What is Feminist Therapy?
The feminist therapy was first developed to address the concerns of women who believed that they were not receiving fair and adequate psychological services. The main concern was that women were experiencing gender bias during therapy. Many women reported that they felt that their male therapist blamed them for the physical abuse, emotional and/or sexual abuse they endured.
These women also stated that they felt ostracized during therapy, especially if they did not conform to the traditional beliefs of “family.” These women reported that their own fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams were often downplayed during the therapy session, leading them to believe that that their well-being, issues and concerns were of no importance.
The purpose of feminist therapy is to address the discrepancy between the male-dominated origin of psychology and the needs of women seeking psychological services. This type of therapy examines how societal, cultural, and political issues affect the treatment during the therapy process. Feminist therapists encourage women to take a more active role in social and political matters.
Feminist therapists also believe that women, in general, receive unfair treatment in the areas of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion and age. These therapists believe that many of the issues that women face are the direct result of living in a male-dominated society, therefore the main goal in therapy is to increase your self-awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence so that you can successfully resolve your issues.
How Did Feminist Therapy First Get Started?
Feminist therapy first surfaced during the 1960s Feminist Movement. This approach is based on the idea that women and men are inherently distinct from one another and that traditional psychological approaches, originally designed by and for men, may not be the best choice for women. In order for therapy to be successful, it must be tailored to the woman, in context to the bigger sociological and political picture.
Feminist therapists assert that women, in general, see the world differently than men so it is important to understand that they may struggle with issues that are perplexing or far removed to the male therapist. Feminist therapy not only identifies those issues specific to women; it also address them a way that promotes self-confidence and self-awareness.
What Happens During a Feminist Therapy Session?
During a feminist therapy session you and your therapist work together to set goals, develop a treatment plan and resolve your issues. The main goal of your therapist is to teach you the skills that you need to become your own liberator. In addition, he/she helps you determine your expectations, role in therapy and responsibilities during and following therapy.
Intervention Techniques That May Be Used During Therapy:
Bibliotherapy – A type of therapy that uses books, poems, stories to help resolve psychological issues and repair damaged relationships.
This type of therapy is beneficial for addressing the following:
- Gender Inequality
- Gender Stereotyping
- Power Differential
- Society’s Weight Preoccupation
Self-Disclosure – The act of revealing your true feelings, beliefs, opinions and thoughts to your therapist.
This type of technique is beneficial for:
- Fostering a strong client–therapist partnership and teaching problem-resolution and communication skills
- Helping you recognize, understand and express your own values and beliefs about society and the therapeutic process
- Encouraging you to make informed decisions
Assertiveness Training – A type of therapy in which you are taught how to appropriately assert yourself in challenging and/or stressful situations.
This type of training is beneficial for helping:
- Become aware of your civil rights
- Surpassing stereotypical gender roles
- Reframing destructive beliefs
- Incorporating these new, more positive beliefs into your daily life
Cognitive Reframing – A communication technique in which you are taught how to change the way you see yourself, your issues and the world around you.
This type of technique is beneficial for:
- Changing your thinking from negative to positive
- Finding effective ways to reduce destructive behaviors and increase more desirable behaviors
How Does Feminist Therapy Confront Psychological Issues?
Feminist therapy examines the woman’s relationships and takes into account how a male-dominated society plays a role in how she views herself and the world around her. This type of therapy recognizes each woman’s individual experience. In addition, to examining social issues that affect women, feminist therapy explores the inequality found between men and women in the areas of education, job attainment and pay.
This type of therapy encourages women to free themselves not only from hindrances, but also develop the skills needed reach their personal goals. Feminist therapists help women resolve their relationship, career, fertility, self-image and self-confidence issues. They encourage women to think and function on a higher level in order to compete in society.
A feminist therapist also acknowledge that women, in general, view themselves and the world around them through the status of their relationships, while men, in general, and perceive themselves and their environment through competition and the attainment of wealth and power. They believe that many of the issues that women face stem from intrapersonal relationship challenges. You and your therapist work together to identify dysfunctional relationships, develop effective techniques that will help you heal from past experiences and help you move on to a brighter and better future.
Brown, L. S. (2009). Feminist therapy (Theories of psychotherapy). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Prouty, A. M., Thomas, V., Johnson, S. & Long, J. K. (2001). Methods of feminist family therapy supervision. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.