42 terms

Feminist Theory

feminist key contributors
Gilligan, Jordan, Hare-Mustin, Mareck
Gender as a Multicultural Issue
Gender can be viewed broadly as a multicultural issue. Ethnicity and gender can be viewed as cultural issues along with language, religion, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic situations. All of the multicultural issues can be viewed from a sociological perspective.
Awareness of cultural values and the need for social action is likely to be a commonality among all multicultural issues, gender included.
Gender schema theory
examines the degree to which individuals use gender-related information to analyze the world around them; in addition, many psychologists have studied the relative importance of interpersonal relationships for men and women
Hare-Mustin and Mareck describe two biases in the approach to gender:
(i) alpha bias: refers to the separating of women and men into two categories, which has the dangers of treating women as separate and unequal and of furthering male-female stereotypes.
(ii) beta bias treats men and women as identical and ignores real differences between the lives of women and the lives of men.
Differences found in men and women
Men are more aggressive, have grater motor skills in throwing and in approaches to sexuality
f both parents have a strong preference for a male and a female is born
this may affect parental child-raising attitudes.
Gender-role pressures tend to be more severe in adolescence than in any other period because of physiological and sociological factors. In general, puberty provides more conflict for girls than for boys because of how society views the female body and the role of female sexuality
From a multicultural feminist point of view, beliefs about how men and women view each other and how individuals of various backgrounds view others of different cultural backgrounds is an important area of study and an issue that therapists may focus on.
Gender schema can be applied to all level of development
Bem believes
gender is one of the strongest schemas, or ways of looking at society. She is concerned that a strong gender schema is a very limiting way to view oneself and others. She proposes that parents help their children learn other schemas, such as those focused on individual differences or cultural relativism.
Cultural relativism schema
efers to the idea that not everyone thinks the same way and that people in different groups or cultures have different beliefs.
By observing their own gender schemas and those of the clients
therapist can become aware of patterns of thinking that may be hampering progress in therapy.
Attending to more variables than gender and ethnicity, Hays uses the acronym
ADDRESSING to describe many of the multiple identities an individual may have:
Age: how does age or generational issues affect the person?
Disability that is acquired: how does the disability effect relationship with family/caregiver
Disability that is developmental: how does the disability affect relationships at different points
in the person's life?
Religion: what are a person's upbringing and current beliefs?
Ethnicity: what are the meanings of the racial/ethnic identity in the communities that the
person lives in?
Social class: socioeconomic status may be defined by occupation, income, education, marital
status etc.
Sexual orientation: what is the sexual orientation of the individual—LGBT?
Indigenous heritage: is being indigenous part of one's heritage?
National origin: what is the national origin and primary language of the individual?
Gender or sex: what are the person's gender roles and expectation?
Gilligan's Ethic of Care
Gilligan's Ethic of Care
a major contribution of Gilligan
is to show that moral judgments is based not only on rational judgments but also on valuing caring and relationships when men and women make moral decisions.
Relational Cultural Model
The central focus of relational cultural theory is being responsive to and being responded to when dealing with others. A major concern is disconnectedness that occurs in relationships with others. These disconnections usually represent failures in being understood by others. Contributing to disconnections in relationships is power.
When relational cultural therapists work with clients
they seek to develop high-quality relationships that the client will have with others. This often starts with the therapeutic relationship itself. Relational cultural therapy moves from disconnection to authenticity and mutual trusts
relational cultural therapy
This theoretical approach is based on the work of Jean Baker Miller, who saw women as the subordinate group in society who develop characteristics that helped them cope with this subordination.
To please the dominant group,
subordinates develop characteristics that include passivity, dependency, lack of initiative, and inability to act.
Relational resilience
refers to growing in a relationship and being able to move forward more readily.
Relational competence
refers to being able to be empathic toward self and others. It also includes the ability to participate in and build a sense of strength in a community.
All three theories—schema theory, Gilligan's moral development theory, and relational cultural theory
eek to value women and cultural diversity. Schema theory and relational theory examine the ways individuals think and what they believe. This provides a way of examining beliefs that foster or interfere with ways individuals see their world. Gilligan's theory is the only one of the three to be extensively researched; the other theories are ideas developed over time by initiators of the theories.
Feminist therapy looks at
sociological (social) factors that affect human development. The goals of feminist therapy are characterized by an emphasis on appreciating the impact of political and social forces on women and culturally diverse groups, an open egalitarian relationship between client and therapy, and an appreciation of female and culturally diverse perspectives.
The goals of therapy should include not only changes in one's own personal life but also changes in society's institutions:
Therapy for change, not adjustment
is a basic goal of feminist therapy. Symptom removal (adjustments), a traditional goal of therapy, is appropriate only if it will not interfere with women's development and growth (inappropriate using meds to treat depression due to marriage issues). Change that takes place would need to include new skill development and involvement in social change (helping her express and assert herself would be helpful in dealing with her headaches).
Self-nurturance and self-esteem
n feminist therapy refers to taking care of oneself and meeting one's own needs. Being aware of one's needs is an aspect of self-nurturance. Self-esteem requires a move way from being dependent on external sources of self esteem (what others think) to self-esteem based on one's own feeling about oneself. For women, this may mean liking themselves despite how others (family, friends, and the media) tell them how they should look, act, or think.
Balancing instrumental and relational strengths
is goal of effective feminist therapy. Clients should become more independent and take actions in their lives but also develop meaningful relationships with others. Becoming more expressive, facilitative, and caring with friends and families cannot be at the expense of meetings one's own needs. A goal of feminist therapy is not just to improve relationships with friends and family but also to pay particular attention to the quality of relationships with women.
Body image and sensuality
are often defined for women by the media and by men, as society puts great importance on physical attractiveness for women. The goal of feminist therapy is to help individuals accept their body and their sexuality and not to use the standards of others to criticize their physicality. Sexual decisions should be made by individuals without coercion from others.
Affirming diversity
refers to valuing cultural differences of clients. This includes acknowledging multiple identities such class, age, race, and power. Although women share many common issues and goals, women's lives are shaped by many different experiences coming from diverse cultures, linguistic, religious, economic, and sexual orientation backgrounds.
Empowerment and social action
are key goals in feminist therapy. Often expressed as "the person is political," this goal is dissimilar from those of other therapies. It emphasizes the need for women to be aware of gender-role stereotyping, sexism,, and discrimination and then to work toward changing the treatment. Empowerment is an important goal in feminist therapy. In addition, therapists often help clients reduce self-blame by pointing out how the problem comes from forces outside the client.
As an alternative to the DSM -IV-TR
McAuliffe, Eriksen, and Kress (2005) describe a constructivist approach to diagnosis that examines these aspects of human functioning.
CPSS model examines four aspects of persons' lives:
Context, life Phase, constructive Stage, and personality Style.
The purpose of the model is to promote client strength, self-awareness, and the ability to confront oppressive social forces. Because of their criticism of traditional diagnostic categories, feminist therapists have been more concerned with exploring strong feelings, such as anger, and bringing about both individual and societal change.
Feminist therapists assess the cultural context of client problem, obtaining information about the client's power or lack of it, so that clients are not blamed for their problems.
the therapeutic relationship
the therapeutic relationship is the key to successful therapy; it is the core of her view of therapy, as described by Relational-Cultural Therapy
Therapy can be viewed as a healing relationship.
The relationship must be safe enough for the client to explore her concerns.
The therapist shows respect for how the client has communicated in relationships and does not confront them directly but appreciates their necessity and how threatening it is to give them up.
Therapy increases greater freedom of expression and more confidence in dealing with feelings in relationships.
Skills are learned that help the client relate empathically with other, and, working with others, to bring about social change.
Mutual empathy helps to facilitate change because both client and therapist develop mutual respect.
Cultural Analysis, Cultural Intervention, Gender-role Analysis, Gender-role Intervention, Power Analysis, Power Intervention, Assertiveness Training, Reframing and Relabeling, Therapy-demystifying Strategies
Brown categorizes power in four types:
i) somatic power (being aware of one's physical senses -eating, sex, comfort etc; the body is experienced as a face place and accepted for what is it, not what it should be).
(ii) intra-personal/ intra-psychic power (a person is aware of what she thinks/feels; she is flexible but not suggestible).
(iii) interpersonal/social-contextual power (able to have good relationships with others, but leave is they prove unhealthy).
(iv) Spiritual/ existential power (the ability to make meaning out of her life; integration of culture and heritage in a way that promotes self-understanding).
Feminist psychoanalytic theorists have criticized Freudian description of women as passive, masochistic, and dependent. They also criticized the concept of penis envy and have suggested womb envy. However some feminist therapists have pointed out that psychoanalysis can be a very appropriate technique for helping women. Understanding the influence of gender on conscious and unconscious aspects of women can provide insight in the practice of psychodynamic therapy with women who are survivors of abuse. Also, examining the role of the unconscious on repression psychoanalysis can provide insights on why gender roles are so powerful and difficult to change.
Some criticisms of cognitive behavioral therapies are that they tend to ignore social and political factors that affect clients. Also, therapists values about how clients should change may not take into account the client's social or cultural background, nor attend to the client's cultural assumptions about rationality that are implicit in such therapies.

