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Another Look at Feminist Therapy

By December 18, 2019 December 27th, 2019 No Comments

Is feminist therapy only for women?

Feminist psychotherapy adheres to the carefully researched and well-established fact that gender is a social construct. This means that it is not necessarily related to sex except by cultural customs and decree.

The pinks and blues of childhood are arbitrary and could as easily be orange and green. The separation of males and females is the desired effect in all patriarchal cultures. The role of gender is largely to separate females and males in as many ways as possible, to assign them different roles and different paths throughout life.[1]

As those of us living in the last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st have seen for ourselves, gender can be deconstructed by social movements, such as feminism, as well as by more personal approaches, such as feminist psychotherapy. Feminist therapy, in fact, grew out of the feminist movement of the 1970s and has been explored and developed by many researchers and practitioners, myself among them.

Feminist psychotherapy makes visible in therapy the cultural influences on every individual and, thus, opens the lens to causes and solutions to what was previously known as “mental illnesses.”[2] Through a feminist, multicultural lens, we see that many of our psychological woes are as much a function of gender restrictions as they are of genes or brain cells. Said more exactly, culture, genes, brains, and even guts interact and are not separate spheres. Feminist therapy is wholistic, considering the multiple interactions of culture, relationships, neurology, biology, genetics, and epigenetics. We are a complex and contextual product of all these influences, and therapy, to be effective, must take them all into consideration.

In feminist therapy, medication is considered, but as an emergency intervention or a palliative similar to a painkiller in effect. Psychotropic medication does not cure anything. In fact, the manner and reason that some of these drug cocktails work some of the time for some of the people are not yet known. They all have “side effects,” the epistemological sleight of hand used by the medical professions for unwanted, but equally present, effects. The main effect is merely the one wanted by the prescriber and not necessarily the strongest one.

In feminist psychotherapy, gender, race, ethnicity, class, and the other aspects of the “mattering map” or of intersectionality will always be considered. That is not to say that the most intimate personal experiences are not in focus as well. Instead, the most intimate experiences for females and for males both are laced with meaning, and a primary source of that meaning are those I have listed. The detailed meanings are implicated in everything we do, including the development of psychological “disorders,” which look much more orderly through a feminist lens.

References

[1] Kaschak, E. (1992),Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women’s Experience, Purseus: New York.

[2] Kaschak, E. The mattering map: morphing and multiplicity. In Bruns, C. and Kaschak, E.(Eds.) Feminist Therapy in the 21st Century, Taylor and Francis, 2010.

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D. is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning psychologist, author and teacher. She is well-known as a speaker, workshop leader, human rights advocate and a public intellectual.