Feminist Multicultural and Alternative Approaches
Feminist counseling theory, which grew out of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, questions and challenges the traditional white- and male-dominated view of a mentally healthy person. Feminist theory does not suggest a superior view of women but an egalitarian view of all people, no matter their gender, race, ethnicity, and so on. It was built on the realization of the psychological, social, and political oppression women faced and on developing an understanding of the gender-based roles that people are socialized into. Feminist therapists focus attention on understanding the development of gender-role expectations and how they profoundly influence a person’s identity into adulthood.
There are five major tenets of feminist counseling:
1. The political nature of persons and actions.
2. Commitment to social change.
3. Egalitarian relationships.
4. Honoring women’s experiences.
5. Recognizing all types of oppression.
Although feminist counselors adapt interventions from traditional counseling theories, several strategies have been developed specifically for feminist counseling. They include empowerment, gender role analysis, power analysis, and integrated analysis of oppression (Corey, 2013). Relational cultural therapy (RCT) is one feminist approach that is both relationally and culturally oriented. Proposing that disempowerment and oppression both cause and result from individual isolation, RCT seeks to increase individual connections by encouraging growth-fostering relationships and mutual empathy (Jordan, 2009).
Feminist Multicultural Approaches
Feminist therapy has evolved from being a therapy primarily for women into a postmodern, multicultural, and integrative model (Kottler & Montgomery, 2011). Feminist therapy is used to address the issues of women, men, children, families, and larger systems by looking at how gender, social standing, and power impact the client’s difficulties (Mirkin, Suyemoto, & Okun, 2005). Because cultural and racial minorities are more often marginalized and disempowered, feminist counseling can be particularly useful for diverse clients.
Feminist therapy has social justice and human rights at its core—justice not just for women, but for all who experience oppression (Comas-Diaz, 2012). In addition to providing a critique of many aspects of society, feminist therapists seek to address the practical problems that women (and children and men) of color encounter disproportionately in most societies, such as intimate partner violence and sexual exploitation, and problems encountered by low-income or disabled individuals, migrant workers, and immigrants or refugees (Landrine & Russo, 2009).
Complementary and Alternative Approaches
Increasingly, individuals use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches to support their health and well-being (Field, 2009). Therapists often incorporate body-mind approaches such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation into their counseling approach to help clients relieve anxiety.
Mindfulness practices have received more recent attention, and they easily combine with other psychotherapies, such as Gestalt therapy, which emphasizes awareness of the here and now. Cognitive therapies, which direct attention to how the mind is influencing us each moment, have also incorporated mindfulness techniques. A great deal of research has been done on mindfulness practices during the last decade, finding that they reduce stress, relieve anxiety and depression, diminish recurring suicidal behavior, and decrease substance dependence (Field, 2009). Because of their effectiveness, they can be important tools when integrated into traditional counseling approaches.
Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Cengage-Brooks/Cole.
Comas-Diaz, L. (2012). Humanism and multiculturalism: An evolutionary alliance. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 437–441.
Field, T. (2009). Complementary and alternative therapies research. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Jordan, J. V. (2009). Relational cultural therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Kottler, J. A., & Montgomery, M. J. (2011). Theories of counseling and therapy: An experiential approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Landrine, H., & Russo, N. F. (2009). Handbook of diversity in feminist psychology. New York, NY: Springer.
Mirkin, M., Suyemoto, K. L., & Okun, B. F. (2005). Psychotherapy with women: Exploring diverse contexts and identities. New York, NY: Guilford.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Analyze the effects of social or cultural diversity on psychotherapeutic approaches.
2. Analyze the incorporation of key concepts and principles of feminist theory into the psychotherapy process.
3. Integrate complementary and alternative approaches into psychotherap
Learning Activities Studies
Use your Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy text and the library to read the following:
• Chapter 12, “Feminist Theory,” pages 360–394.
• Mardula’s 2009 article “Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Approaches” in the Healthcare Counselling & Psychotherapy Journal, volume 9, issue 4, pages 3–6.
• Brown’s 2007 article “Empathy, Genuineness—and the Dynamics of Power: A Feminist Responds to Rogers” from Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, volume 44, issue 3, pages 257–259.
• Comas-Diaz’s 2012 article, “Humanism and Multiculturalism: An Evolutionary Alliance,” from Psychotherapy, volume 49, issue 4, pages 437–441.
