An Overview of Feminist Therapy
Feminist therapy has gained popularity among modern-day therapists. According to Evans et al. (2017), it was developed to help respond to the many historic challenges that women have faced around the world. Feminist therapist understands that the psychological oppressions that women experience may cause mental health issues. As such, it seeks to empower them in areas such as communication, assertiveness, self-esteem, and relationships. The primary principle of this theory is the client’s well-being. Another important concept of this therapy is non-victim blaming. The goal is to ensure that when assisting a victim of gender-based violence, they should not be made to feel that they are responsible for what happened to them. The basic technique involves creating an environment where participants (the therapist and the clients) have equal rights. It helps in making the victim understand and appreciate the role and power they have in their recovery. The therapeutic goal is to make the client value the position they hold in society irrespective of their gender. They should feel empowered to take active roles in their recovery. Creating a client-therapist relationship where both parties are actively involved in finding solutions to the identified problem has made this strategy highly effective.
Applicability of the Therapy in Multicultural Contexts
Feminist therapy is highly applicable in a multiracial context, especially in a highly diversified country such as South Africa. Mahaney (2017, p. 2) explains that “Feminist therapy focuses on empowering women and helping them discover how to break the stereotypes and molds of some traditional roles that women play that may be blocking their development and growth.” In South Africa, race has remained to be a major issue that is causing a section of society mental stress at work, in school, and workplace. Similarly, women still feel that they are considered inferior to men in this society. Gays and gender-variant individuals find themselves discriminated against because of cultural beliefs and practices. Some of them are forced to hide their true identity to fit into a highly judgmental society.
The theory is highly applicable in this society when addressing concerns and challenges that these minority groups face. As Whitney (2018) puts it, the liberation of women and other oppressed groups starts with them believing that they are empowered. This therapy focuses on making the client understand the unique role that they play in society. They must understand their worth in this country and believe that no one else can define their destiny (Sharma, 2019). It is only at that point that they can overcome the negative forces promoted by negative ethnicity and retrogressive beliefs. Feminist therapy seeks to promote equality in society, an issue that has remained contentious in South Africa. For a long time, the majority of blacks have felt inferior to the minority whites. This theory seeks to create a society where gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliations do not define one superiority or inferiority.
Ways in Which the Approach Might Be Beneficial To Me In Terms Of Present and Past Issues I Have Faced
This approach is beneficial to me as a client who needs feminist therapy. The approach insists on actively involving the client in finding a solution to challenges that they face. I have undergone other forms of therapy when I was dealing with PTSD when I was involved in a family dispute. The therapist listened to issues that I faced and then they outlined steps that they believed would solve my problems. The challenge that I faced in such therapies was that my views did not matter and I never felt it was important for me to talk about them. Most of the proposed solutions provided failed to take into consideration my strengths and weaknesses. They were based on the capabilities and views of the therapists. Consequently, such therapy sessions never yielded any meaningful outcome. I ended up blaming myself for the inability to embrace the advice provided by the therapist.
Feminist therapy seeks to address this challenge effectively. Instead of basing solutions on the views and perspective of the therapist, it creates an environment where both parties are equals and actively involved in finding solutions. As a client, I have the opportunity to discuss the challenges I face and what I believe to be the best solution. On the other hand, the professional therapist will listen to my views and then find a way of making my views more practical. In case I have radical views to addressing challenges I face, the therapist can moderate them and redefine the path to ensure that the solution is beneficial to me and other members of society.
In my community, I have encountered cases where rape victims are blamed for dressing inappropriately. According to Bell et al. (2019), one of the biggest challenges that society still faces in the fight against sexual harassment is the victimization of victims. The argument that one’s dress code or outgoing nature is to blame for such attacks is unfair. Feminist therapy is crucial in addressing such challenges in the country. Women will be reminded that they have the right to be protected from rape or any form of harassment instead of being blamed. One of the primary principles of this therapy is the ability of a client to communicate effectively. They should not be ashamed of what happened to them. Instead, they need to focus on getting justice and ensuring that perpetrators of such violence are effectively punished for their actions.
My community needs to embrace gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation diversity. However, that can only happen when those who have been victims of discrimination realize that they are liberated and have been empowered to embrace who they are (Whitney, 2018). I believe feminist therapy is one of the most effective ways of empowering the minority and less privileged people in the society. Instead of considering themselves as inferior members of society, I believe they should consider themselves as citizens with equal rights as other members of the community. They should not ignore any form of attack directed against them based on their race, religion, gender, or any other demographical classification.
Possible Weaknesses in Applying This Approach with a Client like Myself
When using this approach to therapy for clients like myself, I foresee a few challenges and weaknesses that professional therapists should be keen to monitor and manage effectively. One of the possible weaknesses is the overemphasis on clients’ participation in finding solutions to challenges that they face. As explained above, it is important to involve the clients when trying to find a solution to problems they face. However, sometimes when I visit a therapist, I may not have any clear vision of how I should overcome my challenge. I expect them to help me address the issue based on their knowledge and experience in the field. When they insist that I have to be actively involved in solving my problem, I may consider their strategy as being ineffective. Effective communication between the therapist and I, as a client, can be significantly affected if the therapist develops a feeling that I am not being cooperative in addressing the problem. In such a case, I may leave the therapy in a worse mental condition than before I started it.
Feminist therapy is meant to empower those who feel that their gender, or any other social classification, places them in a less desirable position in the society. It seeks to fight the feeling of inferiority among those considered less privileged (Degges-White et al., 2021). The problem that I foresee when applying this theory as a client, is the possibility of creating a sense of superiority. The feeling that one is superior to the rest of society is just as undesirable as the feeling of being inferior. The superiority complex may result in a situation where one fails to appreciate the need to get the relevant assistance from the therapist. When one embraces the superiority complex, they will feel that they can address their problems without any assistance from a professional. The outcome is that they can easily ignore professional advice provided by the therapist.
Ineffective application of this theory is another potential challenge that might arise. As a client, I would expect the therapist to understand how to use concepts and principles of feminist therapy. As Brown (2018) observes, this approach aims to make women and others perceived to be inferior in society feel that they belong and that they have equal rights as members of society. When the therapist fails to bring out this issue clearly, then there is a possibility of communication breakdown. I would want a form of therapy that will make me live in harmony with the rest of the society. First, it should enable me to accept myself the way I am, and secondly, appreciate the diversity and respect others the way they are. It will require a highly skilled and dedicated therapist to help me achieve such a goal.
Bell, E., Meriläinen, S., Taylor, S., & Tienari, J. (2019). Time’s up! Feminist theory and activism meets organization studies. Human Relations, 72(1), 4-22.
Brown, L. (2018). Feminist therapy (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association.
Degges-White, S., Kepic, M., & Killam, K. (2021). Counseling the contemporary woman: Strategies and interventions across the lifespan. Rowman & Littlefield.
Evans, S., Bell, K., & Burton, N. (2017). Black women’s mental health: Balancing strength and vulnerability. State University of New York Press.
Mahaney, E. (2017). Theory and techniques of feminist therapy. Good Therapy. Web.
Sharma, M. (2019). Applying feminist theory to medical education. The Lancet, 393(71), 570-578.
Whitney, S. (2018). Byproductive labor: A feminist theory of affective labor beyond the productive–reproductive distinction. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 44(6), 637-660.