Feminist Therapy: Its Origins, Development, and Meaning



About Feminist Therapy

The main purpose of the paper is to research and analyze the topic of feminist therapy, its origins, development, and meaning. In a world with strong domination of male sex in all spheres of life, feminist therapy realized that females face strong pressure on several factors that in the end affect their identity. The first steps within solving the issue were made in the 1960s with the development of the Feminist Movement. Since those times, the therapy has faced serious charges and the period of Feminist thought formation brought it to one of the key positions within contemporary social life.

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The main idea of Feminist Therapy lies in the belief in the inequality of men and women, and the existing differences in their inner world which are followed by the notion that psychological methodologies have been elaborated for men and therefore they cannot be beneficial for women. The circumstances that are typical for females are really specific and therefore they need to be studied, researched, and analyzed with the usage of specific methods and concepts to find a suitable resolution. Women’s observation of the world around them with all the concrete details is different from the men’s and that is why women face a series of struggles having to deal with the issues that are formed with the attention to men’s psychological construct.

In this frame, it can be seen that the initial target of feminist therapy is not only to define such issues but to properly address them in such a dimension that gives a possibility to heal them to make them acceptable and achievable by women. The problems that arise for feminist therapy are extremely topical and necessary to research, although they are complex and uneasy to solve. That is why it is so important to study the issues and to be able to define the specific problems that are present within the area and to elaborate on the effective solutions to improve the issue (Brown, 1995).

Feminist Therapy

Feminist therapy is a set of different related therapies that are all arising from the fact that there is a real inequality between the real base of most of the psychological theories and the females that are seeking counseling. The therapy itself focuses on different political, social, cultural causes, and solutions within the issues that are present in the process of counseling. There is a wide range of different specific situations that require unique approaches and a high level of knowledge within the female psychology and its difference from the male one.

Feminist therapy claims that females occupy an extremely disadvantaged position in contemporary society. Such a misbalance is due to sex, gender, sexuality, race, religion, nationality, age, ethnicity, and a series of other issues that resulted in the unfair attitude to the female society members and the inappropriate understanding of their psychology and personal identity. The majority of experts within feminist therapy define the main reason for such a situation as the lack of attention to the social forces that also have a serious lack of power and, therefore, are unable to act effectively and to provide real regulations and schemes that will work.

In this connection, the main goal that stands behind the feminist therapy professionals is to empower the clients of such social forces and to recognize these forces adequately. Within the therapy, it is extremely important to make the demystification of the issues and to provide clients with an understanding of the fact that they are their rescuers. There is also a necessity to explore and define all the expectations, responsibilities, and roles of clients and therapists. During the healing process, a therapist recognizes the fact that every present symptom is the strength of the client.

The base for the feminist therapy development was the concern that the therapies that have already been present within the society, we're unable to help women, which created a real necessity for the new approaches development that concentrated on the differences between female and male psychology. Feminist therapy specialists had a series of specific concerns, which included gender issues as well as stereotyping in therapy and others. The therapists that are currently working with the series of feminist issues are aware of a serious differential power between the client and the specialist.

Traditional approaches that are used within the series of cases include the expert issues observation with the final diagnosis elaboration. Moreover, this is followed by the freely made expert interpretations. Still, there is a big difference between the traditional therapy and the feminist sphere, where the serious contrast is represented by different evaluations of the client’s role within the process and the attention to the closer and more detailed characteristics of clients’ specific features and unique specifications.

Feminist therapy can be characterized by serious attention to the strengths of the client and mutual recognition of authorities that are present within the therapy. t is logically followed by less concentration on the diagnosis itself and the treatment specifications. The concentration on the client and her personality gives the ability to adequately evaluate the specific characteristics of the problem and to elaborate on the effective solutions that will perfectly suit the issue. Moreover, the concentration on the personality and the treatment makes it possible to provide female clients with the methodology that takes into account the psychological differences and the specific word views and thinking processes, which deals with a great number of problems within contemporary psychological therapy.

A therapeutic specialist involves a client in the process by inviting feedback about how the process is going and hearing the suggestions considering the question of possible changes of the process which is also serious support for the outcome of the feminist therapy and the effect produced on the client (Lebow, 2008).