To make cognitive and behavioral therapies more compatible with feminist therapy, Worell and Remer have suggested changing labels that stress pathology of people, focusing on feelings, and integrating ideas about gender-role and cultural socialization. Wyche believes cognitive and behavioral therapies are particularly relevant for women of color because they sweat on the present, providing clients methods to use in handling current problems.
Both feminist and gestalt therapies (I choose to do this etc) have as goals the increase of awareness of personal power. Because of this emphasis on awareness of self and choices, women can learn of options that they may not previously have considered—"I choose to" rather than "I have to". By combining awareness of social and political discrimination with method of empowerment, gestalt therapeutic approaches meet many goals of feminist therapy.

However, not all aspects of gestalt therapy fit with the feminist approach. Gestalt therapy tends to focus exclusively on taking responsibility for one's own behavior, the social, economic and political factors that influence independence and choice may be ignored.
Narrative therapy has attracted feminist and multicultural therapists due to how it examines client's view of gender and culture as these concepts relate to their stories, rather than using theories that may make value generalizations about culture and gender. Because social or cultural influences are so powerful in eating disorders, narrative approaches provide a means to examine these influences and to make changes in the clients; views of themselves as the relate to their culture.
Because of the egalitarian approach of feminist therapists to their work, most do not differentiate between counseling and psychotherapy. However, psychotherapy is seen as "an intensive process of remediation or psychological dysfunction or adjustment to psychic stress", whereas counseling is more developmental, educational, or preventive. Because feminist therapy is often integrated with another theory of psychotherapy or counseling, the terminology of the other theory, such as psychoanalysis, behavioral or cognitive therapy, or gestalt therapy, may influence whether counseling or psychotherapy is the term used.