Adapting Behavioral Treatments for Primary Care Using a Theory-Based Framework: The Case of Adolescent Eating Disorders

Jocelyn Lebow, Leslie Sim, Sarah Redmond, Marcie Billings, Angela Mattke, Janna R. Gewirtz O'Brien, Paige Partain, Cassandra Narr, Renee Breland, David Soma, Tammy Schmit, Saraphia Magill, Antoinette Leonard, Sarah Crane, Daniel Le Grange, Katharine Loeb, Matthew Clark, Sean Phelan, Robert M. Jacobson, Felicity EndersLaura Collins Lyster-Mensh, Aaron Leppin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Evidence-based treatments have been developed for a range of pediatric mental health conditions. These interventions have proven efficacy but require trained pediatric behavioral health specialists for their administration. Unfortunately, the widespread shortage of behavioral health specialists leaves few referral options for primary care providers. As a result, primary care providers are frequently required to support young patients during their lengthy and often fruitless search for specialty treatment. One solution to this treatment-access gap is to draw from the example of integrated behavioral health and adapt brief evidence-based treatments for intra-disciplinary delivery by primary care providers in consultation with mental health providers. This solution has potential to expand access to evidence-based interventions and improve patient outcomes. We outline how an 8-step theory-based process for adapting evidence-based interventions, developed from a scoping review of the wide range of implementation science frameworks, can guide treatment development and implementation for pediatric behavioral health care delivery in the primary care setting, using an example of our innovative treatment adaptation for child and adolescent eating disorders. After reviewing the literature, obtaining input from leaders in eating disorder treatment research, and engaging community stakeholders, we adapted Family-Based Treatment for delivery in primary care. Pilot data suggest that the intervention is feasible to implement in primary care and preliminary findings suggest a large effect on adolescent weight gain. Our experience using this implementation framework provides a model for primary care providers looking to develop intra-disciplinary solutions for other areas where specialty services are insufficient to meet patient needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-215
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • adolescent
  • anorexia nervosa
  • behavior therapy
  • feeding and eating disorders
  • primary health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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