The other specific difference of the feminist therapy is the fact that specialists pay attention to the series of specific details that are usually not taken into account, such as race, age, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious beliefs, physical and mental ability/disability, spiritual practice and other. All these factors are important for the therapy as they can have a serious influence on the client and the whole process. Feminist therapists usually encourage the clients to evaluate the amount of the factors’ impact on their lives and the way they see the world around them.

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Such a method, that requires specific interaction between the client and the specialist plus the impact of all these factors in the connection, is also a part of feminist therapy. The fair and broad discussion, that can arise between the client and specialist to reveal and evaluate the differences that exist between them, is also a way to achieve greater understanding and make the therapy more effective in every situation.

The origins of feminist therapy lie in the development of the 1960s Feminist Movement. The therapy’s emergence was a reply to the second way of the Movement in the United States and it reflected the main ideas and theories of that time. The basis of the theory itself has been mainly created by the female therapists that transformed their protests against gender inequality and the sexism problems into the specific alternative for women that were seeking professional assistance in psychotherapeutic issues. The movement touched great masses of the population, although it was a grassroots movement (Marecek, Hare-Mustin, 1991).

Therefore, there was no concrete therapy originator and no theorist of the main concepts and ideas that are now the base of contemporary science. Therapists that have been working in the new sphere tried to keep the elements of the theories that seemed to be effective and working out, but they got rid of the sexist component within the previous methodologies (Evans, Kincade, Marbley, Seem, 2005). They tried to explain the series of common difficulties through the observation of the females’ social role that created a block for their personal growth and development.

The main aim of feminist therapy was to focus on the specification within the communication, assertiveness, and relationships to provide effective changes. The therapy also aimed at empowering female representatives of the society by making them able to see the real impact of gender issues on all aspects of life. The effectiveness of the therapy depends on the acknowledgment of such causes of psychological struggle and social difficulties, as minority status, gender, sex roles, socialization, and others.

As the main problem to be addressed is inequality, the core role of a therapist is to provide the client with specific knowledge about the problematic issues that will lead to achieving the power to create the desired outcome in themselves and their personal life. The creation of the personal power inside the individual, or just the ability to see and effectively implement the existing strength of the client is the key component of successful feminist therapy. Therefore, the other important role of the therapists is to reveal the basic boundaries and the most influential factors that provoke unhappiness and dysfunction and to find ways to reduce them.

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The period of the therapy's rapid emergence was also followed by the development of the basic aspects and theories that were present within it. Now it can be seen that feminist therapy is beneficial not only for women but also for men. The specifications of male psychology are also extremely complex as they touch the series of factors that develop in the accordance with their way of thinking and accepting the information. However, men now face the same problem as women do, connected with the social roles they have to play and the series of created stereotypes that represent the real boundaries on their way to successful social life.

Today, men face serious pressure from society with such criteria as the demand for strength, autonomy, personal independence, and competition. Moreover, men are not expected to demonstrate emotions, vulnerability, empathy, and sensitivity. A complex of such characteristics creates the serious pressure that can be the reason for severe depression, personal losses, wrong orienteers that make it difficult for males to express their personalities in the right way, to achieve the goals that are important for them, to be the full-fledged members of the contemporary society. Special attention should be given to the therapy that has the methodology with the focus on an individual and that gives the ability to reduce the exploitation of the patriarchal society that oppresses both men and women (Mahaney, 2007).

In addition, the contemporary limitations create a culture that is also extremely limited and the gender stereotypes become stronger which is an additional boundary for the effective realization of the real roles of men and women and the development of their ability to involve in the social environment and communicate with the others, realize their potential and achieve the desired targets. With the help of the therapy, men will be able to effectively cope with all the boundaries, be able to define the problems, and reduce them with the help of new skills. Therapy will give them an understanding of the involved issues that touch such aspects of an individual’s life as emotions, self-disclosure, and intimacy. The fact that these boundaries can also be left behind with the help of the techniques and methodologies of feminist therapy greatly supports its effectiveness and objectiveness.

