Making Connections: Social identification with New Treatment Groups for Lifestyle Management of Severe Obesity

Sammyh S Khan, Mark Tarrant, Katarina Kos, Mark Daly, Chloe Gimbuta, Claire V Farrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Groups are regularly used to deliver healthcare services, including the management of obesity, and there is growing evidence that patients' experiences of such groups fundamentally shape treatment effects. This study investigated factors related to patients' shared social identity formed within the context of a treatment group for the management of severe obesity. A cross-sectional survey was administered to patients registered with a UK medical obesity service and enrolled on a group-based education and support programme. Patients (N=78; MBMI = 48 on entry to the service) completed measures of group demographics (e.g., group membership continuity) and psychosocial variables (e.g., past experiences of weight discrimination), and reported their social identification with the treatment group. The results showed that patients identified with the treatment group to the extent that there was continuity in membership across the programme and they perceived themselves more centrally in terms of their weight status. Weight centrality was negatively associated with external social support and positively associated with experiences of weight discrimination. Group continuity was positively correlated with session attendance frequency. Patients presenting to clinical treatment services with severe obesity often do so after sustained weight loss failure and exposure to negative societal experiences. This study highlights that providing a treatment environment wherein these experiences can be shared with other patients may provide common ground for development of a new, positive social identity that can structure programme engagement and progression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-696
Number of pages11
JournalClinical psychology & psychotherapy
Issue number5
Early online date8 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial‐NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non‐commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


  • group membership
  • group-based health interventions
  • severe obesity
  • social identity


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