Summary Chart: Feminist Theory
Gender role expectations have a profound impact on human development. Because women and men are socialized differently, models of psychological development based on male development fail to recognize that women's identity develops in a context of connectedness and in relationship with others.
The following are the five major tenets of feminist therapy: (a) the personal is political, (b) commitment to social change, (c) egalitarian relationships, (d) women's experiences and voices are honored, and (e) all types of oppression are recognized.
Based on the work of Enns (2004), the major goals of feminist counseling are change, equality, balancing independence and interdependence, empowerment, self-nurturance, and valuing diversity.
External forces are recognized as the root of problems for women. Clients learn selfappreciation and self-value. They rename pathology as coping mechanisms. They learn to change their environments rather than adjust to them. They learn to advocate for social change and to develop egalitarian rather than hierarchical relationships.
Although feminist counselors adapt interventions from a wide range of theoretical orientations, several strategies that have been developed specifically for feminist counseling are empowerment, gender role analysis, power analysis, and integrated analysis of oppression. Other frequently used interventions are reframing and relabeling, bibliother- apy, assertiveness training, and group work. Historically, group work has been used for consciousness-raising and support.
Feminist counseling is often incorrectly perceived as being conducted only by women for women only. It is not as well grounded in research as some of the more traditional theories. It is difficult to find adequate training in feminist counseling.