Body Image Therapy in Edinburgh

We specialise in first-line treatments such as CBT for body image, emphasising evidence-based approaches to address body image concerns. Our therapeutic philosophy aligns with the principles of body neutrality, recognizing attractiveness as just one characteristic among many that contribute to a person’s inherent value. We can help you appreciate the diverse qualities that make you uniquely valuable. 

What is body image?

Body image is the mental representation of each person’s physical appearance. It’s about how the person sees themselves and how they perceive themselves when looking in the mirror, how they believe they are. Body image also involves the feelings and emotions a person experiences regarding how they perceive their physique, how they feel about their body, and within their own body. Various factors, including societal standards, cultural ideals, media representations, and personal experiences can influence body image.



What is body image dissatisfaction?

Body dissatisfaction arises when someone holds persistent negative thoughts and emotions regarding their body. This internal emotional and cognitive process is influenced by external factors, including societal pressures to conform to a specific appearance ideal. Such dissatisfaction can prompt the person to adopt unhealthy weight control behaviours, particularly engaging in disordered eating, elevating their vulnerability to developing an eating disorder.


An unhealthy or negative body image manifests as the belief that your body falls short, for instance:


➤   Perceiving yourself as appearing too fat.


➤   Feeling insufficiently attractive or muscular.


➤   Having a distorted perception of your body, seeing it differently than how it truly is.


➤   Believing that your worth as a person is determined by your appearance.


➤   Developing an obsession with altering the shape of your body.


➤   Feeling anxious and ashamed of your physical appearance.



What is a healthy body image?

A healthy body image is possible and is known to protect against eating disorders. Someone with a healthy body image has a clear and realistic perception of their body. They can value and appreciate their body, being aware that it is only a part of their overall identity, with other aspects such as personality holding greater importance. The person feels secure and comfortable within their own body.


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Our therapists are qualified and registered with reputable professional associations for psychotherapy and counselling.

When to seek help for body image issues?

Like any other psychological disorder, it is advisable to seek help when the issue begins to impact various aspects of your daily life. This may involve persistent distress stemming from negative thoughts about your body, disruption of daily activities, work, or relationships, adopting unhealthy behaviours to alter your body, withdrawing socially due to appearance concerns, exacerbation of physical health problems, deterioration of mental health conditions, and interference with relationships, intimacy, or social connections. 

Therapy for body image issues

Several therapy approaches can help you to face body image dissatisfaction. These provide diverse strategies to address the complex interplay of thoughts, emotions, and societal influences associated with body image concerns. Below you can read more about some of these modalities:


CBT for body image

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for body image concerns operates on the premise that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are interconnected, and modifying negative thought patterns can lead to positive behavioural changes and emotional well-being. In the context of body image, CBT involves an exploration of distorted thought processes related to one’s physical appearance. 


The therapeutic process begins with identifying and challenging irrational or unrealistic beliefs about the body. Individuals work collaboratively with the therapist to recognize and replace these negative thoughts with more balanced and accurate perspectives. This may include reframing overly critical self-talk or challenging societal ideals that contribute to dissatisfaction.


CBT also incorporates behavioural techniques, encouraging individuals to engage in activities that challenge their negative body perceptions. Gradual exposure to situations that trigger body image concerns helps desensitise the associated anxiety or distress. Through this process, people gain a greater understanding of the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, empowering them to cultivate a healthier and more positive self-image.


The ultimate goal of CBT for body image is to provide the person with practical skills to manage negative thoughts effectively, develop self-acceptance, and promote lasting behavioural changes that contribute to improved mental well-being.



ACT for body image 

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for body image dissatisfaction is based on the idea of accepting one’s thoughts and feelings about their body without judgement while committing to actions aligned with their values. ACT focuses on developing psychological flexibility, which involves being open, adaptive, and mindful in the face of difficult thoughts and emotions.


It encourages people to acknowledge and accept negative thoughts about their bodies, recognizing that these thoughts are a natural part of the human experience. Instead of engaging in a struggle to eliminate these thoughts, ACT emphasises the importance of allowing them to exist without dictating one’s behaviour or self-worth. Mindfulness techniques play a crucial role in helping the person become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in the present moment. 


ACT then guides them to clarify values and commit to actions that align with these values, improving the relationship with their bodies. This may involve engaging in activities that bring joy or pursuing meaningful goals unrelated to appearance. 



CFT for body image

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) for body image concerns operates on the premise of developing self-compassion and understanding as a powerful antidote to negative self-perceptions. CFT recognizes that those struggling with body image often harbour self-critical thoughts and judgments. 


