Feminist Therapy

What Is Feminist Therapy?

Feminist therapy is an integrative approach to psychotherapy that focuses on gender and the particular challenges and stressors that women face as a result of bias, stereotyping, oppression, discrimination, and other factors that threaten their mental health. The therapeutic relationship, based on an authentic connection and equality between the therapist and the client, helps empower clients to understand the social factors that contribute to their issues, discover and claim their unique identity, and build on personal strengths to better their own lives and those of others

When It's Used

Although feminist therapy began in the late 1960s as a process of women helping other women, it has evolved to include couples, families, and people of all ages and any gender who want to explore the role gender plays in their emotional lives and relationships or those of their loved ones. Any person or group that has been marginalized, including people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender variant, people in poverty, immigrants, refugees, and people with disabilities can benefit from feminist therapy. Some of the problems addressed in feminist therapy include sexual abuse, incest, eating disorders, and body image issues. Feminist therapy is practiced in private and in group or community settings such as women’s health clinics, LGBTQ community organizations, and domestic violence centers.

What to Expect

In feminist therapy, clients explore their individual identity, find their strengths, and use them to feel more powerful in society. In addition to analysis, the therapist uses tools and techniques such as role-playing, and assertiveness training to help clients build their identity and self-esteem to the degree they can behave freely, rather than conform to cultural expectations and gender roles that others believe are appropriate. Feminist therapy for families addresses the additional challenges parents and other family members face when a loved one struggles with cultural or gender differences. In feminist therapy, unlike most other forms of psychotherapy, therapists often share their own personal stories and challenges to help clients feel more comfortable sharing their own.

How It Works

Feminist therapy is not only personal but, like feminism, political in nature. It focuses on diversity, gender issues and sexism, and is committed to both individual and social change. Feminist therapy exists to empower those who feel silenced or oppressed by majority cultures in society by honoring and elevating their voices. That means identifying skills and strengths that will help clients recognize and embrace their own personal power. Feminist therapy is based on the understanding that individuals are affected by and struggle with societal norms and must learn to look to themselves as the experts in their own unique identity. This is accomplished by reframing the client’s problems in the context of societal views, rather than as a result their own personal behaviors.

What to Look for in a Feminist Therapist

A feminist therapist is a licensed psychotherapist or other mental-health professional who embraces the principles of feminist theory and social justice and is sensitive to the cultural expectations, discrimination, and other social variables that individuals, especially women, face in a world where others set the standards by which they are judged. It is important to choose a feminist therapist who shares your personal and political values and with whom you feel comfortable and respected.

Sources

  • Brown, Laura. Feminist Therapy: What is Feminist Therapy?

  • Evans KM, Kincade EA, Seem SR. Introduction to Feminist Therapy. Chapter 2: Feminist Therapy: a social and individual change model. p. 13-24.

  • Goodtherapy.org: Feminist Therapy