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Goals of Counseling and Psychotherapy

Change often involves developing new attitudes toward the circumstances and realities of women's and men's lives, not just adjusting to those circumstances and realities. It is the responsibility of the feminist counselor to help clients explore a full range of options available to them, not concentrate solely on what is perceived to be the right course to take because of one's gender. This might take the form of self-analysis for the client, exposure to feminist literature, or participation in consciousness-raising groups or other gender- homogeneous support groups. At a societal level, uncovering emotional distress, anger, or outrage to promote social change and participating in social activism may benefit the client. Involvement in community action programs and social action activities can help the client gain both experience and confidence. Enns (2004) proposed five goals for feminist counseling: equality, independence/interdependence, empowerment, self-nurturance, and valuing diversity.

Equality as a goal of feminist counseling is designed to help the client gain freedom from traditional gender roles. Gaining equal status in personal relationships, economic self-sufficiency, and work equity are all components of equality. It is the counselor's role to encourage the client to negotiate greater equality in intimate relationships, with friends, and with work colleagues. This is done through exposing the client to information regarding the unequal status and power of women and men in Western society (Enns, 2004).

Balancing independence (personal attributes) and interdependence (relational skills) has proved to be one of the most difficult goals to operationalize for feminist counselors. Balancing personal attributes and relational skills moves feminist counseling away from the notion of androgyny as the model for mental health and focuses on the importance of valuing the relational skills of women. To accomplish this balance, the counselor helps the client to separate traits related to independence and interdependence from traditional perceptions about gender roles and what is considered masculine and feminine.

Empowerment is a major goal of feminist counseling in that it helps clients see that they have control over themselves and have the ability to actively advocate for others. Empowerment involves recognition that powerlessness is a learned behavior. Once clients become aware of gender role socialization and how it relates to oppression, it is important for them to develop mechanisms to counteract the effects of sociopolitical forces that have limited their choices in life.

Self-nurturance is a pivotal goal in feminist counseling. A lack of self-care causes selfdoubt, lack of self-esteem, inability to develop trust relationships, and difficulty in expressing needs (Enns, 2004). Development of self-nurturance involves becoming more self- aware – aware of personal needs, personal goals, desires, and self-identity. The aim of the counselor is to help the client to experience the sense of pleasure and mastery that comes with discovering self-value.

Valuing diversity is a more recent goal of feminist counseling designed to create an inclusive feminist approach. This goal helps the counselor and client to recognize the many ways that gender intersects with other factors in a multicultural society. Historically, feminism and feminist counseling responded primarily to the concerns of White women. However, although women of color may experience oppressive "isms" similar to those experienced by their White counterparts, they may also suffer from a lack of power and self-direction due to racism. Contemporary feminist counselors work to become educated about cultural plurality among the oppressed. As Enns (2004) noted, "Learning about women of diverse backgrounds is important not only for providing non-biased treatment, but also for enriching our knowledge of women's lives in general" (p. 30).

 
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