Mind, Body and Voice


Scott Webb via Unsplash

In an era where issues with body image seemingly run rampant throughout the country, a CU Boulder program called Mind Body Voice hopes to study the effects of counselling on body image and to aid young women and girls by fostering a sense of community and acceptance around body positivity.

You may have seen the flyers around campus advertising something called Mind, Body, and Voice. But what exactly is that? And can you get money from it? I recently sat down with the leaders of this program to find the answers to these and other questions. 

Sona Dimidjian is a professor at CU Boulder in the psychology department. Bonnie Schrag is a co-facilitator and a researcher for the program. Emma Lischwe is the second co-facilitator and a professional research assistant. These women are only part of the amazing group of women running this program. 

So what does Mind, Body, and Voice even mean? According to Dimidjian, the mind portion is more closely related to the Body Project (National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org), in that it prioritizes giving girls the tools to resist the cultural stigmas around appearance. The body section references the sensation of groundedness and what individual values you have. Finally, the voice piece references the students’ responsibility to bring what they’re learning back to their peers and to influence their communities in a positive way.

Some of you might remember a similar program from last year, which was also advertised with flyers and daily announcements. The first question I wanted to ask was towards the nature of this year’s program and how it differs from what I had heard last year. Dimidjian jumped in and made sure to mention that this study began with the Body Project. From there, they began to, “collaboratively design an expanded program,” which is the program they are currently working with. Schrag told me that her favorite part of this program is that, “It’s a space where all of the girls can come and talk and build community and feel open to chat in a way that’s different from… a classroom setting.”

In the Mind, Body and Voice program, we talk back to unhealthy pressures about how girls and women should appear. We connect to and listen to our bodies, we work on passion projects to share our voice and create a world that values who we are, not what we look like. The program uses art, role play, awareness practices and so much more, including tools to support your own wellness and take action to change your communities in the ways you want. We have more specific goals. 

    • Identifying and challenging the appearance bias, which is what we call all these pressures to look a certain way and that there is actually this bias that exists in the world that people are treated differently because of how they look.
    • Defining what you care about and value.
    • Feeling belonging, acceptance, connection to the MBV class and your community. Building community is so important to all of us because it’s a way that we can change those outside pressures and create more healthy choices.
    • Being aware of and listening to how you feel in your body.
    • Practicing kindness towards your body, rather than judgment
    • Developing agency to create the kind of world you want to live in.
    • Feeling value in the body beyond appearance.

Because this program has advertised to Boulder High and has previously worked on college campuses, I wanted to see if there were any opportunities for individuals who might be interested in the organizational aspect of this program, rather than purely a participatory role. This program uses the principle of “youth participatory action research” and has been working with a youth team from the very beginning. These young individuals have been involved in the study by “providing feedback, creating materials that [they] used to share information about the study, so some art pieces, some videos.” Clearly, young people are at the heart of this study. If you’re interested in being a part of this, I would highly encourage you to contact the program at mbv@colorado.edu.

If you’re at all interested in the things I have mentioned, it would be a great help to the study and your own mental health to join MBV next semester. They are currently educating about half of their desired amount of students and working towards the goal of having a total of 160 members. At the moment, this program is only designed to serve female-identifying individuals, though they do have hopes to eventually share the benefits with everyone. And, to answer a question from before, you will be compensated for your participation. As determined by the Institutional Review Board at the university and school district level, the project will give $200 to participants. However, as it is running as a randomized controlled study, anyone who chooses to join has an “equal chance of getting in the part of the study that’s the class or the part of the study that’s the comparison group.”

Overall, this program is an amazing way for young women to get in touch with their bodies and their role in the community. Bernadette Park, a Professor of Psychology at CU Boulder who was also present in this meeting, summarized it best by saying, “One of the most exciting things about this program is that… [the] period of time in high school is such a formative period, coming into a realization and a sense of self and especially for young women… being able to just have a place where you can have a conversation about ‘what are my values,’ ‘what are the things that I really want to stand for,’ ‘what are the things that I think make me feel good about who I am’ is really important.”