Maybe it’s a little hippie-dippie for some of us, but that is the essence of feminist therapy. What I personally think about feminist therapy is as follows: I absolutely love its premise. I think that everyone can benefit from more awareness about how the social structure we are living in affects every one of our social interactions. I think if more people realized how oppressive the patriarchal structure truly is, leading us to stereotype and hate others before we even get the chance to know each other, feminist therapy would have many more proponents. I think a major strength of feminist therapy is its openness to engaging with all types of clients; everyone has been affected by the societal structure in some way or another, whether they realize it or not. I think feminist therapy would be very useful with regards to adolescents experiencing societally-influenced pressures, especially in cases of eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse. Feminist therapy must be especially effective in aiding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to gain confidence and hope for themselves, and to begin to tear away at the oppressive cultural fabric and see their situations in a new light, as transformative.
I do think that feminist therapy has some weaknesses, though. The inherent vagueness of the theory makes it sound easier than it really would be to put into practice. A major issue that people have with feminist therapy lies in the issue of blame: “a specific claim is that certain brands of feminism make women susceptible to victim consciousness” (Walker, 2010, p. 39). Also, since feminist therapy doesn’t deal directly with pathology, I don’t see it as being a very effective therapy with more severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. This kind of therapy sounds more to me like it would be the most beneficial for – at risk of sounding extremely insensitive – the everyday person: I could see it as a good add-on to a person’s daily functioning to raise consciousness, as they say.
I can say with certainty that feminist therapy will never be everyone’s cup of tea … and in the same breath, I realize that this very thought in my mind reinforces the extent of the unfairness of the patriarchal heteronormative hegemonic system we live in. Maybe I’m assuming that it will be shot down immediately, like many other objections against the prescribed paradigm, but then again, maybe my own mind needs a transformation from the shackles of patriarchy to truly appreciate (and not discount) feminist therapy’s benefits on the world.
Kimmel, M. S. (2008). The gendered society (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Peril, L. (2002). Pink think: Becoming a woman in many uneasy lessons. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Brown, L. S. (2007). Empathy, genuineness – and the dynamics of power: A feminist responds to Rogers. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 44, 257-259.
Brown, L. S., & Bryan, T. C. (2007). Feminist therapy with people who self-inflict violence. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 63, 1121-1133.
Bruns, C. M. (2010). Feminism and feminist therapy across generations. Women & Therapy, 34, 19-37.
Kahn, J. S. (2010). Feminist therapy for men: Challenging assumptions and moving forward. Women & Therapy, 34, 59-76.
Sennott, S. L. (2010). Gender disorder as gender oppression: A transfeminist approach to rethinking the pathologization of gender non-conformity. Women & Therapy, 34, 93-113.
Walker, M. (2010). What’s a feminist therapist to do? Engaging the relational paradox in a post-feminist culture. Women & Therapy, 34, 38-58.