Feminist therapy discovers the truth
Early feminist therapists were to discover the importance of the simple unvarnished truth. Not a therapy stance that interpreted for the client what she really meant, really wanted or really was fantasizing about. Not an approach that assumed that she did not know the truth about her own feelings or experiences, but only the therapist trained in searching out a particular unconconscious motivation, be it sexual desire for the parent (Freud), insecurity concerning early caretaking (Horney) or striving for superiority (Adler), really understood her and every other client according to a unifying principle. And where did those principles derive, but from the theorists own childhood issues generalized the universe.
These approaches require a therapist more powerful than the client who knows what her reality is because she does not. Personally I think those kinds of responses, denying reality, can in themselves drive someone mad. Additionally, each theorist culled their belief system from their own personal childhood experience, beginning with Freud, his mother’s favorite and the second, young beautiful wife of his older father. Even Rogers, so concerned with creating the ideal conditions for growth, the right amount of sunshine and rain, so to speak, learned these ideas as a child in the fields of the midwestern farmland.
In that sense,we are all experts on ourselves. I am not saying that a therapist does not fill an important role and that carefully understanding what is hurting the client is not central to that relationship. I am saying that feminist therapy is a certain kind of relationship, perhaps the first to fully respect and believe the client’s experience. Had that not happened, and it was a revolution in the field, we would still have textbooks like those I studied not so long ago. They taught us that a girl being molested in a family occurred in perhaps one in a million cases, were so rare as to hardly be relevant to female experience. Violence similarly. Other authorities such as priests and teachers were not even mentioned, the thought not even thinkable by the therapists of the day. Not because they were malevolent or consciously dishonest in the main, but because they were almost entirely male and their own unconscious minds did not permit them such thoughts.Only when women, of all colors and ethnicities, classes and women and men of diverse sexual orientations began to enter the field in significant numbers, did the gospel begin to be questioned and found seriously flawed.
All this was ushered in by early feminism, which itself has morphed and changed over the years. We are now White, Black and Brown, LGBT and representative of many other diversities which can be found in my articles on the Mattering Map(1). No one can be understood by just one quality, but by the ever morphing group of intersecting qualities.
This is the importance of diversity, not political correctness, but as many pairs of eyes and as many experiences being brought to the table. In this way, theory and practice become applicable and useful. There is no one man, no one person, whose experience represents us all. We are all blind in our own way. We need each other.