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Feminist Interventions

Some interventions used by feminist counselors are unique to the feminist approach. Gender role analysis is an intervention strategy used to help clients learn about the impact of culturally prescribed gender role expectations on women and how their lives are affected by them (Israeli & Santor, 2000). In a collaborative effort, the counselor and client examine the client's values and how these values are reflected in the client's role expectations for herself and others. They identify the explicit and implicit sex role messages the client has experienced and internalized. They then decide which of these messages the client wishes to change.

According to Brown (1986), this analysis should include exploration of (a) gender meanings in light of family values, the client's life stage, cultural background, and present conditions of living; (b) past and present rewards and penalties for gender role conformity or noncompliance; (c) how the counselor-client relationship mirrors these issues or provides insight into them; and (d) the client's history in relation to victimization. During this process, clients learn that their methods of coping have been adaptive for living in an oppressive society rather than symptoms of pathology. They develop an empathic rather than self-blaming attitude toward themselves. Thus, gender role analysis serves to help clients gain self-knowledge, increase their awareness of the sociocultural basis for distress, and identify areas for desired change. Following the analysis, a plan for implementing changes is developed, which may draw on cognitive-behavioral or other strategies as appropriate to the client's needs.

Power analysis is an assessment and intervention strategy that aims to help women understand their devalued status in society and to help clients of both sexes become aware of the power difference between men and women. The counselor may begin by educating the client about various kinds of power and women's limited access to most kinds of power. Women are often uncomfortable with the term power because of their limited experience or exposure to only aggressive aspects of it. The counselor may help the client understand the differences among power over (which implies dominance or oppression), power within (which involves feeling that one has inner strength), and power to (which refers to goal- directed behavior that respects the rights of all involved; Gannon, 1982). The client can then offer her own definition of power and consider how it fits for her and her way of being in the world. Together, the counselor and client identify the client's usual means of exerting her power and the effectiveness of those means. Next, they identify ways in which the client's internalized gender role messages affect her use of power, which synthesizes gender role and power issues for the client (Remer et al., 2001). Finally, the client is encouraged to increase her repertoire of power strategies by experimenting in areas of her life in which lack of power previously prevented change. Power analysis empowers clients to challenge and change the oppressive environments in which they live (Worell & Remer, 1996).

Over the last 10 to 15 years, feminist counselors have developed a more complex integrated analysis of oppression that recognizes that "gender cannot be separated from other ways in which a culture stratifies human difference, privileging some at the expense of others" (tiill & Ballou, 1998, p.3). In an integrated analysis, procedures used in gender analysis and power analysis are expanded to consider the impact of other variables such as race or ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, age, size, and religion. Because diversity is a central concern of the feminist approach, a multicultural, multidimensional analysis considers variables in addition to gender in examining personal, group, and institutional oppression in clients' lives.

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