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Feminist Therapy

Source: Corey, G. Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 9th Ed


Basic Philosophy Feminists criticize many traditional theories to the degree that they are based on
gender-biased concepts, such as being androcentric, gender centric, ethnocentric,
heterosexist, and intrapsychic. The constructs of feminist therapy include being
gender fair, flexible, interactionist, and life-span-oriented. Gender and power are at
the heart of feminist therapy. This is a systems approach that recognizes the cultural,
social, and political factors that contribute to an individuals problems.

Key Concepts Core principles of feminist therapy are that the personal is political, therapists have a
commitment to social change, womens voices and ways of knowing are valued and
womens experiences are honored, the counseling relationship is egalitarian, therapy
focuses on strengths and a reformulated definition of psychological distress, and all
types of oppression are recognized.

Goals of Therapy To bring about transformation both in the individual client and in society. To assist
clients in recognizing, claiming, and using their personal power to free themselves
from the limitations of gender-role socialization. To confront all forms of institutional
policies that discriminate or oppress on any basis.
Therapeutic Relationship The therapeutic relationship is based on empowerment and egalitarianism. Therapists
actively break down the hierarchy of power and reduce artificial barriers by engaging
in appropriate self-disclosure and teaching clients about the therapy process.
Therapists strive to create a collaborative relationship in which clients can become
their own expert.
Techniques of Therapy Although techniques from traditional approaches are used, feminist practitioners tend
to employ consciousness raising techniques aimed at helping clients recognize the
impact of gender-role socialization on their lives. Other techniques frequently used
include gender-role analysis and intervention, power analysis and intervention,
demystifying therapy, bibliotherapy, journal writing, therapist self-disclosure,
assertiveness training, reframing and relabeling, cognitive restructuring, identifying
and challenging untested beliefs, role playing, psychodramatic methods, group work,
and social action.
Application Principles and techniques can be applied to a range of therapeutic modalities such as
individual therapy, relationship counseling, family therapy, group counseling, and
community intervention. The approach can be applied to both women and men with
the goal of bringing about empowerment.
Contribution The feminist perspective is responsible for encouraging increasing numbers of women
to question gender stereotypes and to reject limited views of what a woman is
expected to be. It is paving the way for gender sensitive practice and bringing
attention to the gendered uses of power in relationships. The unified feminist voice
brought attention to the extent and implications of child abuse, incest, rape, sexual
harassment, and domestic violence. Feminist principles and interventions can be
incorporated in other therapy approaches.
Limitation A possible limitation is the potential for therapists to impose a new set of values on
clientssuch as striving for equality, power in relationships, defining oneself, freedom
to pursue a career outside the home, and the right to an education. Therapists need to
keep in mind that clients are their own best experts, which means it is up to them to
decide which values to live by.