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All Psychotherapy Is Feminist

By April 8, 2016May 26th, 2019No Comments

How we overcame masculinist therapy for women

This is the second in my series about the development of feminism in conjunction with therapy. Here I will restate and reinforce my point that feminism is now part and parcel of every ethical therapy now practiced and not just what is called “feminist therapy.” In the last blog, I mentioned many approaches that took their basic principles from feminism. For example, it is no longer even ethical, much less useful, to practice psychotherapy without attention to intersectionality or what I call in my publications the Mattering Map. This simply means that earlier therapies did not even consider gender, race, class, native language, etc. as relevant to the problems of a human being. They did not consider context, as if all psychology arose inside the brain or perhaps the genitals. Nothing else counted until feminist psychologists in the 1970’s pointed out not only the existence of the rest of the body, but the rest of the universe to these reductionists.

One very important issue in which feminism has been both founding and crucial is the ever burgeoning area of trauma. In the early 1970’s, the diagnosis of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) was being proposed for male veterans of the Vietnam War. I myself was working as an intern in the Palo Alto V.A. and so am quite familiar with the agony that these veterans went through well after returning. However, as a feminist, I also spent my “time off” participating in the early counseling that was being done with women. We had one principle with which we worked and it was completely new and considered radical by the field of psychology, as well as by the “justice” system. And that was simply that we decided to believe what every woman told us until proven otherwise. The exact opposite had been the core principle of masculinist psychotherapy. The stories about childhood molest and rape, abuse that girls and women have to endure came pouring out. At first even we could not believe our ears, but, as current data unfortunately confirms, these stories were all too true not only for girls and women, but for boys and men as well. The abuse was often perpetrated by the most trusted representatives of society, as is all too well known today after the scandal of the Catholic Church.

It was feminists then who discovered all these sorts of Traumatic Stress, although I have always protested the idea that they, like returning from a war zone, are post anything. They are ordinary life for girls and women and were so also for many innocent Catholic children of both genders. While we should have a separate diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Stress Disorder for the latter, many feminist psychologists and psychiatrists had to forcefully protest and 4estify over and over before the American Psychiatric Association, the owners and purveyors of psychological diagnoses, before they yielded and included the traumatic effects of abuse, molestation and rape in this diagnostic category. What the prevalence of this diagnosis has shown is how much psychological pain is made up of wounds and not internal illnesses and that for girls and women, these wounds often never end and are just part of ordinary life in a woman’s body. Feminists are still at work all over the planet to change this daily reality. Join us if you haven’t already or at least if you or someone you love has been wounded in this way, remember to thank a feminist.

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.