Experiential Approaches to Changing
JUDITH RUSKAY RABINOR
MARION A. BILICH
This chapter describes the various forms of experiential therapy aimed at facilitating personal growth and change in body image. The experiential perspective assumes that body image is multidimensional and includes mental representations (thoughts, feelings, and images) as well as sensory (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) and somatic components. Therefore, if the goal is to change an individual's thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions related to body image, then verbal intervention alone is limited. Direct work with sensory and somatic experiences must be included in a comprehensive treatment approach. Since the formation of body image begins at a preverbal developmental stage, techniques designed to encourage nonverbal exploration and expression will be effective at creating change at that level. This level of intervention may be particularly important for clients whose body image disturbances stem from early childhood experience.
Experiential techniques can be categorized in relation to their primary orientation to the mind/body. Table 53.1 provides a representative, though not exhaustive, listing of experiential forms of psychotherapy and personal growth that foster change in body image. As with any attempt at categorization, there is much overlap among the various approaches.