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Clinical practice

Building Trust with Adolescents and Young Adults with Eating Disorders

September 2023 | Clinical practice | Research

Yorke, E. L., Evans-Atkinson, T., Katzman, D. K. (2021). Shared language and communicating with adolescents and young adults with eating disorders. Paediatrics & Child Health, Feb, 26(1):8-11. doi: 10.1093/pch/pxaa047

What this research was about and why it is important

When dealing with adolescents and young adults (AYA) with specific disorders or diseases, particular attention is needed to be paid to both the content of the language, and the way in which healthcare professionals (HCP) use this language when communicating with them. It is important to notice, understand, and be mindful of how the meaning of certain words may signify something very different to an AYA with an eating disorder (ED), and to appreciate that the ED itself can alter the perception of the communication. Developing a shared language is essential to establish a therapeutic relationship built on trust.

What the researchers did

  • They defined the notion of shared language by developing a mutual understanding among HCP, trainees and caregivers of the content of the language, and how to use this content more thoughtfully and empathetically.
  • They identified barriers to effective communication with AYA with ED.
  • They collected examples of language used, heard, and alternative options for communicating with AYA with ED, and commented on the purpose of changing communication.
  • They presented a set of recommendations on building trust with AYA with ED.

What the researchers found

  • AYA with ED can experience or perceive language differently than HCP intended.
  • The barriers to effective communication with AYA with ED include patient perception, provider communication, provider knowledge, and stigma.
  • They provided examples of language used by HCP to talk to AYA with ED, interpreted what AYA with ED hear, offered an alternative to HCP´s response, and described the purpose of communication change.
  • Based on a literature review, they provided recommendations on how to improve communication with the use of shared language, the patient´s experience, and the quality of care.

Things to consider

  • There is limited research and expert opinion on this topic.


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