"Let's talk about your weight": How fatphobia manifests in therapy
Abel, Samantha A.
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Fat people experience individual and structural oppression in a variety of cultural and relational arenas. Experiences of fatphobia are shaped by body discourses, neoliberal agendas, and the medical model. This dissertation uses semi-structured narrative interviews and visual data to explore fat clients body histories and how their experiences of fatphobia are reproduced within the therapeutic space. Therapy is another arena where fat bodies are disciplined, operating as a vehicle to transmit dominant expectations to citizens. Cultural, medical, and psychiatric understandings of obesity permeate therapeutic interactions, linking mental illness and physical embodiment. Therapists often entrench client/clinician power relations, reinscribe client deviance, and promote weight loss. When clients attempt to challenge or shift the narratives around their body, therapists become defensive. Mental health practitioners have an ethical obligation to treat clients with dignity and respect, regardless of body size. It is vital for therapists to engage in reflexive practices and to think critically about whether they are meeting client needs or acting as agents of social control. Fat Studies, fat activism, and anti-oppressive practice principles offer therapists lenses to contextualize fat clients experiences within broader structural and systemic power relations, rather than seeing fat bodies as individual examples of deviance. This dissertation outlines practice recommendations for therapists so that body work can be undertaken from an emancipatory lens.