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Feminist Therapy “Once a woman sees a feminist therapist, she never goes back.” ~ Lenore Walker.

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Presentation on theme: "Feminist Therapy “Once a woman sees a feminist therapist, she never goes back.” ~ Lenore Walker."— Presentation transcript:

1 Feminist Therapy “Once a woman sees a feminist therapist, she never goes back.” ~ Lenore Walker

2 Agenda What is feminism? A very brief history Assumptions about human nature View of personality development View of psychopathology Nature & techniques of therapy What about men? Does feminist therapy work?

3 What is Feminism? Feminism is a diverse, competing, and often opposing collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic inequalities.social theoriespolitical movementsmoral philosophies

4 “Is feminism dead?” ( )

5 Types of Feminism A diverse, competing, and often opposing collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies Three main differences Emphasize unique qualities of women? Integrate issues of culture and class into viewpoint? Advocate for rejection of masculine or patriarchal models?

6 Types of Feminism Liberal Feminism Emphasis on equality of women & men Aims to change current legal structures and interventions to promote access for women Criticized (by other feminists) for trying to be like men

7 Types of Feminism Cultural Feminism Emphasizes differences between men & women Values unique female qualities Gender interacts with race, social class, and other factors “We found that one important source of healing emerged when we got in touch with all the factors in our lives that were causing particular pain. For black females, and males too, that means learning about the myriad ways racism, sexism, class exploitation, homophobia, and various other structures of domination operate in our daily lives to undermine our capacity to be self-determining.” -- bell hooks

8 Types of Feminism Radical & Socialist Feminism Oppression based on gender is the most stubborn form of injustice (Hillary Clinton heckled) (Hillary Clinton heckled) Capitalism is oppressive The whole patriarchal, capitalist system needs to be abolished Advocates separatism Questions heterosexuality LeftRight Radical/SocialCulturalLiberal

9 History (herstory) Karen Horney (1966) Psychoanalyst who rejected “penis envy” Women envy men’s power and social status Phyllis Chesler (1972) Criticized patriarchal male therapist-female client relationship (therapist is expert, woman submits to his wisdom) Said that refusal to conform was labeled as mental illness NOW (National Organization for Women) Betty Friedan, 1966 Political issues/discrimination laws and hiring processes Consciousness raising groups (1970s) Bring about social change No leaders, open discussion Personal is political (g ender role stereotypes in workplace, society)

10 Different meanings in different cultures

11 History cont. Lenore Walker (Contemporary feminist therapist) Four stages of feminist therapy development 1. Challenged traditional therapies 2. Integrated some positive aspects of traditional therapy 3. Advocated for all other therapies adding gender sensitive components 4. Feminist therapy can stand on its own

12 Therapy from a Feminist Perspective Developed out of dissatisfaction with traditional approaches to psychotherapy The practice of therapy informed by feminist political philosophy and analysis, grounded in the multicultural feminist scholarship on the psychology of women and gender. Feminist therapy contends that women are in a disadvantaged position in the world due to sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, age and other categories

13 Therapy from a Feminist Perspective “A therapy which fails to address power issues in people’s lives works automatically to reinforce oppression” -- McLellan, 1999 “We found that one important source of healing emerged when we got in touch with all the factors in our lives that were causing particular pain. For black females, and males too, that means learning about the myriad ways racism, sexism, class exploitation, homophobia, and various other structures of domination operate in our daily lives to undermine our capacity to be self-determining.” -- bell hooks on “interlocking oppressions”

14 Assumptions about Human Nature We exist in a political and social system that is male dominated: Patriarchy In order for women to experience changes in personal lives, political changes (to social institutions) must occur Gender schemas/sex-role stereotypes limit development In society, men have more power than women Women are taught to rely on men

15 Patriarchy Masculine behaviors and thought patterns are the norm Hierarchy of value and power based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. Men and women are judged differently for the same characteristics Sex Biological: Male/Female Usually dichotomous Gender Social construct: Masculine/Feminine Occurs on a continuum

