DOI: 10.1002/eat.24139 ISSN: 0276-3478

Acceptability of Specialist Psychotherapy with Emotion for Anorexia in Kent and Sussex (SPEAKS): A novel intervention for anorexia nervosa

Abigail Rennick, Cat Papastavrou Brooks, Randeep Singh Basra, Helen Startup, Tony Lavender, Anna Oldershaw
  • Psychiatry and Mental health



Investigate the acceptability of Specialist Psychotherapy with Emotion for Anorexia in Kent and Sussex (SPEAKS), a novel intervention for anorexia nervosa (AN), conducted as a feasibility trial to provide an initial test of the intervention.


SPEAKS therapy lasting 9–12 months was provided to 34 people with AN or atypical AN by eight specialist eating disorder therapists trained in the model across two NHS Trusts in the UK (Kent and Sussex) during a feasibility trial. All participants were offered a post‐therapy interview; sixteen patients and six therapists agreed. All patient participants were adult females. Interviews were semi‐structured and asked questions around individuals' experience of SPEAKS, the acceptability of the intervention and of the research methods. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.


Key areas explored in line with research questions led to 5 overarching themes and 14 subthemes: (1) shift in treatment focus and experience, (2) balancing resources and treatment outcomes, (3) navigating the online treatment environment, (4) therapist adaptation and professional development, and (5) research processes.


SPEAKS was found to be an acceptable intervention for treating AN from the perspective of patients and therapists. The findings provide strong support for delivery of a larger scale randomized control trial. Recommendations for future improvements, particularly pertaining to therapist understanding of the treatment model are detailed, alongside broader clinical implications.

Public Significance

We aimed to evaluate the acceptability of a new anorexia nervosa treatment called SPEAKS. Interviews were conducted with patients and therapists involved in the pilot study and responses were analyzed. Results showed that both patients and therapists found SPEAKS to be an acceptable treatment for anorexia nervosa. The study suggests that SPEAKS meets the criteria for moving forward with a larger trial to assess its effectiveness.

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