The Creation and Testing of A Simulation-Based Workshop to Increase Level of Understanding and Empathy of Eating Disorders

Author(s): Lyndsey E. Patterson, Anna E. Boone, Jack R. Engsberg

Objective: The purpose of this investigation was to develop a simulation-based workshop for supporters of those with eating disorders. We hypothesized that the simulation would increase their level of understanding and empathy.

Method: Initially, an eating disorder simulation was created based upon the literature (ED Simulation 1.0), which included simulations for exercising, grocery shopping and eating a meal. Next, 16 people with clinically diagnosed eating disorders completed questionnaires. The information obtained was used to modify and improve ED Simulation 1.0 to create ED Simulation 2.0. ED Simulation 2.0 was then tested on 23 participants for its ability to increase levels of understanding and empathy, using the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, Likert-scale items, and open-ended questions.

Results: The original simulation was modified, and both audio and video recordings were created for use in the workshop. Results of the use of the simulation with supporters of those with eating disorders indicated significant improvements in scores on the Toronto Empathy questionnaire (Z= -3.344, p=.001). Qualitative data also indicated benefits of the simulation and the recommendation to continue its usage among supporters of those with eating disorders.

Discussion: This investigation provides the first documented eating disorder simulation for supporters of those with eating disorders. It provides preliminary evidence for the feasibility of simulation to increase the level of empathy and understanding of eating disorders. The workshop is recommended for friends, family members, and healthcare professionals, in order to better understand what it’s like to have an eating disorder and how to support those in recovery.

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