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Monday, July 9, 2012

Standing Body Image Drawing

Standing Body Image Drawing

Art Therapy Directive

Sometimes, people have what is called “Body Dysmorphic Disorder” where they see their bodies in some abnormal way, which causes significant disruption in their lives. This can be through an eating disorder, self-mutilation, plastic surgery, constant dieting or exercising to the point of being unhealthy, etc.

In this directive, the client has a chance to come face-to-face with her inaccurate views of her body, and instead change them out for newer, more healthy views.

White Butcher Paper          Permanent Markers (Black and Red)          Tape

     Step One
1)  Place a piece of the butcher paper on the wall, long enough to encompass the client's full body. Use tape to make it stay on the wall, placing the paper no higher than the client's head.
2)  Have the client take the black marker and draw the outline of the body that she thinks she has.
3)  Have the client stand back and reflect on what she drew as an outline. Ask, "What do you see?"
4)  Next, have the client stand back facing the wall and over the outline she already created, use another color marker (red) and outline her actual body (as close to the actual body size and proportion as possible - you may have to ask for permission from the client because you will be touching her at times with the marker).
5)  Have the client stand back and reflect on the differences from what she drew, and what her actual body-size is.

Step Two

1)  Have the client take the marker and color in her actual body.

2)  Ask the client a few reflective questions, such as "What do you think?"

3)  Next, have the client take a darker marker (black) and write on her body what she does not like about her body and/or how she sees it today.

4)  Have the client share about what she wrote and how she feels about her body.

5)  Ask the client, "After doing this exercise, what do you see about yourself and how you look?"

6)  Reflect back to the client alternative statements of what you, the therapist sees. Have these statements be positive while acknowledging how the client sees herself.

7)  When the client is ready, have the client write statements in another, brighter color, that are positive about her body, and about herself.

Note:  You may have to work with the client awhile to "take it on", "as if" it were true. Sometimes, just "pretending" can impact the person a great deal, and despite herself she may begin to shift in to another way of seeing it.

Processing Questions:

1)  "Tell me what you see."  - "How do you feel about that?"

(Note: These next questions are designed for processing when the client has been through the exercise and is now ready to consider alternatives in her thinking.)

2)  "What is a way that you could challenge that belief/thought?"
3)  "Are you willing to see it differently?"
4)  "Where in your life is the place you feel most out of control?"
5)  "What can you control and what can't you control?"  
6)  "How can you not 'take it (another person's issues) on'?"


This directive can have a dramatic affect on a client. Client's often will struggle with this process, but once they do it a time or two there is a great deal of positive change that occurs.

This directive increases the sense of control a client has over her body. You may need to work on other control issues that arise in her life, especially with close relationships.

This directive challenges the clients thinking in a subtle, yet powerful way. The client will begin to shift her thinking and open up to the possibility of hope.


This is a very intense process and should not be done until both the client and the therapist feel ready.

Allow this process to be client-directed. If the client feels overwhelmed or upset at any time, stop the directive until the client feels ready to proceed.

Make sure to do this directive in a safe environment, where the client feels safe and there is not chance for interruption or of confidentiality being broken. The client will be going through a great deal of vulnerability and will need to trust that the therapist is capable of handling this professionally.

Web-Sites to Reference:

MailOnline, Blind to her beauty: Girl who tried to kill herself eight times because she felt she was too ugly http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1227516/Attractive-student-suffering-body-dysmorphia-attempts-suicide-times-seeing-disgusting-figure-mirror.html

Voice In Recovery:  Prevention, Advocacy, Intervention, Recovery (PAIR) http://voiceinrecovery.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/ed-and-bdd/

Timberline Knolls:  Residential Treatment Center  http://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/body-dysmorphia

Short Video of the Process:


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