She made important
expanding this theory and
exploring new applications
to complex issues in
psychotherapy and beyond,
including issues of diversity,
social action, and workplace
She made an efforts directed
toward articulating the
importance of multicultural
feminist therapy, exploring
the practice of feminist
therapy around the world
(especially in Japan), and
writing about multicultural
She is a pioneer in the theory
and practice of feminist
therapy with women from
backgrounds and has done
extensive research, teaching,
and training on multicultural
issues in psychology.
Founding member of the
Feminist Therapy Institute,
an organization dedicated to
the support of advanced
practice in feminist therapy,
and a member of the theory
workgroup at the National
Conference on Education
and Training in Feminist
Feminist therapy puts gender and power at the
core of the therapeutic process. Feminist therapy
is built on the premise that it is essential to
consider the social, cultural, and political context
that contributes to a person’s problems in order
to understand that person.
A central concept in feminist therapy is the
importance of understanding and acknowledging
the psychological oppression of women and the
constraints imposed by the sociopolitical status
to which women have been relegated.
Feminist therapy has developed in a grassroots
manner, responding to challenges and to the
emerging needs of women.
Feminist therapy can be traced to the women’s
movement of the 1960’s, a time when women began
uniting their voices to express their dissatisfaction
with the limiting and confining nature of traditional
A profusion of research on gender bias emerged in
the 1970’s, which helped further feminist therapy
ideas, and organizations began to foster the
development of feminist therapy.
Association for Women in Psychology (AWP)
American Psychological Association (APA)
Four Enduring Feminist Philosophies
(Described as the second wave of feminism)
Liberal feminists focus on helping individual
women overcome the limits and constraints of
their socialization patterns.
Cultural feminists believe oppression stems
from society’s devaluation of women’s
Radical feminists focus on the oppression of
women that is embedded in patriarchy and
seek to change society through activism.
Socialist feminists share with radical
feminists the goal of societal change.
(Third Wave) women of color, lesbians, and the
postmodern and constructivist viewpoints .
Postmodern feminists provide a model for
critiquing the value of other traditional and
feminist approaches, addressing the issue of
what constitutes reality and proposing multiple
truths as opposed to a single truth.
Women of color feminists believe it is essential
that feminist theory be broadened and made
Lesbian feminists share commonalities with many
aspects of radical feminism.
Global-international feminists take a worldwide
perspective and seek to understand the ways in
which racism, sexism, economics, and classism
affect women in different countries.
Characteristics of traditional theories :
Androcentric theory -uses male orientated
constructs to draw conclusions about human
Gendercentric theories -propose two separate
paths of development for women and men.
Heterosexist theories -view a heterosexual
orientation as normative and desirable and
devalue same-sex relationships.
Determinismtic-assumes that present
personality patterns and behavior are fixed at
an early stage of development.
Intrapsychic orientation -attributes behavior to
intrapsychic causes, which often results in
blaming the victim.
Worell and Remer describe the construct of
Feminist theory as being:
Gender-fair theories- explain differences in
the behavior of women and men in terms of
socialization processes rather than on the
basis of our “true” natures.
Flexible-multicultural theory-uses concepts
and strategies that apply equally to both
individuals and groups regardless of age,
race, culture, gender, ability, class, or sexual
Interactionist theories-contain concepts
sepcific to the thinking, feeling, and behaving
dimensions of human experience and account
for contextual and environmental factors.
Life-span perspective- assumes that human
development is a lifelong process and that
personality patterns and behavioral changes
can occur at any time rather than being fixed
during early childhood.
Feminist therapists emphasize that societal
gender-role expectations profoundly
influence a person’s identity from the
moment of birth and become deeply
ingrained in adult personality.
Girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks.
Boys model the aggressive, power-seeking
nature of adult males and thus reduce their
capacity for the expression of empathy and
1.The personal is political- personal or
individual problems that individuals
bring to counseling in a political and
2.Commitment to social change- aims not
only for individual change but for
3. Women’s and girl’s voices and ways of
knowing are valued and their experiences are
4. The counseling relationship is egalitarian.
5. A focus on strengths and a formulated
definition of psychological distress.
6. All types of oppression are recognized.
5 goals for feminist therapy have been
proposed-equality, balancing independence
and interdependence, empowerment, self-
nurturance, and valuing diversity.
The ultimate goal of feminist therapy is to
create the kind of society where sexism and
other forms of discrimination and oppression
are no longer a reality. The therapist strives
for transformation, for both the client and
society as a whole.
