About the Research:
"Obesity is not new: Addressing it in counseling is"


Judith Warchal, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Counseling

Paul West, Ed.D., LPC
Associate Professor of Psychology

The co-authored article “Obesity is not new: Addressing it in counseling is” presents the counseling issues affecting clients with obesity, such as weight discrimination, behavior change, isolation, depression, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, education and job discrimination, bullying, and medical illnesses. It’s published in the American Counseling Association’s VISTAS 2013: Ideas and Research You Can Use.

Alvernia Magazine (AM) Question: What got you interested in this particular topic?

Warchal: As a consulting psychologist with the Reading Health System, I have evaluated people with obesity who are seeking weight loss surgery. I heard many stories of depression and anxiety resulting from weight discrimination in the schools, health care facilities, workplace, and the counseling office. I wanted to work on sensitizing therapists about the mental health issues that may coexist with a diagnosis of obesity.

West: From time to time I work with obese clients in my private practice and become aware of some of the discrimination they endure because of their body image. In some cases, the presenting problem they bring to counseling is not directly related to their obesity.

AM Question: Since this was a group presentation, which part did you present?

Warchal: Dr. West and I have presented together many times. We work collaboratively on the complete project and then present on the areas specific to our expertise.

West: Yes, and we generally do not script out our presentations which allows for a smooth delivery.

AM Question: What is one thing you hope your audience took away from this presentation?

Warchal: My hope is that people will recognize that a bias toward individuals with obesity does exist. It is sometimes referred to as the "last acceptable form of discrimination in the United States" (Puhl & Brownell, 2001). Counselors need to recognize this potential bias and work to eliminate the harmful emotional effects of discrimination.

AM Question: Any other interesting tidbit you'd like to share?

Warchal: We can all try to be more aware of the subtle biases that we may hold and advocate for individuals who face discrimination on a daily basis.

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