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CBT for Body Image and Self-Esteem

The Center for CBT in New York City utilizes evidence-based and clinically proven cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to support our clients in achieving a range of goals. For those who struggle with body image and low self-esteem, CBT can restore a sense of self-worth and self-acceptance that leads to a generally more fulfilling life. In this blog, we talk about the benefits of CBT for body image and self-esteem.

What Is CBT?

How we think about ourselves impacts how we feel about ourselves and this effects how we treat ourselves. If you have struggled with body image or low self-esteem, consider what a difference it would make if you could change the way you think and feel about yourself. That’s what CBT is all about. CBT asks us to challenge our thoughts and belief systems. When we challenge negative thinking and change these patterns, we alleviate painful and overwhelming emotions and begin to change harmful or unhelpful behaviors. All three of these areas are deeply intertwined, so adjusting one ripples out to improve all three.

How Does CBT Help with Body Image and Self-Esteem?

There are numerous benefits to utilizing CBT to improve body image and self-esteem, including:

  • Uncover the cause of negative body image or low self-esteem.
  • Challenge thought distortions and break negative thought cycles.
  • Change behaviors or habits that reinforce poor body image and diminished self-worth.
  • Develop tools and skills to cope with intense or painful emotions.
  • Increase acceptance of the self as you are without condition.

These benefits are accomplished through CBT in a variety of ways. Your therapist will work with you to develop a plan and work toward improved thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to your body image and self-esteem. Some of the ways that CBT may be utilized to support these goals include:

  • Cognitive restructuring – this CBT technique is fundamental to successful use of CBT to achieve any therapy goal. This part of CBT is all about challenging what we think, especially when our thoughts are distorted, harmful, or based on false information. As harmful or unhelpful thoughts arise, the individual will be asked to challenge that thought. Consider the supporting evidence that indicates this thought is based in truth. Gradually begin replacing these negative thoughts with realistic, kind, and factual thinking about the body and the self.
  • Behavioral activation and experimentation – the way we act can increase our likelihood to remain stuck in negative thought cycles and experience intense, poorly regulated emotions. Consider the last time you felt sad. You likely wanted to stay in bed all day, experienced low energy, and spent the whole day frowning. Last time you were happy, did you smile, laugh, and have the energy to take on any task? This is the way our thoughts and feelings impact behaviors. Sometimes, the old fake it ‘til you make it adage is right. When we feel sad, getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating a nutritious meal, and putting on upbeat music can alleviate sadness. This isn’t to say that feeling sad is bad or wrong. This is just acknowledging that certain behaviors contribute to emotions becoming overwhelming or disordered. Changing specific behaviors can activate other emotions and break negative thought cycles.
  • Mindfulness – some people think of mindfulness as deep meditation, but mindfulness is about centering yourself in the present moment without judgement. Mindfulness encourages people to observe their thoughts, feelings, and actions from an objective and non-judgmental vantage point. By creating distance from the physicality of the situation (being fully in the mind), a person can more compassionately view themselves.
  • Self-Acceptance – by developing the ability to fully embrace the self as you are now – not as you want to be, as you were, or how others think you should be – you can begin to improve body image and self-esteem.

What Happens During CBT Sessions?

Each person is unique, and your therapist will approach your counseling sessions from a flexible standpoint. You are working together in the process of understanding your needs and achieving your goals. The collaborative and dynamic approach that’s possible with CBT is one of the reasons this form of counseling is so versatile and affective. During your first sessions, you’ll discuss concerns and challenges you’re facing related to body image and self-esteem. Then, you’ll set goals to achieve over the course of your therapy sessions. You will identify and challenge distorted thoughts, develop coping skills and techniques to deal with disordered emotions, and develop plans to change difficult behaviors. During each session, you’ll discuss what’s happened between appointments, specifically focusing on how you’ve applied CBT techniques between sessions. You’ll talk through what worked, what didn’t work, and what skills and strategies you can implement next. Over the course of therapy, people using CBT learn to soothe dysregulated emotions, stop distorted thinking, and change unhelpful behaviors to achieve a greater level of stability and satisfaction in daily life.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re interested in getting started with CBT to improve body image or self-esteem, we hope you’ll reach out to our trusted team. At the Center for CBT in New York City, our counselors are CBT experts. We make it easy to get started. Simply call our office at (917) 596-8955 or complete our online request form.

Photo by
Laurenz Kleinheider
on Unsplaxh


What Should I Do Next?

When you’re ready to begin therapy, we hope you’ll consider contacting The Center for CBT in New York City. We offer a safe space where you are free to be who you really are and express yourself and your values authentically. We embrace, value, and welcome people of all sexual orientations, genders, and racial identities. The Center for CBT in New York City makes beginning your therapy journey simple. You can get started any time by completing our online consultation request form. One of our team members will be in touch within 24 business hours to answer your questions.

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