Individual level: is to help women and men
recognize, claim, and embrace their personal
power. Through the empowerment, clients are
able to free themselves from the constraints of
their gender-role socialization and to
challenge ongoing institutional oppression.
Feminist therapists help clients to
depathologize women’s experiencing and to
change society so that women’s voices are
honored and women’s relational qualities are
Therapists use gender and power analyses to
understand clients and their concerns, and
they are committed to monitoring their own
biases and distortions, especially the social
and cultural dimensions of women’s
Feminists share common ground with
existential therapists who emphasize therapy
as a shared journey.
Also share beliefs with person-centered
therapists such as trusting the client’s ability
to move forward in a positive and
Also believe the process should be
relationship, and aim to empower clients to
live according to their own values and to rely
on an internal locus of control in determining
what is right for them.
Clients are active participants in the
Therapists are committed to ensuring that this
doesn’t become another arena in which
women remain passive and dependent. It is
important to give voice to their experiencing.
Clients realize they are really understood,
they begin to get in tough with a range of
feelings including anger, and other
“prohibited” emotions that they may have
learned to deny themselves.
The therapeutic relationship is a
partnership, and the client will be the
expert in determining what he needs
and wants from therapy.
Major goal: is empowerment, which
requires a sense of self-acceptance, self-
confidence, joy and authenticity.
First: are acutely sensitive to ways they might
abuse their own power in the relationship,
such as by diagnosing unnecessarily, by
interpreting or giving advice, by staying aloof
behind and “expert” role, or by discounting
the impact the power imbalance between
therapist and client has on the relationship.
Second: therapists actively focus on the power
clients have in the therapeutic relationship.
Third: feminist therapists work to demystify
the counseling relationship
Many feminist therapists do not use
diagnostic labels, or they use them
Feminist therapists believe diagnostic labels
are severely limiting for these reasons:
They focus on the individual’s symptoms
and not the social factors that cause
May represent an instrument of oppression.
They may reinforce gender-role stereotypes
and encourage adjustment to the norms of
May reflect the inappropriate application of
power in the therapeutic relationship.
Can lead to an overemphasis on individual
solutions rather than social change.
Have the potential to reduce one’s respect
Empowerment: getting the most from each
session, clear expectations, identifying goals,
and working toward a contract that will guide
Self-disclosure: is not just sharing information
and experiences. Also involves a certain
quality of presence the therapist brings to the
Gender:role Analysis: explores the impact of
expectations on the client’s well being or
distress and draws upon this information to
make decision about future gender-role
Gender-role Intervention: placing it in context
of society’s role expectations for women. The
aim is to provide insight into the ways that
social issues are affecting the problem.
Power Analysis and Power Intervention:
becoming aware of the power difference
between men and women in society and
empowering to take charge of ones self and
life. Also includes recognizing different kinds
of power that clients possess or to which they
Bibliotherapy: Books that address the
consequences of society’s obsession with
certain issues. Can explore and enhance
therapy by reactions to what they are reading.
Assertiveness Training: Become aware of their
interpersonal rights, transcend stereotypical
gender roles, change negative beliefs, and
implement changes in their daily lives.
Reframing and Relabeling: Reframing implies
a shift from “blaming the victim” to a
consideration of social factors in the
environment that contribute to a client’s
problem. Relabeling is an intervention that
changes the label or evaluation applied to
some behavioral characteristic.
Work: Group work alone is often the
preferred modality for some issues that
women experience in out culture. Self help
groups and advocacy groups help women
experience their connectedness and unity
with other women.
Social Action: Participation in activities can
empower clients and help them see the link
between their personal experiences and the
socio-political context in which they live.
Men can be nonsexist therapists
Men can be pro-feminist therapists when
they embrace the principles and
incorporate the practices of feminism in
their work. This entails being willing to
confront sexist behavior in themselves and
others, redefining masculinity and
femininity according to other than
traditional values, working toward
establishing egalitarian relationships, and
actively supporting women’s efforts to
create a just society.
Feminist therapists suggest that
multicultural counseling refers to the
analysis of social structures affecting
mental health, including sexism, racism,
and other levels of both oppression and
The use of power in relationships has
application for understanding power
inequities due to racial and cultural
The therapists job is not to take away any of
the pain or struggle, nor to choose for the
client, but to be present in such a way that the
client will truly be empowered to decide for
The core value of equality in feminist therapy
may limit the effectiveness of the therapist in
working with clients from culturally