Extensive studies focus on body image and the consequences for mental health. Unfortunately, a scarcity of research examined body image within the context of Black families’ experiences. Issues surrounding body images among Black people must be understood within the broader historical, social, cultural, and familial experiences in which they exist. Too often, therapists focus on treating Black people who struggle with body image without this thorough understanding of the unique experiences of Black families. For example, how do particular Black families think about body image and how is this passed from one generation to the next? Moreover, how have oppressive structures shaped ideas about the Black body? Centuries of enslavement fractured Black family life through forced separation and other violent means. Through forced separation and the use of physical features (height, weight, body size, skin complexion, etc.) this determined one’s value. Slavery would create a structure that deemed the Black body as property to be owned, controlled, and devalued. This presentation centers the history of and role of the Black family as an integral part in understanding how one might begin to approach treating body image issues among Black clients.
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