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Feminist Theory

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Stephanie Martin

on 30 October 2014

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Transcript of Feminist Theory

Main Theorists
What is Feminist Theory?
Feminist theory stands apart from other theories by recognizing the effects of social, political and cultural oppression on mental health and personal well-being.
The Three Waves
First Wave
Human Nature
Feminist Theory
Feminist theory is based around the theme of collaboration. There is no single identifiable theorist credited with founding the feminist approach. The theory is inclusive and values the roles and contributions of all members (Corey, 2013).

Jean Baker Miller MD, Carolyn Zerbe Enns, Oliva M. Espin PhD and Laura S. Brown PhD are recognized as leaders within the feminist approach because of their significant contributions to the theory.
Core Principles
The first wave of feminist therapy began with a grassroots movement. Women united to express their "dissatisfaction with the limiting and confining nature of traditional female roles" (Corey, 2013, p. 363). Women desired recognition and social services geared toward the unique needs of the female gender. Consciousness-raising groups were developed and therapy shifted to better understand and recognize how "social, political, and cultural forces in society [that] damage and constrain girls and women, as well as boys and men" (Corey, 2013, p. 364).
Second Wave
Feminist therapy was defined during the 1980's. Feminist theory was established and integrated into existing psychotherapy theories. Feminist therapists recognized that most existing theories were developed by white males who failed to address the unique experiences of women and girls.

Four enduring feminist philosophies were established during the second wave:
Liberal Feminists
Cultural Feminists
Radical Feminists
Socialist Feminists
Third Wave
At the National Conference on Education and Training in Feminist Practice in 1993 feminist principles, themes and perspectives were established. This wave acknowledged women of colour, lesbians, and postmodern and constructivist ideals (Corey, 2013). It was understood that feminism was a global concern. The following feminist identities emerged:
Postmodern feminists
Women of colour feminists
Lesbian feminists
Global international feminists
Traditional theories focus on male normative behaviour and aimed to understand human nature by studying predominantly men. Due to the androcentric, gendercentric, heterosexist, deterministic, intrapsyhic orientated scope of traditional theories the needs of women and marginalized groups are not effectively met (Corey, 2013).
Gender Fair
Interactionist View
Life-Span Perspective
Goals of Feminist Therapy
The Feminist Therapist
The Feminist Client
The Relationship between a Feminist Therapist and Client
Feminist Techniques, Strategies and Procedures
Feminist theory is centered around six core principles. The principles work together and separately to best support the feminist client. The six principles are:
1. The personal is political
2. Commitment to social change and social justice
3. Women's voices and ways of knowing are valued and their experiences are honoured
4. The counselling relationship is egalitarian
(Social Identity Analysis)
Gender Role Intervention
Power Analysis
Reframing and Relabeling
Group Work
Social Action
Criticisms of
Feminist Therapy


Recognition that personal dilemmas and difficulties are rooted in political and social oppression.
Initiating client change is one goal of feminist therapy. A second goal is to promote social change and social justice. Women are encouraged to work together to "right the wrongs" (Corey, 2013, p. 369) committed by societal oppressors.
This principle recognizes the authenticity of female experience. Women are encouraged to embrace their femininity, emotions and intuition (Corey, 2013).
Imbalances of power and invisible hierarchies are detrimental to the feminist therapeutic relationship. Each client is the expert of her or his own experience (Corey, 2013) and that expertise must be valued and respected.
5. A focus on strengths and a reformulated definition of psychological distress
6. All types of oppression are recognized
Women and men’s differences are explained through socialization processes. This helps avoid stereotypes that can arise in social roles and behaviour that can occur by explaining these differences in terms of our inherent temperaments.
Using approaches that can be applied equally to
all individuals despite race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, and ability.
Emphasis on the thinking, feeling, and
behaving dimensions of the human
experience while also looking at the
contextual and environmental factors that
influence the human experience.
Changes to ones behaviour and personality
are not developed only in childhood, but are continuously changing. This development is a lifelong process.
“Feminist therapy strives for transformation for both the individual client and society as a whole” (Corey, 2013, pg. 370)
At a societal level,
is a main goal of feminist therapy. This applies to all people, where we can live in a world of equality that is reflected at every level of society.
At an individual level, feminist therapy is aiming to help women and men accept, appreciate, and foster his/her personal power. Again,

