UNITE- UNiting couples In the Treatment of Eating disorders

UNiting couples In the Treatment of Eating disorders (UNITE): A couple-based pilot intervention for binge-eating disorder


UNITE is a collaborative treatment study between the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and the UNC Department of Psychology and is supported by the Global Foundation for Eating Disorders.

Binge-eating disorder is a serious mental and physical condition that can significantly impair one’s quality of life. Individuals with binge-eating disorder typically feel out of control while eating or become distressed after eating larger quantities of food than planned. There is often marked guilt and shame surrounding eating, and people with these disorders may feel uncomfortable in their body and distressed about their weight or shape.

Binge-eating disorder affects both women and men.

Is UNITE for You?

 The UNITE program may be appropriate for you if:  

  • You or your partner has binge-eating disorder
  • You and your partner have been together for at least 6 months                                         
  • You are both at least 18 years old
  • You are both interested in participating in the study


What You Can Expect from UNITE

This study examines a couple-based intervention for binge-eating disorder. Active treatment will last about 6 months, and your progress will continue to be monitored 3 months after treatment is completed.

Your participation in UNITE can help you gain new confidence in overcoming binge-eating disorder while helping us understand how best to involve partners in the treatment of eating disorders.


Experienced Professionals

All treatment is conducted by therapists with extensive experience in treating eating disorders.


Comprehensive Assessment

You and your partner will receive a comprehensive baseline assessment to see if the study is a good fit for you. If a good fit, you will receive 3 follow-up assessments during which you will complete questionnaires, interviews, and conversations between the two of you.  You will be paid $50 for your time.


Comprehensive Treatment

Eating disorder treatment is often expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Because this is a therapy research study, we are able to offer this study-related leading-edge treatment to you at no cost. Participation will include about six months of comprehensive study-related treatment, including visits with a couple therapist and study physician, as an adjunct to individual therapy in the community.



If the above sounds like you or your partner, you may wish to participate in UNITE.

For more information, please call our study investigator at (919) 966-2920 or email us at . You can also check out our study Facebook page.

Directions: All assessments will be conducted at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (first floor of the UNC Neurosciences Hospital).


The UNITE Team

Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik

 Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, FAED is Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Professor of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and Co-Director of the UNC Center for Psychiatric Genomics. She received her BA from the University of Notre Dame and her MA and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. She completed internships and post-doctoral fellowships at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, PA. She developed outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient services for eating disorders both in New Zealand and in the United States. Her research includes treatment, laboratory, animal, epidemiological, twin and molecular genetic studies of eating disorders and body weight regulation. She is a past president of the Academy for Eating Disorders, past Vice-President of the Eating Disorders Coalition, and past Associate Editor of the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Dr. Bulik has written over 450 scientific papers and chapters on eating disorders, and is author of the books Eating Disorders: Detection and Treatment, Runaway Eating, Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How To Stop, Abnormal Psychology (Beidel, Bulik, Stanley), The Woman in the Mirror (2011), and Midlife Eating Disorders (2013, Walker).


Don BaucomDr. Donald H. Baucom

Dr. Donald Baucom, PhD is the Richard Simpson Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he is also Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the UNC Couple Therapy Clinic. Dr. Baucom is a clinical psychologist and has been conducting research and treating couples with a variety of problems since 1974. He received his BA and PhD from the University of North Carolina. He has conducted more treatment research on couples than any other investigator in the field and has been funded for his treatment research by a number of federal and international agencies for decades. Along with his numerous research publications, he has written and edited seven books about couples and intervening with them in a variety of contexts, including the major texts on cognitive-behavioral couple therapy. Over the past two decades, he has focused his treatment research on developing couple-based interventions for couples in which one partner has psychopathology or health concerns. Along with Dr. Bulik, this includes their treatment research on couples and anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, as well as his treatment research on couples and other disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, osteoarthritis, smoking cessation during pregnancy, and end of life. He conducts workshops throughout the world, training other therapists in how to conduct these interventions, which he has developed and validated. He has won numerous awards for his research contributions, mentoring other professionals, undergraduate teaching, and clinical training and supervision.


 Jennifer KirbyDr. Jennifer S. Kirby

 Jennifer S. Kirby, PhD is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill, and completed her Predoctoral Clinical Internship at Duke University Medical Center. Drs. Kirby and Baucom have collaborated in the development and evaluation of a number of relationship intervention programs from a cognitive-behavioral perspective. These have included working with couples who are experiencing emotion dysregulation, health concerns such as breast cancer, extramarital affairs, anorexia nervosa, and couples who are preparing for marriage. Along with Drs. Baucom, Bulik, and Runfola, she co-developed the couple therapy manual for binge-eating disorder. Dr. Kirby’s  interest and expertise is in training others in couple therapy is enriched by her teaching of doctoral courses in empirically supported treatments for adults, dialectical behavior therapy, and clinical supervision. In addition, she has won awards for outstanding teaching and clinical supervision, and maintains an active private practice with couples and individuals.


Dr. Cristin D. Runfola

 Cristin Runfola, PhD is Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Global Foundation for Eating Disorders (GFED) Scholar. She received her BA from San Diego State University, MS and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Palo Alto University, and completed her Predoctoral Clinical Internship and T32 Postdoctoral Eating Disorders Research Fellowship at UNC-CH. She also received training in eating disorders research and treatment at Stanford University and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and specialized couple therapy training under the mentorship of Drs. Don Baucom and Jennifer Kirby at UNC. Her research focuses on the epidemiology of dysregulated eating and weight concerns in underserved populations and her primary interest is in developing and testing the efficacy of clinical interventions designed to improve outcome for eating disorders. Along with Drs. Bulik, Baucom, and Kirby, she co-developed the couple therapy manual for binge-eating disorder, which was informed by qualitative interviews she conducted with couples affected by BED. She also co-developed and oversees Embody Carolina, an organization dedicated to preparing college students to serve as compassionate and effective allies to those struggling with eating disorders. She currently holds an active clinical load and serves as a study therapist for clinical trials including Uniting Couples (in the treatment of) Anorexia Nervosa (UCAN). Dr. Runfola is a recipient of the APA Superior Research Award, the NIMH/AED Early Career Investigator Travel Fellowship Award, and UNC Martin S. Wallach Award for Outstanding Clinical Psychology Intern of the Year. She is also engaged in advocacy and holds leadership positions within the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED).