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Feminist Psychology. Development of Feminist Theories and Therapeutic Interventions By W. McIntosh & G. Green. Statistics US Bureau of Census (2000) Number Females USA- 143,000,000 Number of Males USA- 138,000,000. Statistics US Bureau of Census (2000).

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Feminist psychology

Feminist Psychology

Development of Feminist Theories and Therapeutic Interventions

By W. McIntosh & G. Green

Feminist psychology

Statistics US Bureau of Census (2000)

  • Number Females USA- 143,000,000

  • Number of Males USA- 138,000,000

The emergence of feminist psychology
The Emergence of Feminist Psychology

  • Feminist psychology grew out of the influence of the women’s movement of the late 1960’s.  It originated as a backlash against the traditional assumptions of male dominated theory, research and practices, especially in psychoanalytic theory. 


  • Freud’s theories, such as “ penis envy” and hysteria, which were gender-biased and based on developmental studies of men, were particularly distasteful to supporters of the feminist movement. 


  • Feminist Psychology was found by women who had become aware of the pressures of patriarchy, sexism and male chauvinism that therapy and counseling were not exempt from these pressures.


  • Women discovered that they were put down in a number of subtle ways, and that all sorts of expectations about the female role and how it should be played were built in to the therapy process. Therefore, they started to set up their own therapy centers and their own network of therapists. In this way, a feminist therapy started to come into being.


  • The feminist psychology movement was a grassroots one, and therefore, no one particular theorist can be named as primarily responsible for its development.

Raison d tre
Raison d'être

  • 1. Traditionally accepted psychological theories and practices regarding mental health standards based on gender were harmful to women.

Raison d tre1
Raison d'être

  • 2. Women were labeled of as mentally ill for political reasons (punishing women for not adhering to expected roles)  Women tended to be diagnosed as “mentally ill” when they didn’t conform to male stereotypes and protested the sexism of psychotherapy and psychotherapists

Raison d tre2
Raison d'être

  • 3.The womanless state of psychology and its development (including women being shut out and women’s work being underreported), and

  • 4. The desire to report women’s experiences from a woman’s perspective. 

Feminist therapy
Feminist Therapy

  • Examines sociological as well as psychological factors

  • Helps people understand the impact of gender roles and power differences in society

  • A. Sex: biological difference

  • B. Gender: socially determined thoughts, beliefs and attitudes about men and women

Theories of personality
Theories of Personality

  • Hare-Mustin and Maracek(1973) - two biases in the approach to gender

  • Alpha bias - separating men and women into two categories - danger is in treating women as different and therefore inferior

  • Beta bias -  treating women and men as identical and ignoring real differences

Theory development
Theory Development

  • Three distinct phases of development for feminist psychology have emerged, beginning in the 1970’s. 

Phase 1
Phase 1

  • The first phase was characterized by borrowing therapeutic techniques that fit into the feminist philosophy, with the goal to “empower all women by strengthening individual women.” 

Phase 2
Phase 2

  • The second phase is marked by the inclusion of feminism into more psychological theories where feminists attempted to keep the parts of psychological theories that were sensible and that worked, but tried to eliminate the sexist elements that were present

Phase 3
Phase 3

  • The final and ongoing phase consists of trying to develop a complete theory that explains the common experiences of women and their difficulties arising from living in a society where they are devalued.  Such a theory would also integrate the impact of social oppression based on ethnicity, race and culture.

Principles of feminist therapy
Principles of Feminist Therapy

  • The personal is political

  • The counseling relationship is egalitarian

  • Women’s experiences are honored

  • Definitions of distress and "mental illness" are reformulated

  • There is an integrated analysis of oppression

Key concepts of feminist therapy
Key Concepts of Feminist Therapy

  • Problems are viewed in a sociopolitical and cultural context

  • The client knows what is best for her life and is the expert on her own life

Key concepts
Key Concepts

  • Emphasis is on educating clients about the therapy process

  • Traditional ways of assessing psychological health are challenged

  • It is assumed that individual change will best occur through social change

  • Clients are encouraged to take social action


  • Preference for boy babies over girl babies

  • Pressure to learn gender stereotypes during elementary school years


  • Development of secondary sex characteristics can be very difficult for girls even more than boys

  • Breast development

  • Focus on thinness


  • Females valued for appearance rather than achievement

  • Teen pregnancy issues

  • Encouragement of independence in boys and nurturance  and helplessness in girls


  • Mothering

  • Decisions about work and childcare

  • Women are more likely to be blamed for children's problems

  • Work

  • Women working outside the home often also do all or most of housework - “The Second Shift”

