The Other F Word: A Qualitative Exploration of the Impact of Fatness in the Counselling Room
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AbstractIt is widely acknowledged that rates of ‘obesity’ worldwide are rising, alongside an increasing prevalence of anti-fat attitudes within Western society. It is also widely acknowledged that anti-fat bias can have an adverse impact on the mental and physical health of an individual, therefore, there is potential for more fat clients to access counselling in general, or to access it specifically to address their own body image or effects of anti-fat bias. This study aimed to explore the lived experiences of individuals who identify as fat or plus size and have received some form of therapeutic counselling, to shed light on whether their fatness had any impact on their counselling experience. This study also aimed to increase counsellors’ awareness of any biases and stigma around fatness that clients may face. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was then used to analyse the data. Four Group Experiential Themes emerged which encapsulated the differing meanings and connotations associated with the term fat, the many ways participants felt their daily lives are impacted by their fatness, the impact participants felt their fatness had on their experience of counselling, and how participants felt there is a lack of training and awareness around fatness within the counselling profession. The findings support established literature around the prevalence of anti-fat bias in all aspects of life and its impact on mental health, and also supports emerging literature around the presence of anti-fat bias within the counselling profession. This study provides important insights and indicates that client fatness does impact on their experience of counselling, in numerous ways, and therefore warrants further study. This study suggests counsellors should be aware of how their counselling space and their interactions with fat clients can impact on how they experience counselling and their therapeutic journey.
CitationShelley, B. (2023). The Other F Word: A Qualitative Exploration of the Impact of Fatness in the Counselling Room [Unpublished masters dissertation]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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