Feminist Therapy (FT) is known to respond primarily to women’s needs and began from feminist collaboration and movements against traditional women’s roles. It also focuses on the influence of the sociopolitical, multicultural context of individuals to create social change. Unlike other known therapies, Feminist Therapy empowers women to live their potential while helping them understand their experiences within their social context. This therapy is essential because it emphasizes gender discrimination, identity development, equality, and gender roles. This paper aims to discuss the pros and cons of Feminist Therapy while giving an opinion about its usefulness.
Pros of Feminist Therapy
Feminist Therapy is committed to advancing social change. This therapy aims to not only promote individual change but social change (Corey, 2017). It is crucial for individual clients in their daily struggles and in advancing society’s transformation. It helps those that have undergone oppression as members of the minority or subordinate group to voice their grievances together and promotes a societal organization where both men and women do not face the constraints imposed by gender-role expectations. Notably, this form of counseling deviates from the traditional focus on change that was reliant on an individual into the realm of social activism.
Feminist Therapy honors women’s and girls’ voices, helping them know they are valued. This therapy considers women’s perspectives to be central in understanding their distress. Traditional therapy approaches do not close this gap effectively because they compare women to men and thus consider women as deviant. According to Eagly (1995), most psychological theories and research conceptualize women and men in a polarized way, forcing a male-female split in most aspects of the human experience. The goal of feminist therapy is to acknowledge that there exist diverse ways of knowing, encouraging women to value their emotions and intuition and use their consciousness to determine “reality.” Their voices are perceived to be authoritative and invaluable sources of knowledge. This facilitation of their voices directly counteracts the often forced silence of women and contributes to an ultimate change in society.
Cons of Feminist Therapy
Serious problems can erupt if a therapist works with women who do not share beliefs promoted by this counseling approach. Critically evaluating societal values and structures that subordinate certain groups could be a limitation in this approach (Remer & Oh, 2012; Renter, 2007). “A potential danger inherent in feminist counseling is that counselors’ values will too strongly influence clients or will conflict will clients’ values” (Frew & Spiegler, 2012, p. 404). Consequently, therapists can run the risk of imposing their values if they do not fully understand and respect the cultural values of their diverse clients.
Feminist counseling approaches focus on individuals from subordinate, oppressed groups. As a result, there is less attention on counseling people from privileged groups. Additionally, some people have intersecting social identities that are a mix of fortunate and oppressed statuses. Thus, exploitation of their social identities necessitates addressing privileged positions.
Feminist counseling approaches do not emphasize the internal sources of clients’ issues. These approaches are limited in treating biologically-based mental health problems such as autism and schizophrenia (Frew & Spiegler, 2012; Corey, 2017). Yet, it is crucial to recognize that all diagnostic categories are influenced by the cultures in which they exist in many ways. Today, feminist counselors understand cultural contexts and their influence on what is diagnosed and how to treat the diagnosed individuals.
Feminist Therapy can be used in our society because it is needed. This therapy has made significant contributions to counseling and psychotherapy. It has offered an opportunity for gender-sensitive practice. It has also created an awareness of the impact of multiple oppressions and cultural contexts. These therapies have expanded our understanding of therapists of all theoretical orientations on how social justice issues affect clients. The most significant impact has been the therapeutic practice with women and girls and its emphasis on social change to transform society. By fully understanding typical gender-role messages that have been a part of the clients’ lives, therapists can get more skilled in helping these clients identify and examine these messages.
Feminist therapists have contributed significantly to theoretical and professional advances in counseling practice. Examples include power-sharing with clients, cultural critiques of assessment and treatment models, and the questioning of the traditional counseling theories of human development. Most approaches have over-focused on blaming individuals for their problems instead of fully recognizing the social and political realities that create these problems. It is necessary to know that expecting individuals to adapt to expected role behaviors and ignoring the impact of oppressive factors in society is wrong.
Feminist therapists often demand action in cases of sexual misconduct, more so when therapists misuse the trust placed upon them by their female clients. For several years now, the codes of ethics of all the major professional organizations have remained silent on therapist and client sexual liaisons. Today, almost all professional codes of ethics consider sexual intimacies with current clients and with former clients for a specified time as illegal. Because of the improvements made by women on these issues, the existing codes are clear concerning sexual harassment and sexual relationships with students, supervisees, and clients.
Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counselling and psychotherapy.
Eagly, A. H. (1995). The science and politics of comparing women and men. American Psychologist, 50(3), 145-158. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.50.3.145
Frew, J., & Spiegler, M. D. (2012). Contemporary psychotherapies for a diverse world: First revised edition. Routledge.
Remer, P. A., & Oh, K. H. (2012). Feminist Therapy in Counseling. The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Counseling Psychology, 304.
Renter, P. (2007). EMPOWERMENT FEMINIST THERAPY. The Quick Theory Reference Guide: A Resource for Expert and Novice Mental Health Professionals, 167.