Now we're going to look at feminist therapy, and this approach can really be incorporated into just about every other therapeutic modality



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>> Now we're going to look at feminist therapy, and this approach can really be incorporated into just about every other therapeutic modality. And hopefully you'll be interested in finding ways to incorporate ideas from feminist therapy into your work regardless of your theory. This approach is quite different than many of the approaches that we've been studying, particularly the focus on the individual; psychoanalytic certainly initially, focused on the individual. But when you get to feminist therapy, this is an approach that looks at context. The feminist therapist is very interested in looking at the client's culture and social milieu to see how society might be contributing to an individual's problems. So this approach is fundamentally almost a paradigm shift from some of the more traditional approaches that do not always give full recognition to the environment as a causal factor or as creating dysfunctional behaviors and thoughts in an individual. Feminist therapy and multicultural approaches are very similar. They share a lot of common ground. Multicultural diversity perspectives are interested in context, and it's interested in how the individual's problems may be a reflection of social injustices, for example. So social justice is a very critical piece of this brand of therapy. And as I say, diversity is part of this perspective. We're really valuing diverse perspectives when you study feminist therapy. This approach criticizes or at least challenges, the patriarchal society in which we live and the male-dominated society, which is also reflected in many of the traditional psychotherapies. So this approach has been a critique of some traditional therapies, and it came about largely because of the dissatisfaction with some of the contemporary approaches or the what are called traditional approaches. A few tenets of this approach or premises. One is the personal is the political, the personal is the political. And the idea here is that personal change isn't done just as an individual, but political issues are important, that social change is part of the agenda. If we ever hope to bring about individual change, the therapist needs to be concerned about doing something to bring about social change. We're not going to have individual transformation if nothing changes on the outside. So feminist therapists and multicultural therapists are very interested in looking at, what are some of the factors in society that lead people to have problems and unhappiness in their lives? Another is that women's and girl's voices are honored and valued. Many, beginning, many girls will think, I have nothing to say, nothing to offer, and they grow up to be women and they still struggle with finding a voice and finding a way to express themselves. This approach, feminist therapy, tries to teach women and men both, how to find a voice and use their voices, particularly for disenfranchised groups or for marginalized populations, for people who don't have equal access in society. It's very important that they learn to articulate their wants and their needs. This approach stresses the egalitarian nature of the counseling relationship. You remember way back when I talked about Adler and the democratic idea of the therapist, that the therapist and the client, it wasn't the expert therapist, it was the therapist as an equal in some ways, working with a client, both towards similar purposes, towards goals that they aligned themselves to. Well, this approach very much prizes itself about egalitarian relationships. So if you're a feminist therapist, and by the way, you can be a male and still be a feminist therapist. I know of several people who primarily align themselves with the feminist philosophy, and they're men. So don't think of feminist therapy as a therapy done by women for women exclusively. There are aspects of feminist therapy that are very useful for men and women, and therapists of both genders can successfully incorporate many of the ideas and the basic principles of feminist therapy in their therapy, regardless of their therapeutic orientation. And the equality and the egalitarianism is one. A good feminist therapist and an effective one, wants to teach the client about how the process works, so that power is shared. Power is a very important part of feminist therapy, and a feminist therapist wants to share that power. So power is not abused or used against the client. And again, this is a notion that goes back to the Adlerians. Adlerians are very interested in sharing power and helping clients find a voice and encouraging them to write a new script to their lives. Another aspect of feminist therapy, another key concept, is that all types of oppression and discrimination are recognized in feminist therapy. So not just gender inequality, but racial, cultural, sexual orientation, ability, disability -- any type of diversity, this is recognized in feminist therapy and in our society in growing up, there are many sources of oppression as well as there are many sources of privilege and power. There's the notion of white male privilege. Well, feminist therapists urge people to look at privilege and how this affects our day-to-day living, and they try to deconstruct some privilege status. So in feminist therapy what we're interested in doing is looking at how society has sometimes conditioned and socialized both women and men to adopt relatively rigid roles, sex or gender roles, whatever you want to call them. Many men have grown up thinking, I need to be stoic, I can't show emotions, I have to think my way through life, I have to be aggressive, I have to get what I want and when I want it. Women are sometimes taught in society not to be too assertive, because you might offend. They're taught to be more passive in some regards. Now, feminist therapy says society has fed us a lot of messages that maybe we don't want to live by anymore. Maybe they're dysfunctional roles that lead to dysfunctional behavior. So feminist therapy as well as multicultural therapy, is very interested in looking at how we can change the beliefs, cognitive behavioral again, how we can change our beliefs about what we've learned and how we behave as women and men in society. Maybe we want to incorporate some of the traits and characteristics of the other gender. Where is it written that women have to be one way; men have to be the other way? So this approach is very much of a collaborative one. There are a lot of techniques, by the way, that are borrowed from cognitive behavior therapy and feminist therapy, but there are few techniques that are unique to feminist therapists, like power analysis, gender role analysis. A feminist therapist might examine genders and roles and relationships if they're doing couples therapy, in particular, to see where the couple learns certain kinds of patterns and how they might want to change some of that. As I mentioned, feminist therapists are very interested in changing the culture and the society as well as changing the individual, and that sounds like a huge order. That's difficult, and it's difficult to change the individual, but when we try to change society, some therapists might say, oh, that's a large, huge order. But we need to start somewhere. And that's where therapists need to assume a different role, like the role of an advocate, the role of a mentor, the role of a coach, different roles other than just the counselor-therapist role. There are at least six goals, and I won't mention all of them but a couple. Equality is one of the goals that feminist therapists hope to come out with, so that women and men feel a basic sense of equality in their interpersonal relationships. Balancing independence with interdependence is a goal of feminist therapy. So feminist therapists aren't just saying, stand up for yourself, be your own person, but they're saying, the quality of your relationships, interdependent, is extremely important. And self-nurturance is a very important goal. How can we nurture ourselves, whether women or men. Feminist therapists have that as an agenda. It's teaching people how to do that. Empowerment, that's a key goal of feminist therapists. Many clients believe they have no power. They act powerlessly, and this approach really tries to help clients find their personal power. And that is amazing. That's what therapy is about, helping clients discover resources they didn't know existed. And also another goal is valuing and affirming diversity. There are all sorts of ways of being in the world, and feminist therapists are committed to diverse approaches of being in the world and valuing diversity rather than saying, we all have to be cut from the same cloth. Obviously, feminist therapy has a lot to offer many other therapies, and these principles and ideas can be infused with many of the other approaches. And you can certainly see how this approach has a lot to offer in working with clients from many diverse cultures as well.

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