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Feminist Therapy - How Is It Different?

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by
Jeanne Courtney, MFT


Psychotherapy and Women . Women living in a sexist society have to overcome many challenges on the way to psychological growth and personal satisfaction. In response, women often develop special coping skills and emotional strengths.

Traditional psychotherapies have invalidated women's strengths and even labeled our coping styles as pathological (calling women too emotional, dependent, or hysterical). The goal of many therapies has been to "help" women adapt to a stereotyped feminine role and accept our place in society without trying to change society itself.



The Feminist Perspective.
Feminist therapy includes many different styles and schools of thought. But what most feminist therapists have in common is that we question the idea of helping our clients "adapt" to a social system that is unhealthy and psychologically damaging in itself.

This does not mean that, as a feminist therapist, I try to teach a political agenda. The focus is always on the client's individual healing process and her goals for a fuller life.

However, a feminist perspective on the world and individual growth does cause me to focus on:

(1) the client as basically strong and moving toward solutions, not hopelessly weak or pathological;

(2) the diversity of human experience and the need for healthy individual expression, which may or may not fit mainstream ideas about what is "normal";

(3) the influence of social injustice and oppression on mental health, with an understanding of symptoms as survival mechanisms;

(4) the importance of each person's right to make choices and experience her own power; and

(5) the ways in which women are deprived of validation.

Therapeutic Style.
Because of the feminist focus, my style as a therapist tends to be:

(1) client-centered, building on strengths that are already present;

(2) non-judgmental, helping clients accept and integrate all aspects of themselves;

(3) non-blaming, advocating individual responsibility for solving present-day problems, yet never losing sight of their origins in family and society;

(4) supportive, encouraging clients' efforts to find the power they need to change their lives and ultimately change the world; and

(5) interactive and responsive, focusing on the client's needs and keeping the relationship exclusively therapeutic, yet presenting myself as human and genuine.

Women's Issues. 
Although feminist therapists help men, women, children, and families with many different problems, some of us are especially experienced with certain issues that tend to come up in women's lives. Some of my own areas of expertise include:

lesbian/bisexual issues,

sexual identity,

relationship problems ,

assertiveness,

codependency,

incest and abuse,

body image ,

career transitions, and

depression .


Request an appointment with Jeanne Courtney.

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