The purpose of this study was to explore Marriage and Family Therapy students’ perspectives regarding food addiction and associated eating disorders, as a clinical treatment issue. In a standard addictions course housed in a Marriage and Family Therapy program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), 20 students completed a qualitative survey where they reflected on the topic of food addiction, Binge Eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa, within the context of individual, couple, and family relationships. In the study four major themes emerged, which included (1) Defining Food Addiction, (2) Perceptions of Eating Disorders, (3) Conceptualizing Systemic Treatment, and (4) Experiences in clinical training. Clinical implications, recommendations for MFT education, clinical practice, and future research are discussed. Findings suggest that while MFT students in the study were well versed in conceptualized systemic treatment, it was of a general treatment and understanding using MFT theory, and not in relation to or specifically concerning food addictions and their connection or distinction from Binge Eating Disorder and/or other eating disorders found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, potentially impacting the level of skillfully and appropriately working with clients.


food addiction, eating disorders, marriage and family therapy, qualitative research

Author Bio(s)

Darren D. Moore, PhD., LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is an Associate Professor and Program Director in the Master's program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Touro University Worldwide. His research is focused on obesity, weight loss, eating disorders, addictions, health disparities, men, couple and family relationships, fatherhood/fatherlessness, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion, within the workplace and in higher education. He holds a doctorate in Human Development, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy from Virginia Tech and he later obtained a Masters in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Please direct correspondence to Mooredd2012@gmail.com.

Chichun Lin earned a Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Marital and Family Therapy (Alliant International University) and three Master's degrees in Counseling Psychology (East China Normal University), Marital and Family Therapy (Alliant International University), and Mental Health (Johns Hopkins University). Dr. Lin is an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy approved supervisor and a registered clinical counselor approved by British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors. He currently serves as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Please direct correspondence to Chichun.lin@ubc.ca.

Clinton E. Cooper, LMFT, is the owner/operator of a private therapy, coaching, and consulting practice in Scottsdale, AZ, and is licensed in Arizona and Georgia. He serves as a research associate and a senior member of Dr. Moore's research team. Clinton’s research interests include: exercise, weight, and eating-related disorders; couples issues, health disparities in minority populations, sexuality, gender identity, and elder populations within individual, couple, family, and larger systemic relationships. Clinton obtained his undergraduate degree in Psychology from High Point University and his graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. Please direct correspondence to Clint@clintcoopertherapy.com.

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