Midlife issues
Midlife issues

  • Menopause

  • Devaluation of older women

  • Violence

  • Rape, Incest, Domestic abuse

  • Child abuse

Goals of feminist therapy
Goals of Feminist Therapy

  • To become aware of one’s gender-role socialization process

  • To identify internalized gender-role messages and replace them with functional beliefs

  • To acquire skills to bring about change in the environment

Goals of feminist therapy1
Goals of Feminist Therapy

  • To become personally empowered

  • Symptom removal

  • Self-esteem

  • Quality of interpersonal relationships

Goals of feminist therapy2
Goals of Feminist Therapy

  • Body image and sensuality

  • Attention to diversity

  • Political awareness and social action

1 liberal feminism
1. Liberal Feminism


  • Helping individual women overcome the limits and constraints of their

    socialization patterns

    Major goals

  • Equality

1 liberal feminism1
1. Liberal Feminism

  • Personal empowerment of individual women

  • Dignity

  • Self-fulfillment

  • Equality

Intervention techniques using the liberal feminism approach
Intervention Techniques using the Liberal Feminism Approach

  • Gender-role analysis and intervention

  • To help clients understand the impact of gender-role expectations in their lives

  • Provides clients with insight into the ways social issues affect theirproblems

Intervention techniques using the liberal feminism approach1
Intervention Techniques using the Liberal Feminism Approach

  • Power analysis and power intervention

  • Emphasis on the power differences between men and women in society

  • Clients helped to recognize different kinds of power they possess and how they and others exercise power

Intervention techniques using the liberal feminism approach2
Intervention Techniques using the Liberal Feminism Approach

  • Bibliotherapy- Reading assignments that address issues such as

    A. Coping skills • Gender inequality

    B. Gender-role stereotypes • Ways sexism is promoted

2 cultural feminism
2. Cultural Feminism


  • Oppression stems from society’s devaluation of women’s strengths

  • Emphasize the differences between women and men

  • Believe the solution to oppression lies in feminization of the culture

2 cultural feminism1
2. Cultural Feminism

  • So that society becomes more nurturing, cooperative, and relational

    Major Goal

    The infusion of society with values based oncooperation

Intervention techniques using the cultural feminism approach
Intervention Techniques using the Cultural Feminism Approach

  • Power differential • Society's obsessionbetween women and men with thinness

  • Self-disclosure

Intervention techniques using the cultural feminism approach1
Intervention Techniques using the Cultural Feminism Approach

  • To help equalize the therapeutic relationship and provide modeling for the client

  • Values, beliefs about society, and therapeutic interventions discussed

3 radical feminism
3. Radical Feminism


  • The oppression of women that is embedded in patriarchy

  • Seek to change society through activism

  • Therapy is viewed as a political enterprise with the goal of transformation of society

3 radical feminism1
3. Radical Feminism

Major goals

  • Transform gender relationships

  • Transform societal institutions

  • Increase women’s sexual and procreative self-determination.

Intervention techniques using the radical feminism approach
Intervention Techniques using the Radical Feminism Approach

  • Assertiveness training

  • Women become aware of their interpersonal rights transcends stereotypical sex roles

  • Changes negative beliefs

  • Implement changes in their daily lives

  • Reframing

Intervention techniques using the radical feminism approach1
Intervention Techniques using the Radical Feminism Approach

  • Changes the frame of reference for looking at an individual's behavior

  • Shifting from an intrapersonal to an interpersonal definition of a client’s problem

4 socialist feminism
4. Socialist Feminism


  • Goal of societal change

  • Emphasis on multiple oppressions

  • Believe solutions to society’s problems must include consideration of:

    1. Class

4 socialist feminism1
4. Socialist Feminism

2. Race

3. Other forms of discrimination

Major Goal

  • To transform social relationships andinstitutions

Intervention techniques using the socialist feminism approach
Intervention Techniques using the Socialist Feminism Approach

  • Relabeling

  • Changes the label or evaluation applied to the client's behavioral characteristics

  • Re-focusing- a shift from a negative to a positive evaluation

Three themes often come up in feminist therapy anger self nurturance and autonomy
Three themes often come up in feminist therapy - anger, self-nurturance and autonomy.

  • 1.Women often turn their anger inwards, and may need a good deal of encouragement to direct it where it really belongs.