is key!
Feminist therapists aim to create a therapeutic relationship that is based on equality while empowering clients to “live according to their own values” (Corey, 2013, pg. 372) and to trust their own ability to control the events affecting them instead of the external factors.

The therapist should be genuine and “strive for mutual empathy between client and therapist” (Corey, 2013, pg. 372)

Clients should actively participate in the
therapeutic process in order to gain a new understanding of their world. Clients can use
this arena to tell their stories, voice their
opinions, and vocally ruminate on their experiences.
Mutuality. Equality. Empowerment

Feminist therapists must work to equalize power by:

Being aware and sensitive to how they could potentially abuse their own power
Focusing on the power possessed by the client in the therapeutic relationship
Share their own perceptions and engage the client to ensure that the client is an active participant in the relationship; demystify the counselling relationship!
(Thomas, 1977, as cited in Corey,
2013, pg. 373)

Feminist therapists use self disclosure
equalize the roles of the client and
therapist in the client-therapist
for modeling/provide an example
normalization of shared experiences
empower clients
establish informed consent
establish authenticity and mutuality
(Corey, 2013, pg. 376)

A look into expected gender-roles and how this effects the client and their decision making behaviours towards gender-roles.
Social Identity analysis expands this to include different associations of the client, not just gender.
Includes raising awareness to societal, cultural, and family influences and choosing how to react and internalize these influences.
The therapist puts the clients’ concerns in context the role that society expects them to play and provides “insight into the ways social issues are affecting [them]” (Corey, 2013, pg. 377).
This can help clients see how societal expectations affect their own perceptions
and understandings and can pave the
way to making positive changes.
“The range of methods aimed at helping
clients understand how unequal access to
power and resources can influence personal realities. Together therapists and clients
explore how inequities or institutional barriers
often limit self-definition and well-being"
(Corey, 2013, pg. 377).
The use of different types of reading and visual materials can provide clients with more knowledge and understanding while decreasing the power differential between the client and therapist. “Reading about feminist perspectives on common issues in women’s lives (incest, rape, battering, and sexual harassment) may challenge a woman’s tendency to blame herself for these problems” (Remer, 2008, as cited in Corey, 2013, pg. 378).
“By teaching and promoting assertive behavior, women become aware of their interpersonal
rights, transcend stereotypical gender roles,
change negative beliefs, and implement
changes in their lives”
(Corey, 2013, pg. 378).
Assertiveness Training
: shifting away from
“blaming the victim” to considering
the different social or political factors could
have/had contributed to the client’s problem
(Corey, 2013, pg. 378). This will allow for “a shift
in how the situation is perceived, in the meaning
given to the situation, or how one
behaves towards the situation"
(Eckstein, 1997, pg. 420).
: changing the label or assessments
that have been utilized for specific behavioural characteristics (Corey, 2013, pg. 378).
By taking part in activities such as
volunteering, lobbying, or educating,
clients can be empowered while also
making a difference in their community.
Clients are able to better understand
their own experiences and pursue
social action, or change, to better the
experiences of others.
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men

