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Body Movement and Body Image Work
Amy Kayda, MA, DTR, LPC
Deanna James, MA, DTR, LPC
 Connection is essential to the recovery process.
 The body can be used as a resource for deepening the
therapy, self-expression, and emotional regulation.
 Body centered therapies can be used to deepen the IFS
process, including connection to self energy.
 Trauma is held in the body and thus the body, and its
memories / sensations must be addressed and
expressed for healing to take place.
 Negative body image is not really about our culture and
media. Our culture reinforces negative body image and
disembodiment, it does not create it.
Why is Body Movement &
Body Image work essential?
 Due to painful or traumatic experiences it is difficult for clients
to connect to the body in a safe and effective way.
 Eating disorder symptoms further serve to disconnect one
from their bodily felt sensations and emotions.
 In eating disorder recovery, it is essential that there is a
mind/body connection.
 Many clients struggle with distorted body image which causes
anxiety, exacerbation of the ED, and disruption of self image
and thus relationships.
 In order to achieve full acceptance of self, clients must learn
to accept their body and the emotions that are held in the
Why is Body Work Essential?
In eating disorders clients view the body
as a billboard: “HELP! See how much pain
I am in!”
Our goal is to help clients view the body as
their home.
Client often view their body as a
condemned home, one that is not safe for
Philosophy of Treatment
At Castlewood, we encourage an
exploration of the mind/body connection in
order to assist those struggling with eating
disorders to begin to forge a new
relationship with their bodies, one that is
compassionate, accepting and kind.
Philosophy of Treatment
One of the core concepts of the Internal
Family Systems model is that parts are
held in and around the body. It is our belief
that in order to understand parts and their
functions with compassion and acceptance,
clients must learn to connect to the body
that is the container for these parts.
Philosophy of Treatment
 In order for clients to truly engage in the
recovery process, it is essential to incorporate
healthy and safe ways to connect to the body.
 An essential component of the healing process
is to integrate cognitive and somatic insights.
 We use body work to deepen the cognitive
process, as well as to express feelings and
sensations trapped in the body as a result of
What is Body Movement Therapy?
 Based on the assumption that the body and mind are
interrelated, body movement therapy is defined as the
psychotherapeutic use of movement to further the
emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of
the individual. The dance/movement therapist focuses
on movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic
relationship. Expressive, communicative, and adaptive
behaviors are all considered for both group and
individual treatment. Body movement as the core
component of dance simultaneously provides the means
of assessment and the mode of intervention for
dance/movement therapy. American Dance Therapy
What is Body Image?
Body image is comprised of how one sees
their body, lives in and experiences their
body and perceives how others see their
Negative body image can serve a
protective function to distract clients from
painful feelings or emotions held in the
Goals of Body Movement and Body
Image Work
 Connection to the body in a safe manner.
 Increased ability to be present in the hear and
now. (Mindfulness)
 Safe and healthy expression through the body
 Increased ability to utilize self soothing and
affect regulation skills
 Connection to and acceptance of all parts
 Connection to sense of Self
Connection to the Body in a Safe Manner
Why connect?
We experience feelings in our bodies. Part of recovery
is being able to distinguish and label what’s going on
inside so that we can respond appropriately.
We cannot like or appreciate something we are not
connected to.
Many clients experience extreme body image
distortion. Through connection and exploration of the
body a more accurate perception can unfold.
Many clients experience psychosomatic symptoms.
Connection can help alleviate some of these
Connection to the Body in a Safe Manner
 Why connect?
 As a result of trauma, many clients disconnect from internal
emotional cues, as well as internal body sensations. Clients
often re-enact trauma and feelings associated with trauma onto
the body through their ED, self-injury, critical self-talk, etc.
 Clients may ignore or dissociate from their natural early warning
signs of danger. This disconnection can result in clients putting
themselves in dangerous situations, or seeking out
 It is essential to re-connect clients with their body’s emotional
cues and warning signs of danger, not only to help them make
safe choices but also to help them gain insight into trauma reenactment dynamics.
Increased Ability to be
Present in the Here and Now.
“The here and now focus provides not only
an invaluable source of information for
each patient, but also a safe arena in
which patients may experiment with new
types of behavior.” Irvin D. Yallom, Inpatient Group
Psychotherapy pg 175.
Safe and Healthy Expression
Through the Body
Clients often view the body as something
they have to carry around with them. A
number on a scale, the thing that keeps
them from being happy, the thing that
makes them different, etc.
Helping clients to see their body as a
vehicle for healthy expression can change
their perception of their body.
Safe and Healthy Expression
Through the Body
 Often in trauma, clients view the body as another thing
that betrayed them. By using the body to express
feelings, clients may begin to see it as an ally.
 Through the use of ED and other self-harm behaviors
the body becomes an object. The goal is to help clients
see their body as part of themselves.
 The eating disorder functions as a way to express to
others the pain and overwhelming feelings held in the
body. Clients can learn to express these feelings in a
healthy way.
Increased ability to utilize self soothing
and affect regulation skills
The eating disorder functions as a self
regulatory mechanism. As part of the
recovery process clients must learn to
manage internal distress in safe and
healthy ways.
Connection to and acceptance of all parts
Connection to sense of Self
The non-extreme intention of each part is
something positive for the individual.
There are no “bad” parts and the goal of
therapy is not to eliminate parts but
instead to help them find their nonextreme role.
Self is the core, or center of the person.
When differentiated it acts as the active
compassionate leader.
Possible Interventions:
 Write or create artwork about your relationship
with your body (past and present). Include
significant life events, messages you received
about your body, (positive and negative),
memories, feelings about femininity/masculinity,
sexuality, etc. You can also include actual
photos of yourself.