  • 2. Women are taught to nurture others, but may not be good at nurturing themselves

Con t
Con’t self-nurturance and autonomy

  • 3. Women are taught cooperation and find networking very easy, but may need a lot of help to see out through their own eyes and ask "what do I need myself"? This question tends to arouse much anxiety and even guilt, and a feminist approach is necessary if women are to feel that these reactions are unnecessary. Group support very often supplements individual therapy.

Sometimes certain stages can be recognized
Sometimes certain stages can be recognized: self-nurturance and autonomy

  • (1) Increasing self-awareness

  • (2) Acceptance of self-awareness

  • (3) Strengthening of self-acceptance

Con t1
Con’t self-nurturance and autonomy

  • (4) Developing the power to act

  • (5) Recognizing societal restraints

  • (6) Accepting or combating societal restraints

  • (7) Acceptance of self and other women

Two models of therapy
Two Models of Therapy self-nurturance and autonomy

Lenore e a walker a
Lenore E. A. Walker self-nurturance and autonomyA

  • "A feminist Therapist Views The Case" from "Women as Therapists" ( Cantor, 1990), provides an overview of the guiding principles of feminist therapy, indicating that there are six tenets of feminist-therapy theory:

1 egalitarian relationships
1. Egalitarian Relationships: self-nurturance and autonomy

  • 1) Egalitarian relationships between clients and therapists serve as a model for women to take personal responsibility to develop egalitarian relationships with others instead of the more traditional passive, dependent female role.

Con t2
Con’t self-nurturance and autonomy

  • While it is excepted that the therapist knows more in terms of psychology, the client knows herself better. That knowledge is as critical as the therapist's skills in developing a successful therapeutic relationship.

2 power
2. Power self-nurturance and autonomy

Women are taught to gain and use power in relationships, and the possible consequences of their actions.

3 enhancement of women s strengths
3. Enhancement of women’s strengths self-nurturance and autonomy

So much of traditional therapy focused on a woman’s shortcomings and weaknesses that feminist therapists teach women to look for their own strengths and use them effectively. The feminist therapist focuses on the enhancement of women's strengths rather than remediation of their weaknesses.

4 non pathology oriented and non victim blaming
4. Non-pathology-oriented and non-victim blaming self-nurturance and autonomy

In this framework, the medical model is rejected and women’s problems are seen as coping mechanisms and viewed in their social context.

5 education
5. Education self-nurturance and autonomy

Women are taught to recognize their cognitions that are detrimental, and encouraged to educate themselves as to the plight of all women.

6 acceptance and validation of feelings
6. Acceptance and Validation of Feelings self-nurturance and autonomy

Feminist therapists value self-disclosure and attempt to remove the we-they barrier of traditional therapeutic relationships. Feminist therapists accept and validate their clients’ feelings.

Con t3
Con’t self-nurturance and autonomy

They are also more self-disclosing than other therapists thus removing the we-they barrier between  therapists and their clients. This limited reciprocity is a feminist goal that is believed to enhance the relationship.

Models of therapy b
Models of Therapy self-nurturance and autonomyB

  • In A New Approach to Women and Therapy" (1983), Miriam Greenspanexplores the impact of "traditional" and "growth" therapies on women as well as describes "feminist" therapy in action

Task 1
Task 1 self-nurturance and autonomy

  • That the therapist's most essential tool is herself as a person.

Task 2
Task 2 self-nurturance and autonomy

  • That it is essential therapy be demystified from the beginning in order for clients to achieve a sense of their own power in therapy. Therapy must be geared to helping the client see that she must be her own rescuer - that the power she longs for is not in someone else but in herself.

Task 3
Task 3 self-nurturance and autonomy

  • That rules of the therapeutic relationship should be overtly stated and mutually agreed upon. The client and therapist explore their expectations of one another together and jointly come to an agreement of what each person's role and responsibilities will be.

Task 4
Task 4 self-nurturance and autonomy

  • That within every symptom, no matter how painful or problematic, there exists a strength.

Issues self-nurturance and autonomy

  • One of the main issues in feminist therapy is a woman's relation to work (a) doing well at a job does not have to be a masculine act and (b) the ability to make choices, and to sustain these choices.

Bibliography feminist psychology
Bibliography self-nurturance and autonomyFeminist Psychology

  • Anderson, G. & Hill, M. (1997) eds. Children's Rights, Therapists' Responsibilities. Haworth Press, 1997.

  • Burman, E. (1997). Deconstructing Feminist Psychology. NY: Sage.

  • Burr, V. (1998). Gender and Social Psychology. NY: Routledge.

  • Wilkinson, S. & Kitzinger, C. (1993). eds. Heterosexuality: A Feminism and Psychology Reader. NY: Sage.