Gloria Steinem
"It's like a big foam rubber pillow - as long as you are there pushing you have an impact. The minute you turn your back, it goes away. It will revert back to the way it was." - Arnie Kahn (Kahn, 2006)
"Social and political inequities have a negative effect on
people" (Corey, 2013, p. 370). The type(s) of inequality that each client faces will vary, as will the impact. It is important that the inequality is identified and explored (Corey, 2013).
"These thinkers insisted that everyone acknowledge and understand the myriad ways race, class, sexuality, and many other aspects of identity and difference made explicit that there was never and is no simple homogenous gendered identity that we could call “women” struggling to be equal with men."
- Bell Hooks (Hooks, 2013)
"In fact, the reality was and is that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color." (Hooks, 2013)
* We would suggest that this statement is outdated and should read equality and full humanity for all people. 'Women and men' fits within old school patriarchal norms, but you get the larger idea.
Feminist therapists avoid diagnosing and labeling clients. If a diagnosis is required the therapist and client will work together to come to an agreed upon classification (Corey, 2013).
Multiculturalism and
Feminist Theory
"Culture includes external components such as institutions, language, and visible artifacts, social norms and social roles (rules and expectations for behavior), and internal components such as attitudes, values, world views and ways of thinking about the self in relation to the collective" (Worall and Remer, 2002, p. 13). Helm's and Cook (as cited in Goodman et. al, 2004) stated that counsellors should maintain awareness of the underlying cultural imbalances that exist when working with clients. Feminist therapy and multicultural advocacy can work hand in hand against discrimination and oppression.
"The overall goals of personal and social empowerment emphasize client strength and resilience in coping with past, current, and future trauma and stress" (Worall and Remer, 2002, p. 24). The four key concepts of understanding empowerment are:
(Worall and Remer, 2002)
Group work began as a means to bring women together to share their experiences and gain support from other women with similar struggles (Corey, 2013).
The goals of group work are to:
deepen self-exploration
connect with other people
recognize universal struggles and oppression
provide the opportunity for social change
practice behavioural skills
(Corey, 2013)
"The corrupt military regime in Burma has extended Aung San Suuu Kyi’s detention past the 2010 election date. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace prize winner is the leader of the pro-democracy party and movement in Burma and she was democratically elected in 1990 but has never been allowed to take office" (Fairey, (n.d.))
An awareness of invisible hierarchies must be maintained to prevent projection of the dominant cultures values on to the client. The client must be empowered to work within her or his own cultural identity (Corey, 2013).
Not everyone will agree with the feminist principles
Feminism is not a neutral stance and carries a motive of social change.
Worth reading:
Why I'm Not Really Here For Emma Watson's Feminism Speech At The U.N.

* Although a practicing feminist therapist, listen for Lenore's subtle use of stereotyping as she introduces her client. She seems to catch herself in the moment.
Adams, S. (2002, March 9). Dilbert [Cartoon]. Retrieved from search.dilbert.com/search?w=Empowering&asug

=&view=list&filter=type %3Acomic&x=0&y=0

AdvertEnticement. (2011, January 20). Gender Roles - Interviews with Kids. Retrieved from


Collective Eye Films (2014). The World Needs Our Stories [Image]. Retrieved from collectiveeyeblog.tumblr.com/post/


Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Degadlo, R. (n.d.). Assertiveness Training [Cartoon]. Retrieved from www.jantoo.com/cartoons/keywords/assertive

Eckstein, D. (1997). Reframing as a specific interpretive counseling technique.
Individual Psychology: The Journal

Of Adlerian Theory, Research & Practice,
53(4), 418.

Fairey, S. (n.d.). Freedom to Lead [Print]. Retrieved from www.obeygiant.com/headlines/aung-san-suu-kyi-download

femineach.com (2014). Equality, The Time is Now [Photo]. Retrieved from feimineach.com/quickhits/while-men-are-in-charge-


Goodman, L., Liang, B., Helms, J., Latta, R., Sparks, E., & Weintraub, S. (2004). Training counseling

psychologists as social justice agents: feminist and multicultural principles in action.

Counseling Psychologist
, 32, 793-836. DOI 10. 1177/0011000004268802

Hooks, B. (2013, October 28). Dig deep: beyond lean in. The Feminist Wire. Retrieved October 25, 2014,

from thefeministwire.com/2013/10/17973/

Kahn, A. (2006, August 10). Interviewed by A. Rutherford [Video Recording]. Psychology’s Feminist Voices

Oral History and Online Archive Project. New Orleans, LA.