An additional advantage of feminist therapy is the fact that its approaches can be implemented together with any other psychological approach. Feminist therapy is not a specific school of psychotherapy, as behaviorism or cognitive theory, and therefore its universal character gives therapists the ability to use it in a great number of cases. It is different from other branches of psychotherapy as it does not have a particular set of therapeutic techniques, but it is rather a system of principles and values that are all based on the female point of view.

Therefore, the concentration of the approaches that are used within the therapy is on the client and her personal views, observations, problems, and considerations. The main aim of the therapy is to empower the client through the encouragement of inner voices and the ability to recognize his or her strengths in several ways. Such techniques are:

  1. Personal Is Political

Feminist therapy supposes that mental and emotional problems of an individual are based not only on their issues and reflect not only the unique personality of the individual but are also connected with the series of political, social, economic, and moral values of the client and the society in which he or she lives. The specifications of the social environment, such as the judiciary and legislative systems, family, culture, peer group influence the way we act in the everyday life, our self-perceptions of the role we play in the society, the position we occupy, and the daily practices, such as family law concerning such disputable issues as divorce and marriage, the abortion or maternity leave for the male and the religious perceptions. Any decision that we make, even the most intimate and self-targeted, is formed and provoked by external factors, such as political, social, cultural, and religious aspects of life (Zerbe, 1997).

  1. The Relationship between the Therapist and the Client

Here the key factor is equality as therapist and client relationship is an equal relationship targeted towards one main aim and that is the key to successful cooperation. Empowerment of the client occurs not only with the connection to the therapeutic component, but there is also an impact of the feminist therapeutic relationship which appears between the client and the specialist. Such a relationship is created by both sides and it is based on mutual respect and trust. As a result, such a relationship enhances a client’s sense of engagement that is the additional support for the successful outcome of the therapy.

  1. Decreasing Hierarchy

The model of the relationships also supports the success of the cooperation between the therapist and the client. Although the therapist brings professional knowledge and expertise to the process, the main aim is to reduce the belief that the therapist is the real expert in the relationship. The wrong stereotype is destroyed with the help of the special respectful attitude of the therapist to the client and the attention to the clients’ expertise.

  1. Demystification of the Therapeutic Process

It is essential to make the therapy as clear and understandable for the client as possible. It is achieved through a detailed explanation of the therapeutic approaches and techniques that are implemented in particular situations and the rationale for their usage. This gives the client full information on the process and the understanding of the main targets and orienteers of the theory which supports the strong trustful relationships between the client and the therapist and gives additional stimuli for the client to provide more personal details while explaining her problem to the expert.

  1. Assertiveness

Feminist therapy stimulates the assertive attitude of the client towards her personal life and the therapy itself. With the help of legitimization of the client’s anger towards the series of problematic issues as one of the other emotions, therapists make her more aware of the desires she has and the obstacles that impact her while reaching her goals.

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  1. Violence against Women

The specialists within feminist therapy have an unambiguous attitude against any type of exploitation and violence, physical and mental, verbal, emotional, sexual, or psychological. There is no place for the other considerations and the neutral attitude towards such issues that will be tantamount for baling the victim of the committed violence. That is why feminist therapists have an extremely sensitive attitude to the tendency of society in general and especially women to attribute blame for such issues to themselves.


Feminist therapy is one of the most specific and interesting branches of contemporary psychological therapy. It also has a series of other areas and the development of the studies within the area is remaining at an extremely high scale. Feminist therapy gained a serious push to the development in the 1960s with the uprising of the Feminist Movement and the attention to the specific demands and requirements of women. It has been developed by women that have transformed their protests to researches within the specific demands of women seeking professional assistance in psychological treatment. The development of the therapy can be seen in a series of different dimensions and approaches that emerged within it.

In addition, the therapy is now seen as a methodology that is beneficial for both men and women with its attention to the specification of the clients and their worldviews, way of thinking, and accepting the social environment. As a result of the implementation of the series of new techniques, the therapy has greatly developed and it is now one of the most interesting and complex departments in psychological assistance.

Its highest importance is based on the multiple evidence of the topicality of the problems that women face and the serious pressure of the society that created the wrong stereotypes for the roles of females and their functions. That is the main reason for the highest necessity of feminist therapy and its exceptional role in the contemporary movement for female rights.

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