JOURNAL ARTICLE

Autonomous and controlled motivation for eating disorders treatment: baseline predictors and relationship to treatment outcome

Jacqueline C Carter, Allison C Kelly
British Journal of Clinical Psychology 2015, 54 (1): 76-90
25045794

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to identify baseline predictors of autonomous and controlled motivation for treatment (ACMT) in a transdiagnostic eating disorder sample, and to examine whether ACMT at baseline predicted change in eating disorder psychopathology during treatment.

METHOD: Participants were 97 individuals who met DSM-IV-TR criteria for an eating disorder and were admitted to a specialized intensive treatment programme. Self-report measures of eating disorder psychopathology, ACMT, and various psychosocial variables were completed at the start of treatment. A subset of these measures was completed again after 3, 6, 9, and 12 weeks of treatment.

RESULTS: Multiple regression analyses showed that baseline autonomous motivation was higher among patients who reported more self-compassion and more received social support, whereas the only baseline predictor of controlled motivation was shame. Multilevel modelling revealed that higher baseline autonomous motivation predicted faster decreases in global eating disorder psychopathology, whereas the level of controlled motivation at baseline did not.

CONCLUSION: The current findings suggest that developing interventions designed to foster autonomous motivation specifically and employing autonomy supportive strategies may be important to improving eating disorders treatment outcome.

PRACTITIONER POINTS: The findings of this study suggest that developing motivational interventions that focus specifically on enhancing autonomous motivation for change may be important for promoting eating disorder recovery. Our results lend support for the use of autonomy supportive strategies to strengthen personally meaningful reasons to achieve freely chosen change goals in order to enhance treatment for eating disorders. One study limitation is that there were no follow-up assessments beyond the 12-week study and we therefore do not know whether the relationships that we observed persisted after treatment. Another limitation is that this was a correlational study and it is therefore important to be cautious about making causal conclusions when interpreting the results.

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