Laci Green. (2014, April 23). Why I’m a... Feminist *gasp*. Retrieved from


LibraryThing (n.d.). Jean Baker Miller [Photo]. Retrieved from www.librarything.com/author/millerjeanbaker

PSCY 2013 (n.d.) Carolyn Zerbe Enns [Photo]. Retrieved from www.pscy2013.blogspot.ca/2012/06/feminist-therapy.html
Fairey, S. (n.d.). Freedom to Lead [Print]. Retrieved from www.obeygiant.com/headlines/aung-san-suu-kyi-download
LibraryThing (n.d.). Jean Baker Miller [Photo]. Retrieved from www.librarything.com/author/millerjeanbaker

PSCY 2013 (n.d.) Carolyn Zerbe Enns [Photo]. Retrieved from www.pscy2013.blogspot.ca/2012/06/feminist-therapy.html
Psychology’s Feminist Voices (n.d.) Laura Brown [Photo]. Retrieved from www.feministvoices.com/laura-brown/
Wells College (2005). Oliva M. Espin [Photo]. Retrieved from www.wells.edu/news/archives/2005.aspx
Collective Eye Films (2014). The World Needs Our Stories [Image]. Retrieved from collectiveeyeblog.tumblr.com/post/80797090797/honoring-womens-history-month-words-of-wisdom-from
femineach.com (2014). Equality, The Time is Now [Photo]. Retrieved from feimineach.com/quickhits/while-men-are-in-charge-gender-quotas-are-the-only-way-to-increase-the-number-of-women-in-boardrooms/
VitaminW (2013). Feminist Symbol [Image]. Retrieved from vitaminw.co/change/symbols-feminism-past-present-and-future
Toronto Womans Bookstore. Rainbow Pride Heart [Image]. Retrieved from http://womensbookstore.com/?attachment_id=1900
The Working Caregiver (2013). Empowerment Zone Ahead [Image]. Retrieved from www.theworkingcaregiver.org/2013/02/26/10-worth-of-empowerment/
Degadlo, R. (n.d.). Assertiveness Training [Cartoon]. Retrieved from www.jantoo.com/cartoons/keywords/assertive
The Male Feminist Counsellor
Feminism is not exclusionary, men can be feminist therapist and advocates
Male feminists must be honest and 'own' the privileges they have been granted
They attempt to redefine gender roles and stereotypes
Feminist therapists often work with abusive men (Corey, 2013)
Advocate for equality
Additional Strengths of Feminist Theory
Feminist theory promotes and advocates for the rights of all people
Feminist theory is anti-racist and anti-oppressive
Feminist theory fights for social justice and reform
Feminist therapits take on active roles in their communities
(Corey, 2013)
Adams, S. (2002). Dilbert [Cartoon]. Retrieved from search.dilbert.com/search?w=Empowering&asug=&view=list&filter=type%3Acomic&x=0&y=0
Psych Feminist Voices. (2013, January 17). PFV Interview with Paula Caplan:

Challenging DSM Catagories. Retrieved from www.youtu.be/C6gGn425yPk


Psych Feminist Voices. (2013, October 23). PFV Interview with Marion Rudin Frank:

Psychotherapy and Feminist Values. Retrieved from


Psychology’s Feminist Voices (n.d.) Laura Brown [Photo]. Retrieved from


Psychotherapynet. (2012, December 11). Feminist Therapy with Lenore Walker Video.

Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnE2WON4q8c

The Working Caregiver (2013). Empowerment Zone Ahead [Image]. Retrieved from


Toronto Womans Bookstore. Rainbow Pride Heart [Image]. Retrieved from http://


Wells College (2005). Oliva M. Espin [Photo]. Retrieved from www.wells.edu/news/


Worell, J., & Remer, P. (2003). Feminist perspectives in therapy empowering diverse

women (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
Full transcript