“I’m truly free from my eating disorder”: Emerging adults’ experiences of FREED, an early intervention service model and care pathway for eating disorders.

Potterton R., Austin A., Flynn M., Allen K., Lawrence V., Mountford V., Glennon D., Grant N., Brown A., Franklin-Smith M., Schelhase M., Jones W. R., Brady G., Nunes N., Connan F., Mahony K., Serpell L., & Schmidt, U.

Journal of Eating Disorders




Eating disorders (EDs) typically start during adolescence or emerging
adulthood, periods of intense biopsychosocial development. FREED (First
Episode Rapid Early Intervention for EDs) is a service model and care
pathway providing rapid access to developmentally-informed care for
emerging adults with EDs. FREED is associated with reduced duration of
untreated eating disorder and improved clinical outcomes, but patients’
experiences of treatment have yet to be assessed.


This study aimed to assess emerging adults’ experiences of receiving treatment through FREED.


This study triangulated qualitative data on participants’ experiences of
FREED treatment from questionnaires and semi-structured interviews.
Participants were 106 emerging adults (aged 16–25; illness duration
< 3 yrs) (questionnaire only = 92; interview only = 6; both = 8).
Data were analysed thematically.


Most participants reported psychological and behavioural changes over the
course of treatment (e.g. reduction in symptoms; increased acceptance
and understanding of difficulties). Participants identified five
beneficial characteristics of FREED treatment: i) rapid access to
treatment; ii) knowledgeable and concerned clinicians; iii) focusing on
life beyond the eating disorder; iv) building a support network; v)
becoming your own therapist.


This study provides further supports for the implementation of early
intervention and developmentally-informed care for EDs. Future service
model development should include efforts to increase early help-seeking.

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