Promoting positive body image as a therapist

body image

Body satisfaction refers to a positive relationship a person has with their body involving both unconditional approval and respect. Research indicates, however, that many people are unhappy with their bodies, with a recent study suggesting that 60% of UK adults feel ashamed of how they look.

For many therapists, the primary motivation for working in the industry is to make people feel better both physically and psychologically. But the way in which treatments are marketed may sometimes undermine this aim by reinforcing damaging body ideals.

Dr Fiona Holland, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby whose research has focused on body image, has previously explored some of these issues for International Therapist magazine. She has highlighted how the language used to describe and market therapy treatments can act to reinforce body-shaming beliefs by making promises to ‘fix’ people and by positioning cosmetic features such as the signs of ageing as negative and something to be ‘fought’.

Dr Holland has also discussed how the imagery used to promote therapies can have similar effects. She asked a group of people to conduct an image search on an internet search engine using either the word ‘spa’ or ‘wellness’ and then review the first forty images in the results. The group found that most of the people depicted in the images were young and female, and included only one or two non-white women and white men. More surprisingly to the group, all of the images featured people whose bodies conformed to idealised body shapes and sizes.

While it might be thought good business to use ‘aspirational’ imagery that promotes certain body ideals and to employ the language of ‘problems’ and ‘fixes’, research suggests that making people feel good about themselves and representing diverse body types can also boost sales. Dove’s famous ‘campaign for real beauty’, which harnessed the power of body positivity for all, is a prime example of this. Moreover, for many therapists who put their clients’ health and wellbeing at the heart of all they do, doing what they can to promote positive body esteem will be a priority.


Learn more about Dr Fiona’s research and the ways you can promote positive body esteem at the 2019 FHT Conference

2019 Conference Fiona Holland imageFiona will give an overview of the impact of negative body image across different populations and outline the benefits of developing and maintaining body esteem. She will outline ways therapists can reinforce positive body image and esteem and will give delegates practical guidance in how to do this. Fiona will encourage delegates to consider creating a pro-esteem environment to benefit wellbeing and promote healthier self-talk and body-supportive behaviours.

A senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby, Fiona supports students in modules and research projects that link with health and wellbeing. Fiona qualified as a massage therapist in 1997 and ran her own massage and wellbeing practice in the USA. Her research interests include behaviour change, body esteem, breast cancer and body image, and the benefits of wellbeing interventions on psychological health.

Find out more and book your tickets to the event

One thought on “Promoting positive body image as a therapist

  1. Final event programme released for the 2019 FHT Conference – Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)

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