face-to-face to online treatment for eating disorders: a pilot examination of patients' perspectives during the COVID-19 lockdown

J Eat Disord. 2021 Mar 5;9(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s40337-021-00383-y.


BACKGROUND: Studies investigating patients’ perspectives towards an abrupt transition from face-to-face to online treatment in eating disorders (EDs) are scarce. The current study aimed to (1) conduct a preliminary assessment of patients’ perspectives regarding this transition, and (2) explore potential demographic, clinical, and treatment-related factors associated with these perspectives.

METHODS: Sixty-three patients with EDs whose treatment was moved to an online format, were surveyed during the COVID-19 lockdown (April-May 2020). A 6-item measure was developed to examine their perspectives toward this transition. Exploratory factor analyses (EFAs) were conducted to confirm the rational-theoretical structure of the measure (Eigenvalue = 3.745, explaining 62.4% of variance). The Cronbach’s alpha value was excellent (α = 0.878). Validated questionnaires were used to measure ED symptoms, general psychopathology, therapeutic alliance, and pandemic anxiety, and their associations with our transition-focused scale and telemedicine satisfaction were examined.

RESULTS: Mixed views were found regarding the transition, with the majority (68%) stating that they would not choose to continue online therapy given the option. Longer duration of treatment (r = 0.291, p = 0.022), stronger therapeutic alliance (r = 0.293, p = 0.028), and higher COVID-19 anxiety (r = 0.276, p = 0.029) were linked with more positive views towards the transition.

CONCLUSIONS: Analyses suggest that patients’ perspectives towards the transition can be measured using a Likert-type 6-item scale. Findings highlight the various responses to online treatment and indicate a need to identify patients who may face difficulties in the transition to this newly ubiquitous treatment mode. Clinicians should be cognizant of these potential difficulties and consider appropriate modes of treatment in the ongoing pandemic situation.

PMID:33673876 | DOI:10.1186/s40337-021-00383-y