Feminist TherapyFeminist Therapy is a type of therapythat integrates a psychotherapy approach. Feminist Therapy focuses onempowering women and helping them break stereotypes that may otherwise holdthem back from growth and development (Feminist Therapy, n.d.
). An example of a stereotype that suppresseswomen’s growth is the stereotype that women are meant to stay home and raisethe children as well as cook and clean for her husband who goes to work toprovide for the family. This stereotypecan lead women to believe that they shouldn’t go to college to continue theireducation so they can have a career, because they are supposed to be stay athome moms and house wives. FeministPsychology really started to flourish in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
There isn’t any one particular theorist thatcan be credited for Feminist Therapy; rather there were a combination ofpsychologist who aided in the creation of Feminist Therapy. FeministPsychologist tried to eliminate the sexist aspects of other traditionaltheories, but still integrate parts of those other theories that worked. The goals that the original FeministPsychologist established in the 60’s and 70’s are still used today. One of the goals of Feminist Therapy is toestablish a relationship with a mutual understanding of power. The therapist should understand that theclient is the expert on her own issues.
It is important for the therapist toknow that the therapist is only there to help the client develop the tools thatare necessary to reach her maximum potential as a valuable and uniqueindividual. The second main goal ofFeminist Therapy is change. FeministTherapy strives to not only help the individual change for the better, but alsosociety (Mahaney, 2014). Gender issues,like gender stereotyping and gender roles, can lead to psychological distressin individuals therefore they need to be addressed.
Gender stereotypes and gender roles can negativelyimpact a person’s identity, because of this Feminist Therapy is not only forwomen, but for men as well. Both womenand men can benefit from Feminist Therapy because it helps individuals betterunderstand the impact the gender stigmas play on a person’s mental health. Females live in a mostly male dominated world,even though we can see this slowly changing. Until more recently, most studies were done onmen, by men.
As we could expect, thereare some issues from this form of research, because the way men react to thingsmay not be the way women react to the same things. For example, when drugs were tested they wereusually tested on men, but women have different reactions to some drugs thanmen do because of their genetic makeup and different hormone levels. Even though Feminist Theory isn’t about drugsand medications, the example emphasizes why it is important to incorporate morewoman-oriented practices in every aspect of life.Four Major Approaches toFeminist TherapyThereare four approaches that are unique to Feminist Therapy and they areconsciousness-raising, social activism, resocialization, and social and genderrole analysis. The First major approach in Feminist Therapy isconsciousness-raising. Consciousness-raisingis sometimes done in leader-less mannered small groups, which involvediscussing women’s individual experiences as well as shared experiences.
The women who partake in these groups have theopportunity to feel like they are not alone and they listen and support oneanother. These groups look at howoppression and socialization contribute to dysfunction and personal distress. The women in these groups usually talk aboutways to create solutions for creating changes in individuals and society. The main purpose of consciousness-raising isto help women feel empowered to take steps against oppression by participatingin forms of social action (Feminist Therapy. n.
d.). The next approach to Feminist Therapy issocial activism, which is the most controversial of all Feminist Therapyapproaches. According to Jones-Smith, E. (2016), “thisapproach is founded on the premise that the ‘personal is political’ and thatthe clients problems originate from the structural inequalities of a givensociety.” Social activism encourages theparticipation in organized protests, letter writing campaigns, and speakingout. Although social activism iscontroversial one concept of social activism is accepted by all FeministTherapist, social change is important to the mental health of everyone. The third approach to Feminist Therapy isresocialization.
Resocialization focuses on methods that helpincrease self-esteem, self views, and assertiveness. The final approach to Feminist Therapy issocial and gender role analysis. Thisapproach involves evaluating the client’s psychological distress as well as howthey cope with this distress. Theclient’s learn about gender role norms and how they have experienced the impactof gender role norms. The goal is topinpoint where the client’s psychological distress may have originated and thetherapist does this by trying to explain to the client how social and genderroles can negatively impact one’s identity.
Social and gender role analysis focuses oneducating the client in order for them to better understand the impact socialand gender roles have impacted them and their life experiences. Four Main Philosophies ofFeminist Therapy Within Feminist Therapy, there arefour main philosophies with differing goals. The four main philosophies are socialist,radical, liberal, and cultural. Socialist Feminist emphasize the importance ofchange in institutional and social relationships. Radical Feminist accents the need for changein gender relations as well as societal institutions.
