Feminist therapy

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Feminist therapy is a set of related therapies arising from what proponents see as a disparity between the origin of most psychological theories and the majority of people seeking counseling being female. It focuses on societal, cultural, and political causes and solutions to issues faced in the counseling process. It openly encourages the client to participate in the world in a more social and political way.


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. [1] Feminist therapists argue that many problems that arise in therapy are due to disempowering social forces; thus the goal of therapy is to recognize these forces and empower the client. [1] In a feminist therapy setting the therapist and client work as equals. The therapist must demystify therapy from the beginning to show the client that she is her own rescuer, and the expectations, roles, and responsibilities of both client and therapist must be explored and equally agreed upon. [2] The therapist recognizes that with every symptom a client has, there is a strength. [3]

Feminist therapy grew out of concerns that established therapies were not helping women. Specific concerns of feminist therapists included gender bias and stereotyping in therapy; blaming victims of physical abuse and sexual abuse; and the assumption of a traditional nuclear family.


  1. An egalitarian relationship (a relationship in which the participants have equal status) between therapist and client is key in feminist therapy, utilizing the therapist's psychological knowledge and the client's knowledge of herself. The inherent power differentials between therapist and client are addressed, and the client must realize that the therapist is not giving her power, but power comes from within herself. This relationship provides a model for women to take responsibility in making all of their relationships egalitarian. Feminist therapists focus on embracing the client's strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses, and accept and validate the client's feelings. [3]
  2. Feminist therapy theory is always being revised and added to as social contexts change and the discourse develops. [4]
  3. The therapist always retains accountability. [4]
  4. The feminist therapy model is non-victim blaming. [3]
  5. The client's well-being is the leading principle in all aspects of therapy. [4]

Feminist therapists' responsibilities

  1. Feminist therapists must integrate feminist analysis in all spheres of their work. [4]
  2. Feminist therapists must recognize the client's socioeconomic and political circumstances, especially with issues in access to mental health care. [4]
  3. Feminist therapists must be actively involved in ending oppression, empowering women and girls, respecting differences, and social change. [4]
  4. Feminist therapists must be aware of their own situated experience (their own socioeconomic and political situations as well as sex, gender, race, sexuality, etc.) and is constantly self-evaluating and remedying their own biases and oppressive actions. As well as must be learning about other dominant and non-dominant cultural and ethnic experiences. [4]
  5. Feminist therapists must accept and validate their client's experiences and feelings. [3]



In 1977, scholar Susan Thomas argued that feminist therapy was "more [a] part of a social movement than [a] type of psychotherapy", and was so intimately tied to broader social and political feminism that its legitimacy as a therapeutic school was questionable. [12]

Psychiatrist Sally Satel of Yale University has been critical of feminist therapy since the late 1990s, characterizing it as promoting a paranoid conspiracy. [13] Satel argued in her 2000 book P.C. MD: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine that the very concept of feminist therapy is contrary to the methods and goals of psychotherapy, sometimes so far as to veer into potential malpractice. [14] Traditionally, notes Satel, the goal of therapy is to help the patient understand and alter unrealistic thinking and unhealthy behaviors to improve the patient's confidence, interpersonal skills, and quality of life. Traditional therapy, while rooted in well-tested methods, must also be flexible enough to adapt to each patient's unique experiences, personality and needs.

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Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual's well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills. There is also a range of psychotherapies designed for children and adolescents, which typically involve play, such as sandplay. Certain psychotherapies are considered evidence-based for treating some diagnosed mental disorders. Others have been criticized as pseudoscience.

Humanistic psychology is a psychological perspective that rose to prominence in the mid-20th century in answer to the limitations of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory and B. F. Skinner's behaviorism. With its roots running from Socrates through the Renaissance, this approach emphasizes the individual's inherent drive toward self-actualization, the process of realizing and expressing one's own capabilities and creativity.

Gestalt therapy is a form of psychotherapy which emphasizes personal responsibility, and focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist–client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, and was first described in the 1951 book Gestalt Therapy.

Person-centered therapy, also known as person-centered psychotherapy, person-centered counseling, client-centered therapy and Rogerian psychotherapy, is a form of psychotherapy developed by psychologist Carl Rogers beginning in the 1940s and extending into the 1980s. Person-centered therapy seeks to facilitate a client's self-actualizing tendency, "an inbuilt proclivity toward growth and fulfillment", via acceptance, therapist congruence (genuineness), and empathic understanding.

Unconditional positive regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client-centred therapy. Its founder, Carl Rogers, writes:

The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or her self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behaviour—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.

Reality therapy (RT) is an approach to psychotherapy and counseling. Developed by William Glasser in the 1960s, RT differs from conventional psychiatry, psychoanalysis and medical model schools of psychotherapy in that it focuses on what Glasser calls psychiatry's three Rs: realism, responsibility, and right-and-wrong, rather than symptoms of mental disorders. Reality therapy maintains that the individual is suffering from a socially universal human condition rather than a mental illness. It is in the unsuccessful attainment of basic needs that a person's behavior moves away from the norm. Since fulfilling essential needs is part of a person's present life, reality therapy does not concern itself with a client's past. Neither does this type of therapy deal with unconscious mental processes.

Behaviour therapy or behavioural psychotherapy is a broad term referring to clinical psychotherapy that uses techniques derived from behaviourism and/or cognitive psychology. It looks at specific, learned behaviours and how the environment, or other people's mental states, influences those behaviours, and consists of techniques based on learning theory, such as respondent or operant conditioning. Behaviourists who practice these techniques are either behaviour analysts or cognitive-behavioural therapists. They tend to look for treatment outcomes that are objectively measurable. Behaviour therapy does not involve one specific method but it has a wide range of techniques that can be used to treat a person's psychological problems.

