Jennifer Thomas

Co-Director, MGA Eating Disorders Clinical & Research Program; Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Bio Dr. Jennifer Thomas is the Co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Thomas’s research focuses on atypical eating disorders, as described in her books Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Relationship with Food a Problem? and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Children, Adolescents, and Adults. She is currently the principal investigator on several studies investigating the neurobiology and treatment of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and private foundations.  She is the author or co-author of more than 100 scientific publications. She is also the Director of Annual Meetings for the Academy for Eating Disorders and an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Keynote Presentation Cognitive-behavioral therapy for avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

About the Presentation Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) was recently added to the Feeding and Eating Disorders section of DSM-5 to describe children, adolescents, and adults who cannot meet their nutritional needs, typically because of sensory sensitivity, fear of aversive consequences, and/or apparent lack of interest in eating or food. Although there is a robust literature on pediatric feeding disorders in very young children, ARFID itself is so new that there is currently no evidence-based treatment for older children, adolescents or adults.  This will fill an important gap for our colleagues who are already seeing such patients in clinical practice by providing specialized training in a new form of cognitive-behavioral therapy for ARFID (CBT-AR) that we have developed and refined at Massachusetts General Hospital. Early data from our efficacy study indicate that, on average, patients who receive CBT-AR add 19 novel foods, gain 11 lbs (if underweight), and significantly reduce food neophobia after treatment completion. This interactive presentation will include a brief description of the rationale for and goals of CBT-AR; detailed case examples drawn from a heterogeneous group of patients who have benefitted from this treatment; critical choice points for tailoring CBT-AR to the presenting patient; and demonstration of CBT-AR techniques across the four stages of this flexible, modular treatment. The material will be drawn from clinical practice as well as Dr. Thomas’s recently published book Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Children, Adolescents, and Adults (Cambridge University Press, 2019).