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Women: Feminist Psychotherapy Groups

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Women: Feminist Psychotherapy Groups

Curtis Richard Taylor

University of the District of Columbia

Feminist Psychotherapy Groups

Over the past century, an approach to understanding the psychological problems of women and providing treatment for them has evolved from the philosophical foundation of feminism. Some see feminist psychotherapy as a radical approach to therapy; others see the principles that underlie the feminist approach to psychotherapy as eminently reasonable ideas that should have always been a part of psychotherapy for women. You may see these ideas as radical if you believe that women are placed on a pedestal in society and given an easier, more privileged place in life that men. On the other hand, you will find feminist psychotherapy to be reasonable and long overdue if you believe that women are treated as second-class citizens in many ways (personally, politically, and economically) and that even placing them on the pedestal of femininity contributes to their second-class citizenship by treating them more like dolls than people.

The fundamental concepts of feminist psychotherapy are based on the following

1. Feminist psychotherapy advocates an equal relationship between the client and therapist. The therapist avoids treating the client as someone who must be told what is best for her and encourages the client to trust her own agility to make good decisions. This therapy is designed to counteract the sexist view of women as needing guidance from their fathers and husbands. Sometimes this is aided by conducting therapy with groups of similar women to afford them the opportunity to make constructive suggestions to one another and minimize the role of the therapist.

2. Women clients are encouraged to see the was in which society has limited their development and has pushed them into dependent roles. To counter these forces, women are encouraged to view themselves as powerful human beings who can effectively use their power in the personal, economic, and political spheres of life.

3. Another goal of feminist psychotherapy is to encourage women to become aware of the anger that they feel over living as second-class citizens in a sexist society and to find constructive ways of expressing that anger.

4. Feminist psychotherapy helps women define themselves in ways that are independent of their roles as wife, mother, and daughter. It also seeks to assist women in dealing with the natural anxiety that they may experience about leaving or redefining these expected traditional roles.

5. Women are encouraged to consider their own needs to be as valid and as worthy of taking care of as those of others. The goal is to help women increase their sense of worth and self-esteem.

6. Finally, women are encouraged to develop skills that are not traditionally encouraged in women. These include assertiveness, career skills, and the skills to deal effectively with traditional persons who oppose such changes.

The client in this group is unique; therefore, the technique used must fit the situation of the client. Thinking, feeling, emotion and behavior can only be understood as subordinated to the individual's style of life, or consistent patter of dealing with life.

The client uses a variety of strategies that help the client to identify her specific needs.

The goal of therapy is to: stimulate cognitive, affective and behavior change. So the therapist role first, is to recognize what kind of feeling she is having (angriness, sadness, frustration, etc) once the client sees and knows the feeling; then she will try to imagine or think of something pleasant that has happened to her, replacing the bad feeling for a good one. Therapist must enable the client to see life from another perspective. The client tries to put herself into another role. Change occurs when the client is able to see their problem from another view, so she can explore and practice new behavior. As the therapist explores the thinking, feeling and acting

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