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Cross-Cultural Considerations

Historically, feminist counseling and multicultural counseling have remained mostly separate and disconnected movements (Reynolds & Constantine, 2004). Feminist therapy has been criticized for its lack of attention to sociocultural factors other than gender and for ignoring the contributions of "women of color who ... have made important contributions to feminist understandings of psychotherapy that provide us with insights into our understanding of both gender and race/ethnic biases" (Espin, 1993, p. 104). Important to the future of feminist counseling will be the ability of its theorists, scholars, and practitioners to acknowledge the additive experiences of women of color.

Espin (1993) pointed out this lack of acknowledgment of the contributions of women of color in the development of theory in feminist counseling as well as the omission of multi- culturalism as an integral part of the development of theory and practice. In recent years, feminist theorists have increasingly called for cultural diversity to become a central and defining characteristic of therapy (Enns, 2004; Whalen et al., 2004; E. N. Williams & Barber, 2004) and for an integration of the feminist, multicultural, and social justice approaches to counseling (Crethar, Torres Rivera, & Nash, 2008). These three approaches share the goals of working toward social change and advocating for the empowerment of all clients by giving a voice to the unheard (Green, McCollum, & Hays, 2008). Their common threads include establishing egalitarian relationships and fostering change at both the individual and societal levels (see Chapter 2).

Progressive changes in the field of feminist psychology are indicative of a greater awareness by European American feminists that the concerns and experiences of women who are not European American, middle class, or heterosexual are equally valid as those who are (Μ. K. Williams, McCandies, & Dunlap, 2002). Effective multicultural feminist counseling requires knowledge and understanding of the oppressions of culturally different clients and skills that are inclusive and punctuated by culturally sensitive behavior. Acknowledgment of the existence and counterproductive influence of racism, classism, heterosexism, and other oppressive behaviors on the counseling process is the first step in developing multicultural, feminist counseling for social justice.

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