Use The Case of Stan DVD that accompanied your Corey text to complete the following:
• Watch the video segment on Feminist Therapy. Watch the introduction to the therapy, simulated counseling session, and the commentary on the approach for the theory.
The following articles are recommended but not required reading for this unit:
• Evans, K. M., Kincade, E. A., Marbley, A. F., & Seem, S. R. (2005). Feminism and feminist therapy: Lessons from the past and hopes for the future. Journal of Counseling and Development, 83(3), 269–277.
• Silverstein, L. B. (2006). Integrating feminism and multiculturalism: Scientific fact or science fiction? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(1), 21–28.
• Williams, E. N., & Barber, J. S. (2004). Power and responsibility in therapy: Integrating feminism and multiculturalism. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 32, 390–401.
• Allen, N. B., Chambers, R., Knight, W., Blashki, G., Ciechomski, L., Hassed, C., Meadows, G. (2006). Mindfulness-based psychotherapies: A review of conceptual foundations, empirical evidence, and practical considerations. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(4), 285–294.
• Wahlström, M., Sihvo, S., Haukkala, A., Kiviruusu, O., Pirkola, S., & Isometsä, E. (2008). Use of mental health services and complementary and alternative medicine in persons with common mental disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 118(1), 73–80.
• Worell, J. (2001). Feminist interventions: Accountability beyond symptom reduction. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 25(4), 335–343.
Discussion 1: 1 page needed with 2 references.
Feminist Theory and the Psychotherapeutic Process
Describe how you would incorporate some of the key concepts, goals, and interventions of feminist theory into the psychotherapy process to address the issues of clients (both men and women) from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. How would you include wellness, strengths, and positive qualities as counseling goals? Use specific examples to illustrate your points.
Discussion 2: 1 page needed with 2 references.
Feminist and Alternative Therapy Application
For this discussion, you will apply either feminist therapy or a complementary or an alternative therapy, or both, to the case of Henry (see the case study narrative The Case of Henry in the Resources). Specify how the theory would conceptualize his “problem,” identify what key concepts can be applied, and discuss two specific interventions you would use with this client. Be specific in your discussion. Identify a limitation of using the theory to this case.
Case Study: The Case of Henry
Presenting Information: Henry is a 46-year-old Japanese man. He was born in Japan and moved to the United States by himself when he was in his early 20s to go to college and work. He presents to counseling with multiple complaints of depressive symptoms, anxiety about being in social situations, relationship problems, and financial challenges. He reports feeling irritable and down most of the time but continues to go to work even though he does not have the energy. He also states that he experiences nervousness when he is around people at work and socially, so much so that he has begun to isolate himself. He feels afraid to talk to people because he thinks, “They will look at me like I am stupid and just walk away. So I just don’t talk to people. I am better off that way anyway because nobody understands my situation.” He states that it is difficult for him to come to counseling because his Japanese beliefs do not support counseling. Strong encouragement from one of his American friends convinced him to come.
Social History: Henry states that he was engaged to be married but his fiancée left him for another man about six months ago. They were together for about three years. Henry says, “I came home from work one day and she had all of her stuff packed. She told me she did not love me anymore, and then she left. I just did not know what to say or do, and ever since then I have been stuck.” His fiancée was Japanese, too, but was more Americanized than Henry feels he is. Even though he has lived in the United States for many years, he states that he tries to remain close to his cultural roots. Henry has never been married and does not have any children. He has a few friends but says that he does not spend much time with them anymore. He feels like they see him as weak because he cannot move on from the breakup. He was also involved in karate as a four-time black belt but has dropped out of the dojo.
Mental Health and Addictions History: Henry states that he has never been to counseling and has never abused any substances.
Family History: Henry’s family still live in Japan, and he feels that they have a close relationship. His parents are elderly and are very traditional in their Japanese ways, so he does not talk to him about his problems or about seeking counseling. He is an only child. Henry reports that while in high school he was bullied a lot by other students and frequently physically harmed. He tried to talk to his father, but his father said that he had to be a man and stand up for himself. Henry continued to be bullied but never spoke of it again. He said he had forgotten about the incidents for many years but has now begun to think about it more. He reports that he has even had nightmares about his coworkers and friends bullying him.
Occupational and Educational History: Henry has a bachelor’s degree in business and computer technology and is the information technology specialist at a local company. He is currently having financial problems due to his fiancée moving out and taking a substantial amount of money from their joint savings account.