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New therapy leaves room for anger and aggression when treating eating disorders

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03 November 2017

A new form of psychomotor therapy teaches patients with an eating disorder to release their pent-up anger and aggression in a controlled way, rather than directing it against themselves. Research carried out by human movement scientist Cees Boerhout from the University Medical Center Groningen shows that this has a positive effect on the treatment as a whole. A clear improvement could be seen in patients with eating disorders treated with this new therapy compared with those following regular treatment plans, particularly among outpatients. The therapy has now been included in the new Dutch practice guideline for the treatment of Eating Disorders. Boerhout will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 6 November.

Previous research into eating disorders showed that excessive suppression of anger and aggression plays an important role in eating disorders, and requires targeted, well-founded treatment. Boerhout studied the effect of a new form of psychomotor therapy (PMT), which was developed in the field and aims to encourage patients with eating disorders to express their pent-up anger and aggression using body exercises. Patients practise releasing their anger and aggression in a controlled manner, learning to do it at the right time, with the appropriate intensity.

Less pent-up aggression and fewer eating disorders in outpatients

For his research, Boerhout studied the effect of this therapy in a total of 95 patients at an outpatients' clinic and two daycare centres for people with eating disorders. His research revealed that the aggression regulation treatment module reduced the pent-up anger in these patients, which they would normally direct at themselves. The research among outpatients also showed a significant improvement in eating disorders among the group that followed the aggression regulation module.

National Care Standards for Eating Disorders

According to Boerhout, aggression regulation through PMT can make a valuable contribution to the way that patients with an eating disorder deal with anger. As a result, the therapy has been included in the new Dutch practice guideline for the treatment of Eating Disorders, particularly now that his research has revealed a link with the problem of eating disorders. Boerhout would like to see more research into this therapy, aimed specifically at the long-term effects and the working mechanisms.

About PMT

PMT is a body and movement-oriented therapy, commonly used to treat aggression issues in various target groups. PMT explores people's behaviour, feelings and ideas in their dealings with their surroundings. A psychomotor therapist focuses on the problems that manifest themselves in movement behaviour, body language, physical tension, posture, physical sensations and body perception. These aspects are key to the diagnosis and subsequent treatment. PMT is given to individual patients, couples, families and groups.

Curriculum Vitae

Dr Boerhout (1957) studied Human Movement Sciences at VU University Amsterdam. His thesis is entitled:  'Psychomotor therapy and aggression regulation in eating disorders; evidence-based treatment and performance-based measurement'. He works as Head of Therapies at the University Center of Psychiatry of the UMCG.