The Dodo bird verdict is a controversial topic in psychotherapy, referring to the claim that all empirically validated psychotherapies, regardless of their specific components, produce equivalent outcomes. It is named after The Dodo character of Alice in Wonderland. The conjecture was introduced by Saul Rosenzweig in 1936, drawing on imagery from Lewis Carroll's novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but only came into prominence with the emergence of new research evidence in the 1970s.

Play therapy childrens mental health therapy method

Play therapy is a method of meeting and responding to the mental health needs of children and is extensively acknowledged by experts as an effective and suitable intervention in dealing with children’s brain development. It is generally employed with children aged 3 years through 11 and provides a way for them to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. As children's experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle for them to know and accept themselves.

Individual psychology is the psychological method or science founded by the Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler. The English edition of Adler's work on the subject (1925) is a collection of papers and lectures given mainly in 1912–1914, and covers the whole range of human psychology in a single survey, intended to mirror the indivisible unity of the personality.

Attachment-based psychotherapy

Attachment-based psychotherapy is a psychoanalytic psychotherapy that is informed by attachment theory.

Relational-cultural theory, and by extension, relational-cultural therapy (RCT) stems from the work of Jean Baker Miller, M.D.. Often, relational-cultural theory is aligned with the feminist and or multicultural movements in psychology. In fact, RCT embraces many social justice aspects from these movements.

Sexual and Relationship Therapy is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal offering a multidisciplinary forum for review and debate in the field of sex and relationship therapies. The journal presents original research and best practice and is a vehicle for new theory, methodology, and application. The focus of the journal is international and interdisciplinary in nature, with a range of contributions from diverse places on the globe, and myriad disciplines like sex therapy, sexual medicine, psychology, sexology, family therapy, public health, sociology, counselling, and medical ethics. It is the official journal of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT). The journal was established in 1986 under the title Sexual and Marital Therapy, and under its current title since 2000. The Editor-in-Chief is Dr. Markie Twist.

Feminist psychology is a form of psychology centered on social structures and gender. Feminist psychology critiques historical psychological research as done from a male perspective with the view that males are the norm. Feminist psychology is oriented on the values and principles of feminism.

Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling, is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members.

The psychotherapy and social action model is an approach to psychotherapy characterized by concentration on past and present personal, social, and political obstacles to mental health. In particular, the goal of this therapeutic approach is to acknowledge that individual symptoms are not unique, but rather shared by people similarly oppressed and marginalized. Ultimately, the psychotherapy and social action model aims to aid clients in overcoming mental illness through personal psychotherapy, group coping, and collective social action.

Collaborative language systems is a therapeutic approach largely based in contemporary hermeneutics, the study of interpretation as a way to produce understanding, while considering both context and cognition, as well as social constructionism. This approach involves a reciprocal relationship between both the therapist and client, through which the client works through his or her clinical problems using dialogical conversation with the therapist. The therapist and client work together, utilizing their own, individual knowledge and understanding of the issues, to conceptualize and illuminate the client’s problems and provide new context, meaning and comprehension to those problems based on the collaboration.

Ellyn Kaschak, is an American clinical psychologist and one of the founders of the field of feminist psychology, which she has practiced and taught since 1972. Her many publications, including Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women's Experience, and Sight Unseen: Gender and Race through Blind Eyes, have helped define the field. She was the editor of the academic journal, Women & Therapy. for twenty years.

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  1. 1 2 Rowan, John. "AHP A Guids to Humanistic Psychology." 2001. Association for Humanistic Psychology. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.ahpweb.org/rowan_bibliography/chapter16.html Archived 2009-02-05 at the Wayback Machine >.
  2. Byram Fowles, Tammie. "Contributions to Feminist Therapy." Psych-Net- UK. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.psychnet-uk.com/readers_articles/contributions%20of%20feminist%20theory.htm Archived 2008-10-21 at the Wayback Machine >.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Walker, Lenore. "A Feminist Therapist Reviews the Case.” Women As Therapists. Cantor, Dorothy. 1990. as cited in Byram Fowles, Tammie. "Contributions to Feminist Therapy." Psych-Net- UK. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.psychnet-uk.com/readers_articles/contributions%20of%20feminist%20theory.htm Archived 2008-10-21 at the Wayback Machine >.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Marcia Chappell, ed. (5 May 2008). "Feminist Therapy Code of Ethics". Feminist Therapy Institute. Archived from the original on 16 February 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  5. [ permanent dead link ] official website.
  6. official website.
  7. Archived 2012-05-11 at the Wayback Machine official website.
  8. Jean Baker Miller Archived 1998-12-06 at the Wayback Machine on Wellesley College.
  9. Carolyn Enns on Cornell College.
  10. Ellyn Kaschak official website.
  11. "OISE :: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education :: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto".
  12. quoted in Becker, Dana. (2005). The Myth of Empowerment: Women and the Therapeutic Culture in America. New York: New York University Press, 2005. p 148
  13. Satel, Sally (1998) The Patriarchy Made Me Do It, Originally published in The Women's Freedom Network Newsletter September/October, 1998, Vol. 5, Number 5.
  14. Satel, Sally, M.D. (2000) P.C., M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine. Basic Books, ISBN   0-465-07182-1