Radical Feminist also strive to increasewomen’s self-awareness in terms of her sexuality and her desires for havingchildren. Liberal Feminist tend tocenter their focus around the individual and the biases people face in regardsto self-respect, self-esteem, self-awareness, and equality. The last of the four philosophies is CulturalFeminist. Cultural feminist focus on theimportance of recognition that women are devalued in society and how this isdetrimental to them. There are manydifferences that can be seen when comparing the four philosophies of FeministTherapy, but there are also many overlapping ideologies. The most noticeable overlaps are the need forchange and the desire for equality, both of these ideas can be seen in each ofthe four philosophies. The Six Tenets of FeministTherapy Lenore Walker, a Feminist Therapist,proposes that there are six tents that are incorporated into Feminist Therapy.
According to Walker, the six tenets includeegalitarian relationships, non-pathology oriented and non-victim blaming, enhancementof women’s strengths, power, acceptance and validation of feelings, and education. The tenet of egalitarian relationships,suggests that there should be an equal relationship between the therapist andclient. This balanced relationship isimportant because it models what the client’s other relationships shouldresemble in terms of responsibility and assertiveness. The non-pathology oriented and non-victimblaming tenet is composed of the ideas that the medical model is rejected infeminist Therapy and women’s problems are seen as coping mechanisms. The third tenet, enhancement of women’s strengths,indicated that traditional therapy usually focuses on women’s short comings andwomen’s weaknesses rather than looking at their strengths like Feminist Therapydoes. The tenet of power emphasizes thatwomen are taught to use power in their other relationships and the consequencesof using too much or too little power in these relationships.
Lenore Walker stresses the importance of thepower tenet because a client’s background (if they were abused physically or verbally)may impact how much power they try to put forth in a relationship, so it iscrucial to take a client’s past into consideration (n.d. Retrieved November 30,2017). The acceptance and validation offeelings tenet focuses on how Feminist Therapist value self-discloser andstrive to remove the “we–they” barrier of relationships in traditionaltherapies (Feminist Therapy. n.d.). Thelast tenet, education, expresses how women are taught to recognize whichthoughts they have may become detrimental to their self-esteem and they areencouraged to educate themselves not just for themselves, but for the benefitof all women.
Five InterrelatedPrinciples As found in Feminist Therapy.(n.d.), Gerald Corey identifies that there are five interrelated principles inFeminist Therapy: The personal ispolitical, an egalitarian relationship, women’s experiences are honored, definitions od distress and mentalillnesses are reformulated, and an integrated analysis. The first principal, personal is political,implements social change. The secondprincipal is that the counselor- client relationship remains egalitarian, thismeans that equality is encouraged between the two roles and that there is nopower struggle within the relationship.
Thethird principal states that women’s experiences need to be honored and theclient should get in touch with their personal intuition and personal experiences. The fourth principal includes thereformulating of the definitions of mental illnesses and distress through theuse of internal and external forces. Thisprincipal puts emphasis on the positive confirmation that pain and resistancerepresent rather than viewing pain and resistance as weaknesses. The fifth and final principal suggest that theFeminist Therapist should use an integrated analysis approach of oppression. This means that the therapist understands thatboth men and women are subject to oppression and stereotypes and that theseexperiences can have a negative impact on both men and women’s perceptions andbeliefs. Criticisms of FeministTherapy Like every other traditional therapy, Feminist Therapyfaces some criticisms.
Some criticssuggest that Feminist Therapist are known for being biased of their method oftherapy and may unintentionally push their views onto their clients or try topersuade their clients into believing in Feminist Therapy as much as they do. Therapists are advised to never persuade orsuggest that their clients must think a certain way. There are many “right” ways to do therapy soto try to convince a client that there is only one right way would beconsidered unethical.
Another criticismFeminist Therapy faces is that because feminism was developed by middle class,middle aged, white, heterosexual females, feminist therapy doesn’t take othercultures into consideration. However,since this criticism has been brought to Feminist Therapist attention, theyhave strived to be more inclusive in trying to include different cultures soFeminist Therapy can be more universal (Feminist Therapy. n.d.