What is Feminist Therapy?
I define feminist therapy as the practice of therapy informed by feminist political philosophies and analysis, grounded in multicultural feminist scholarship on the psychology of women, men and gender, which leads both therapist and client toward strategies and solutions advancing feminist resistance, transformation and social change in daily personal life, and in relationships with the social, emotional and political environments.
Feminist Therapy came into existence toward the end of the 1960s. Its appearance coincides with the second wave of feminism in the United States, and reflected the concerns raised by that movement. Its early adherents were psychotherapists, primarily women, who transformed their protests against sexism in the mental health professions into the development of a viable alternative for women seeking psychotherapy, in which clients would not encounter the sexism, misogyny, and stereotyping that were ubiquitous in the mental health field until then. Feminist Therapy is a theory that derives its inspiration and its wisdom from an in-depth interrogation of standpoints that are unavailable to dominant cultural simply because they have been relegated to the margins; the standpoints of Euro American women, people of color, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, gender variant people, poor people, people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees.
Feminist practice derived from the realities that lie outside, beneath, and at variance from the visions of the dominant patriarchal mainstream. It is a theory that not only listens to, but privileges, the voices and experiences of those who have been defined as “other” by dominant cultures. It is a competency-based paradigm that perceives human beings as responsive to the problems of their lives, capable of solving those problems, and desirous of change. It is also a politically informed model that always observes human experience within the framework of societal and cultural realities, and the dynamics of power informing those realities. Feminist therapy does not simply study the ” other” in order to offer a neutral perspective on that experience. Rather, what is inherent in Feminist Therapy theory is the radical notion that silenced voices of marginalized people are considered to be the sources of the greatest wisdom. This is a shifting of the value of knowledge claims from those of culturally appointed experts to the expertise of the oppressed. This is a perspective which, when made central to analysis and practice, is potentially transformative of everything about therapy as usual in dominant cultures. In feminist practice, the margins become a new center epistemically and conceptually.
To learn more about my work on the topic of Feminist Therapy, I invite you to investigate the resources that follow.
Upcoming talks and workshops about Feminist Therapy
- Liberatory counseling in challenging times: How can counseling centers show Institutional Courage (February 20, Evanston IL)
- Feminist and liberatory perspectives on psychotherapy supervision: Empowerment, not shame (February 25-March 5, Beersheva Israel)
Written work about Feminist Therapy
This list represents all of the books I’ve written about Feminist Therapy, as well as recent chapters and journal articles, and older works that are frequently cited. A complete list of my work on this topic is available in my CV.
- Multicultural theories
- Feminist and multicultural perspectives in trauma psychology
- Feminist therapy
- Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Association for Women in Psychology: A life in feminist psychology: A long and interesting journey from Ft. Wayne to Newport
- Review of traumatic divorce and separation
- Feminist therapy, Second edition
- Supervision essentials for the feminist psychotherapy model of supervision
- Looking outside the (voice)box
- Feminist therapy process
- Feminist therapy
- Treating women in psychotherapy
- Feminist therapy as a path to friendship with women
- Everyone I know knows everyone I know: Boundary overlap in the life of one lesbian psychotherapist
- Feminist therapy, First edition
- Attributes of a powerful person
- Feminist therapy and self-inflicted violence
- Still subversive after all these years: The relevance of feminist therapy in the age of evidence-based practice
- Don’t be a sheep: How this eldest daughter became a feminist therapist
- Rethinking mental health and disorder: Feminist perspectives
- The private practice of subversion: Psychology as Tikkun Olam
- Subversive dialogues: Theory in feminist therapy
- Personality and psychopathology: Feminist reappraisals
- Diversity and complexity in feminist therapy
- The meaning of a multicultural perspective for theory development in feminist therapy
- New voices, new visions: Toward a lesbian/gay paradigm for psychology
- Overcoming fear of fat
- Beyond thou shalt not: Thinking about ethics in the lesbian therapy community
- From alienation to connection: Feminist therapy with Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Finding new language: Getting beyond analytic verbal shorthand in feminist therapy