16 Gender Socialization Gender and Children First question asked? Males preferred in some cultures Infant behavior across gender is similar: treatment is different Baby’s clothing predicted how “it” was treated (Smith & Lloyd, 1978) Media, teachers, peers, etc. often provide and reinforce gender role expectations (i.e., what is socially appropriate for females & males) Over time, a gender role schema develops: We interpret our world based on our gender expectations

17 Gender socialization cont. Puberty Sex differences become more visually apparent Conflict for girls because of how society views the female body and role of female sexuality-conflicting Importance of appearance (especially for girls) Sexual double-standard Negative response to menstruation Adulthood Working mom/Superwoman Role strain/conflict Lack of support (at work and home) Glass ceiling “Empty Nest” Menopause

18 Views on Psychopathology Psychological distress is environmentally induced via g ender roles and (sexist) social forces Women at higher risk for role strain and conflict Women more likely to experience sexual trauma/harassment Psychological distress is a logical response to a stressful environment Women are over-represented in certain psychological disorders due to socialization and social influences (not because of biological differences ) Eating disorders Depression Anxiety PTSD

19 Views on classification Classification systems considered problematic DSM criticized for being male-centered (male = norm) Dependant and histrionic personality disorders are in the DSM Dominating, greedy, macho personality disorders? Classification focuses on symptoms, underemphasizes social context (PTSD an exception) Diagnostic labeling criticized for encouraging adjustment to male-centered social norms

20 Views on specific psychological problems Depression Women taught to be helpless, dependant, please men Feel unable to control their lives or assert true self Appearance = worth Generalized Anxiety = conflicting social expectations PTSD = fear, anxiety, stress felt after victimization (e.g., rape, abuse) Eating disorders Socialization and societal messages Use gender role analysis to examine external messages

21 Goals of Feminist Therapy Consciousness raising; subordinate group that has been wronged Recognize self in social context Choose own path Develop sense of self based on own needs Restructure schema, insight Empowerment Political awareness Self-esteem, remove lens of others

22 What a feminist therapists does… Is aware of what he/she brings to the table (own values) Forms egalitarian relationship Demystifies therapy Respects what client brings to therapy Is aware of power balance; gives client permission to be understood Self-discloses own struggles (if/when therapeutically appropriate) Considers social, political, historical, & cultural contexts…then psychological things Supports (interpersonally, women’s groups) Educates Power analysis Gender role analysis Bibliotherapy Is technically eclectic, but… Does assertiveness training Reframes schemas

23 What about the MEN??? Yes, men can benefit from feminist therapy Focus on socialization Attaining level of masculinity Drugs/alcohol, family role issues Men can even be feminist therapists! Feminist therapy does not refer to who the therapist or client is, but rather the framework they bring to the table.

24 Research Enns & Hackett (1990) College women preferred feminist counselors to non-feminist counselors when career planning, sexual harassment, or assault was the issue. Marecek et al. (1979) 67% of women in feminist therapy and 38% of women in traditional therapy found therapy to be helpful Schneider (1985) Feminist therapists seen as most helpful for career issues versus marriage or parental concerns

25 Criticisms More a political stance than a theory of therapy Feminist views too diverse Radical feminists reject it entirely because psychotherapy is a tool of patriarchal, oppressive society.

26 An example: “Jane” Jane is a single parent of two preteen kids. She is currently unemployed but is (and has always been) very involved in her kids’ education and social life, volunteering for various school activities and supplementing the kids’ formal education with a variety of educational activities such as trips to museums. She is presenting with depression and expressing significant dissatisfaction with her inability to stay on top of the housework. How would different types of therapists respond? Psychoanalytic Humanistic Existential Behavioral Cognitive Feminist

27 Some Good References Brown, Laura (1994). Subversive Dialogues: Theory in feminist therapy. Chesler, Phyllis (1972). Women and madness. Davis, Angela (1983). Women Race & Class. Enns, Carolyn (2004). Feminist Theories & Feminist Psychotherapies.


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