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Supporting Body Neutrality: How Massage Therapists Help Clients with Body Dysmorphia

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Embracing flaws and loving one’s body is often touted as a positive message, promoting self-acceptance and self-love. However, it’s important to acknowledge that for individuals experiencing body dysmorphia or other body image issues, this mindset can be challenging or even counterproductive. In such cases, the focus shifts towards fostering body-neutrality and working towards finding comfort in one’s body as it is.

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with perceived flaws in one’s appearance. For someone dealing with body dysmorphia, being told to “embrace flaws” or “love their body” can create additional pressure and distress. It may reinforce negative thoughts and exacerbate their struggle with body image. Instead, a more helpful approach is to encourage individuals to strive for neutrality towards their body. This means working towards accepting and acknowledging their body without judgment or excessive attachment to perceived flaws. The goal is to develop a healthier and more balanced perspective, where they can view their body as it truly is, rather than through the distorted lens of dysmorphia.

Massage therapists can play a supportive role in helping clients with body dysmorphia by creating a safe and non-judgmental environment during sessions. Here are some ways massage therapists can assist their clients:

1. Establish open communication: Encourage clients to share their concerns and preferences before the massage. Actively listen to their needs and provide reassurance that their feelings and boundaries will be respected throughout the session.

2. Respect personal boundaries: Understand that individuals with body dysmorphia may have specific areas of their body they feel uncomfortable with or want to avoid being touched. Respect their boundaries and modify the massage accordingly. Offer alternative techniques or focus on areas that the client feels more comfortable with.

3. Provide a body-positive atmosphere: Create an atmosphere that promotes body positivity and acceptance. Use positive and affirming language when describing the client’s body or specific body parts during the session. Avoid making comments that could trigger negative thoughts or reinforce body image concerns.

4. Offer relaxation techniques: Massage therapy can be a soothing and calming experience. Help clients with body dysmorphia to relax by incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or guided imagery during the session. This can assist in reducing anxiety and promoting a sense of overall well-being.

5. Collaborate with mental health professionals: Recognize the limits of massage therapy and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach. Encourage clients to seek support from mental health professionals who specialize in body dysmorphia. With the client’s consent, collaborate and communicate with the client’s therapist to ensure a coordinated and holistic approach to their care.

Remember, it’s essential to approach each client with empathy, understanding, and respect. Creating a safe and supportive environment can help clients with body dysmorphia feel more comfortable during massage sessions and contribute to their overall well-being.

person lying on side, photo of hip and abdomen with words All Bodies Are Perfect
All Bodies Are Perfect


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