Possible Interventions:
 Use the following prompts to create images:
When I look in the mirror I see… When my
eating disorder looks in the mirror it wants my
body to be…When I nourish and take care of my
body appropriately it naturally appears…I think
others sees my body…
Possible Interventions:
 Nature walks that incorporate the following:
reflection on surroundings, pausing to take deep
breaths or simply notice the movement of the
breath in the body, moving the body in any way
that feels refreshing and releases tension, silent
mindful walking mediation alone or in
groups/pairs, choosing an object in nature that
represents how a client feels currently about
their body and how they would like to feel in the
Possible Interventions:
 Write a letter to your body and have your body
write back. You may also write a letter of
apology to your body for hurting it in the ways
that others have hurt you.
 -Make a list of all the functions of your body.
What does your body do for you? (Example:
my eyes allow me see beautiful sunsets, my
arms allow me to hold my nephew, my ears
allow me to hear my favorite band on the radio,
Possible Interventions:
 Guided imagery and mindfulness activity (5-10
minutes) focused on what a client is
experiencing in the moment internally with focus
on body sensations, here and now, mental
noting of thought and feelings with a nonjudgmental stance, counting breaths (1-5) or
labeling the inhale and exhale. Client can keep
eyes open or closed based on comfort. You can
expand on this by having client draw an image
of the experience and then bring the image to
life in movement or gesture.
Possible Interventions:
 Movement timeline: Ask the client to express in
movement her journey through eating disorder
recovery. Identify, embody and move through
stuck points.
 -Spontaneous, creative play, (clapping
game/hands on floor), popular group dances,
piling pillows and jumping into the them,
punching pillows, adding sound, asking clients to
bring in their favorite music, all can help clients
feel more at ease and joyful in their bodies.
Possible Interventions:
 Body tracing:
 Speak to the client about the objective of the tracing. The goal is to
help her understand the underlying Feelings, Associations and
Thoughts (F. A.T.) that contribute to body-image and self-image.
Inform her that the tracing is going to be imperfect because there is
human error. Clothing, crinkles in the paper, etc. influence the
outcome. Bodies are three dimensional and this is a two
dimensional image, so it has inherent limitations. Be sure that the
client feels safe and is grounded before you attempt the tracing.
 Get a large roll of paper. Tracings can be done either lying down or
standing against the wall, with the paper taped to the wall.
 Trace the client. Be sure to check-in throughout to see if the client
feels safe and is comfortable. Remind her that she can stop at any
point whatsoever.
Possible Interventions:
 Process the tracing in the following way:
 Ask the client to write a response to the tracing using stream of
 Ask the client to use artwork, photos, colors, shapes and words to fill in the
tracing using the Feelings, Associations and Thoughts (F.A.T.) guidelines.
Include memories, experiences, trauma, messages received and/or
internalized about the body or body parts. Encourage authenticity and
 Ask the client to share the image in session and/or group.
 Ask the client to create either an additional image either on another piece of
paper or on the back of the first image or one can add things directly on the
first image. The theme of this image is “What does this body (the initial
tracing) need now? “ Encourage the client to reflect on the 8 C’s of IFS
 Ask the client to process the entire experience. Be sure to include current
bodily-felt sensations as you process the imagery.
Possible Interventions:
 Group Unburdening- Create a “fire” in the middle of the room.
Have clients put feelings, memories represented by pillows or
other objects in the middle of the room. Have clients share what
they are placing in the “fire.” Put the “fire” out by placing blanket
over the pile of pillows. Have clients then take positive qualities
out of “water” to replace what they just gave up.
 Group Sculptures/exploration of qualities of self- Have clients
explore the various qualities of self through movement, group
sculptures, postures.
 Moving in self and various parts(separating from parts)- Have
clients move from pillow to pillow or chair to chair exploring what
various parts (feeling states) feel like in their body. Have one
pillow or chair represent the qualities of self. Explore how the
body feels different between self and parts.
How do we invite our body and the client’s
body into the therapeutic process?
 Maintain an awareness of your own body in
sessions and groups. Attend to what you are
experiencing in your body. Examples:
(tightness, heaviness or warmth in the chest,
sleepiness, butterflies in the stomach,
headaches, tingling, numbness or pain in body
parts, dizziness, excitement, agitation,
calmness, etc). Somatic counter-transference
provides valuable information and assists with
How do we invite our body and the client’s
body into the therapeutic process?
 In order to be more fully embodied, carefully attend to
non-verbal communication (body posture, breathing,
tone of voice, facial expression, skin tone changes,
gestures and overall physical presence in the room). If
a client shifts her posture or takes a deep breath, gently
mirror the behavior yourself, and/or simply verbalize
what you notice. Mirroring is one of the most
fundamental and powerful therapeutic interventions.
Non-verbal mirroring techniques are simple and
effective; incorporating them can greatly deepen the
therapeutic process and invites the body into the space.
How do we invite our body and the client’s
body into the therapeutic process?
 Ask regularly about what clients are
experiencing in their body during therapy. This
integrates mind/body and dismantles the familiar
“talking head” syndrome, in which client’s are
cognitively and intellectually insightful but
completely disconnected from their body. The
eating disorder lives in the body. The only way
out is through the body.
How do we invite our body and the client’s
body into the therapeutic process?
 Encourage simple and mindful ways to be
embodied such as connection with nature,
balanced and fun movement, yoga, dance,
martial arts, connecting to the senses by lighting
a candle, applying lotion, listening to music,
receiving a massage or manicure/pedicure,
relaxing in the hammock. Ask regularly if your
clients are engaged in some activity that
connects their mind and body in a gentle, kind