CFT creates an atmosphere of kindness and self-compassion, encouraging the clients to treat themselves with the same understanding and support they would offer to a friend. The therapist collaborates with the person to explore the origins of self-criticism, addressing underlying emotions and experiences that contribute to negative body image. 


CFT employs various techniques to enhance self-compassion, such as guided imagery, mindfulness, and compassionate self-talk. These practices help individuals cultivate a more nurturing and supportive inner dialogue, counteracting the harsh self-judgments often associated with body image dissatisfaction. 


CFT for body image aims to create a foundation of self-kindness that extends beyond appearance, developing a sense of worthiness and well-being rooted in compassion and understanding. 



MBCT for body image

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for body image dissatisfaction integrates mindfulness principles with cognitive-behavioural techniques to alleviate distress related to negative body perceptions. MBCT involves cultivating a heightened awareness of present-moment experiences without judgement, allowing individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions surrounding their body image without becoming entangled in self-critical narratives. Through meditation, the person can disengage from automatic, negative thought patterns associated with their physical appearance. 


Cognitive-behavioural components within MBCT address distorted body image cognitions, challenging and reframing negative beliefs about one’s appearance. The synergy between mindfulness and cognitive-behavioural techniques enhances self-awareness and provides people with practical skills to manage and change their relationship with their bodies. 

Our approach to body image counselling

Our primary commitment is to deliver evidence-based therapeutic interventions, like CBT, while personalising treatment plans to suit the person’s needs. We integrate the latest techniques derived from third-wave therapies, emphasising the transformative power of acceptance, mindfulness, and self-compassion in addressing self-critical thoughts about the body. In our safe and non-judgmental space, collaborative efforts are directed towards cultivating a more neutral and constructive perspective on the body.


Our therapeutic approach aligns with the principles of the body neutrality movement, advocating the belief that attractiveness is just one facet among many qualities. We firmly assert that attractiveness should not carry more weight than other qualities when determining an individual’s worth. Consequently, our goal is to guide individuals towards viewing their bodies as functional tools that serve various purposes, moving away from the notion of the body solely as an aesthetically defining feature.


In essence, we advocate for giving due importance to the attractiveness of the body without magnifying its significance beyond what it naturally deserves. Through our holistic approach, we aim to empower individuals to embrace a more balanced and meaningful understanding of their bodies, fostering self-acceptance and appreciation for the diverse qualities that contribute to their overall worth.


Body dissatisfaction can manifest through various emotional, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms. Here are common symptoms associated with body image issues:


Negative self-talk: Engaging in frequent self-critical or negative thoughts about one’s body size, shape, or appearance.


Social withdrawal: Avoiding social situations or activities due to concerns about personal appearance.


Comparison: Constantly comparing one’s body to others, often leading to feelings of inadequacy.


Preoccupation with appearance: Spending excessive time and energy focusing on perceived flaws or imperfections in one’s body.


Avoidance of mirrors or photos: Going out of the way to avoid mirrors or photographs due to discomfort with one’s own image.


Unhealthy eating habits: Engaging in restrictive diets, extreme exercise, or disordered eating patterns as an attempt to change one’s body.


Seeking reassurance: Seeking reassurance from others about one’s appearance repeatedly.


Clothing choices: Choosing clothing to hide or disguise perceived flaws, even in uncomfortable or impractical situations.


Low self-esteem: Feeling a persistent sense of low self-worth tied to one’s body image.


Depression and anxiety: Experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety related to body dissatisfaction.


Several elements contribute to the development of a negative body image, and some of these factors include:


➤   Cultural ideals and societal standards, often perpetuated by the media.


➤   Advertisements, magazines, social media, and other forms of media can portray narrow and often unattainable beauty standards.


➤   Social comparison with peers.


➤   Early experiences, such as comments about appearance or body shape during childhood.


➤   Personality traits, such as perfectionism or a tendency toward self-criticism.


➤   Past experiences of teasing or bullying related to physical appearance.


➤   Experiencing trauma or abuse.


➤   Genetic predispositions may play a role in body shape and weight, influencing how individuals perceive their bodies.

Do you offer body image therapy near me?

The Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person body image counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom), and online therapy accessible worldwide. We offer a range of evidence-based approaches including acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). 

Your body image therapist in Edinburgh

We understand how challenging it is to live with a self-critical voice constantly judging your body image and comparing yourself to others. However, you don’t have to go through this alone. We’re here to work with you. Reach out to us today and take the first step toward a more fulfilling life.


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The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

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Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]