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What Is Feminist Therapy?

By May 22, 2019 May 26th, 2019 No Comments

Why has it developed and continued?

Feminism is the simple belief that all people deserve to be considered equal in all realms. It is the perspective that we allow false beliefs about gender differences to divide us, and it is the belief that we are all part of the same raceā€”the human race. This includes not only gender but other many other sorting principles. Humans are the only species that separate and deride people for disabilities, skin color, height, weight, sexual orientation, etc.

It is the belief that every girl on this planet deserves to be educated as does every boy, that every girl on this planet deserves to be respected and to respect herself, that each group has equal opportunities for meaningful work, for family, and to live fully without overt or covert harassment. It is about equalizing power, and that part is not so easy for those who may have to relinquish some of their power to dominate or abuse. Yet relinquishing power may lead to gains that outweigh the potential loss.

This evolving change is of psychological benefit to men as well as to women. Just as one learns to be a woman, one learns to be a man. This can impede learning to become most fully and authentically who each of us can become. It can narrow choices and create a fake self, behind which the more authentic self hides until it shrivels or dies. As it places many burdens on women, so it does for men. Pre-feminist gender roles place the burden on men to deny or hide feelings among other demands, to always be strong or stronger than females. Such quashing of ordinary and normal feelings can lead to many psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and even suicidality in some cases.

For both women and men, feminist psychology brings to the fore and includes a gender analysis and attempts to free clients from the prison of gender. Many pre-feminist approaches to psychotherapy have emphasized the importance of authenticity, but none has offered a gender analysis as central to its emergence.

Here are some of the tenets of feminism stated a little differently. Do not hit, shoot or bomb anyone. Do not objectify or identify people for the physical body in which they were born. Pay attention instead to whether they have a good mind and a good heart. The body is temporary and always changing. Do not sell female bodies to men. Do not ridicule, shame or threaten women or weaker individuals.

Western psychology was imbued with patriarchal values until the arrival of feminist psychology in the early 1970s. As a result of that development, there is a good chance, if we survive as a species, that we are evolving out of patriarchy and that feminist therapy is part of the evolution of psychotherapy from the patriarchal gaze.

References

Kaschak, E. (1992), Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women’s Experience

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.