Acceptance-based Mirror Exposure

Body image concerns play a serious role in most eating disorders. It is also the symptom most resistant to treatment. Addressing body image issues is essential to successful eating disorder treatment. Failure in this area can derail eating disorder recovery.

Negative body image is a core feature of eating and weight disorders. It is often associated with low self-esteemed and increased anxiety and depression. If you have a body image problems or eating disorder, you probably avoid looking at yourself in the mirror. To help you overcome that obstacle, we offer acceptance-based mirror exposure treatment. This approach is often helpful, but it is not for everyone.

This mirror work involves having you look at your own body in a mirror and describe what you see. You wear revealing clothes, then look at yourself in a mirror. We repeat this process each session, watching your descriptions carefully. Whenever you use judgmental language, the therapist will remind you to use only neutral, factually descriptive language. The goal of describing what is in the mirror is to shift the way you process or make sense of your self-image.

Researchers believe acceptance-based mirror exposure helps in several ways:

  • Changes how you interpret facts.
    Often people with eating disorders tend to view bad situations in terms of the way they look. This approach helps you to change “she does not want to have lunch with me because of the way I look” to “she has other plans and we can have lunch together another time”.
  • Helps you stop fixating on the part of your body that you do not like.
    Instead of just seeing a flaw, you take in your entire body in a more balanced way.
  • Forces you to face your fears.
    The idea is that if you face your body repeatedly, it will no longer cause distress.
  • Changes the way you think of your body.
    By using neutral language (“my tummy is white and round”) instead of negative language (“my tummy is huge”), you learn to doubt your negative beliefs.