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Feminist Therapy

     The key concepts of feminist therapy are that problems are viewed in a socio-political and cultural context. It is believed in this type of therapy that the client knows what is best for her life and is the expert on her own life - there is an emphasis on educating clients about the therapy process. This viewpoint challenges traditional ways of assessing psychological health and it is assumed that individual change will best occur through social change. Therefore clients are encouraged to take social action. Feminist therapists believe in these principles: that gender us at the core of the therapeutic process, that understanding a clients problems requires adopting a socio-cultural perspective, that the empowerment of the individual is necessary and that societal change is key. Feminist therapies are gender free (explaining differences only in terms of the socialization process (how one is raised)), flexible (concepts and strategies can apply to individuals and groups regardless of age, race, culture, gender or sexual orientation, interactionist (it uses concepts about thinking, feeling and behaviour accounting for contextual factors) and use a life-span perspective (assuming that human development is a life long process rather than fixed at childhood).

     The goals of feminist therapy is that the client will become aware of ones gender role socialization process, to identify internalized gender role messages and replace them with functional beliefs, to acquire skills to bring about change in the environment, to develop a wide range of behaviours that are freely chosen and to become personally powered. The main themes are exploring anxiety and defenses, understanding control and power issues, examining external forced that influence behaviour, learning to accept appropriate responsibility, exploring ones values and reflecting on the meaning of life. It is important that the feminist therapist behave in an egalitarian role. To do so they must be sensitive to the way that they might abuse their power in a relationship, not diagnosing unnecessarily, not giving interpretations or advice, not playing the aloof expert role, and using self-disclosure to reduce power imbalances between the client and the therapist.

     Techniques that are used by therapists include helping the client understand the impact of gender roles in their lives, to provide clients with insight into ways social issues affect their problems, to emphasize power differences between men and women in society, to help clients recognize different kinds of power that they possess and how they and others exercise their power.

Related Links

Counseling Psychology
Adlerian Therapy
Existential Therapy
Person Centre Therapy
Gestalt Therapy
Reality Therapy
Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Family Systems Therapy
Clinical Psychology