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Occupational therapy and eating disorders: an integrative literature review


Literature pertaining to the role of occupational therapy in recovery from eating disorders spans 40 years; however, has not been systematically synthesized.


To develop a comprehensive understanding of reported roles of occupational therapy in recovery from eating disorders and inform intervention and research, we conducted an integrative literature review. Searches were conducted in ten online databases and six occupational therapy journals. Theoretical or empirical publications in peer-reviewed journals in English explicitly describing occupational therapy intervention or role of the occupational therapist for eating disorders were included. Thematic analysis was conducted across selected articles and research articles critically reviewed.


Thirty-two pieces of evidence published in English from 1974 through 2014 were included in this review; twenty-four were theoretical and eight were qualitative, descriptive or quasi-experimental studies. Analysis revealed the domain and process of occupational therapy with persons with eating disorders. Results are represented as a conceptual model illustrating a variation of the American Occupational Therapy Association Practice Framework. Appraisal of the studies suggests a need and opportunity to document and disseminate the evidence-base for this practice area.

Conclusion and significance

Findings of this integrative literature review inform research, practice and clinical training of occupational therapists in the specialty area of eating disorder recovery.

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Correspondence to Elysa Roberts.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Roberts, E., Wolfenden, W. Occupational therapy and eating disorders: an integrative literature review. J Eat Disord 3 (Suppl 1), P8 (2015).

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