Feminist Therapy
Jean Baker Miller, Carolyn Zerbe Enns,
Oliva M Espin, Laura S. Brown
A
1. self-reliant
4. defends own beliefs
7. independent
10. athletic
13. assertive
16. strong personality
19. forceful
22. analytical
25. has leadership abilities
28. willing to take risks
31. makes decisions easily
34. self-sufficient
37. dominant
43. willing to take a stand
46. aggressive
49. acts as a leader
55. competitive
58. ambitious
B
2. yielding
5. cheerful
8. shy
11. affectionate
14. flatterable
17. loyal
23. sympathetic
26. sensitive to needs of others
29. understanding
32. compassionate
35. eager to soothe hurt feelings
38. soft-spoken
41. warm
44. tender
47. gullible
50. childlike
53. does not use harsh language
56. loves children
59. gentle
2
Bem’s Gender
1. self-reliant
4. defends own beliefs
7. independent
10. athletic
13. assertive
16. strong personality
19. forceful
22. analytical
25. has leadership abilities
28. willing to take risks
31. makes decisions easily
34. self-sufficient
37. dominant
43. willing to take a stand
46. aggressive
49. acts as a leader
55. competitive
58. ambitious
Role Inventory (1971)
2. yielding
5. cheerful
8. shy
11. affectionate
14. flatterable
15. happy
17. loyal
23. sympathetic
26. sensitive to needs of others
29. understanding
32. compassionate
35. eager to soothe hurt feelings
38. soft-spoken
41. warm
44. tender
47. gullible
50. childlike
53. does not use harsh language
56. loves children
59. gentle
3
Background
 Role of social, political and cultural context
in individual’s problems
 Power:
central aspect in human relations
 Perspective of psychological theories: White
European middle class men

Male gender role as normative
 The
dominant group considers what is
different from them as deviant or “not as
good”
4
Women’s movement of the 1960’s
 Reaction against limited female gender roles
 Gender socialization affects women’s
development and well-being

Cultural conceptions of gender serve as an
organizing principle in people’s identity
 Traditional therapy: way to maintain the status
quo
 Need for psychological theories that take into
account women’s perspectives and political
realities
5
1970’s and 1980’s
 Research on gender bias
 Self-in relation models: validate relational and
cooperative dimensions of women's experience
 Research emphasis on body image, eating
disorders, abusive relations, sexual abuse
 Expanded focus to: multiple oppressions,
multicultural competence, and social justice
 Incorporate ideas about gender socialization in
working with men -- Men’s Movement
6
Two Views of Development
 Androcentric: male-oriented constructs constitute
the norms used to draw conclusions about humans,
including female nature

Traditional women’s gender roles and dispositions of
connectedness and inter-dependence are devalued &
independence and autonomy are exalted
 Relational cultural theory- challenges the
Androcentric view


Women’s identity and self-concept develop in the
context of relationships
Accepts the notion of intrinsic gender differences
7`
Two Views of Development
 Gendercentric: There are two separate innate
paths of development for women and men.
 Socio-cultural and power analyses challenges
the Gendercentric view (socialization process)


Traditional women’s gender roles and dispositions
have been acquired/learned in the context of
women’s subservient position
Rejects the notion of intrinsic gender differences
8
Common Themes in
Feminist Philosophies
 Gender socialization is central to
therapeutic practice for men & women
 A socio-political and cultural perspective
is essential in understanding people’s
problems

Ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, class, age
& disabilities
 Symptoms may be self-preservation
responses to an oppressive environment
9
Goals of Therapy

Empowerment

Help clients free themselves from the
internalized constraints of gender role
socialization and oppression
 Societal change

Social change to eliminate sexism and other
forms of oppression
10
Techniques and Strategies
 Egalitarian counselor-client relationship
 Actively engage client in setting the direction, goals,
length and procedures of therapy
 Therapist Self-disclosure
 To decrease power differential
 Gender Role Analyses/Intervention
 Emphasize societal as opposed to intra-psychic origin
of problems
 Examine how internalized societal expectations
regarding gender roles are related to client’s issues

Internalized homo phobia, racial devaluation
11
Techniques and Strategies
 Power analysis


Raise awareness of power difference between
men and women in society.
Help clients recognize different kinds of power
they possess and how they and others exercise
power – personal and societal levels
 Assertiveness Training
12
Techniques and Strategies
 Bibliotherapy


To help educate clients about societal issues
Increases clients’ expertise and decreases power differential
in therapy
 Social Action


Encourage clients to actively influence social change
regarding women/other oppressed groups
Helps empower clients by making the connection between
society and personal problems
13
1972
2011
14
Contributions
 Brought awareness to the impact of the cultural
context and multiple oppressions
 Gave validity to women’s perspectives


Sexual conduct in therapeutic relations has been
recognized and sanctioned
Strengths in women's qualities of nurturance and
cooperation (rather than competition) are
recognized
 Established as proper focus of therapy to change
oppressive conditions rather than just expect
clients to adapt to them
15
Limitations
 Feminist therapy does not take a neutral stance
regarding gender roles
 May put undue pressure on clients to follow a
specific direction
 Not all clients may be interested in engaging in
social action
 Over-emphasis on environmental factors may


Neglect exploration of the intra-psychic world
Motivate clients to forsake responsibility for
themselves in the face of an unjust world
16