FEMINIST FAMILY THERAPY
THEORISTS: BETTY CARTER, RACHEL HARE-MUSTIN, MARIANNE WALTERS, PEGGY PAPP
Betty Carter: In 1977, she was the first woman to establish a major family therapy training institute and was a founding member of The Women’s Project in Family Therapy.
Rachel Hare-Mustin: She was one of the first women to challenge the male-dominated family therapy establishment. In 1978, she wrote, “A Feminist Approach to Family Therapy.”
Marianne Walters: She was a member of The Women’s Project in Family Therapy. She became one of the first women to own and operate her own family therapy institute, when she established The Family Therapy Practice Center in Washington, D.C. in 1980.
Peggy Papp: In addition to Betty Carter and Marianne Walters, Papp was also a founding member of The Women’s Project in Family Therapy. A director of several projects at the Ackerman Institute, Papp was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Family Therapy Academy in 1991.
Feminist theory is grounded in the idea that our society is patriarchal and encourages inequality between men and women, thereby subjugating women. Feminist theory acknowledges gender roles and the possibility of inequality in every aspect of life, including: interpersonal relationships between each individual in the family system; relationships between the family and society; relationship between client and therapist.
- To recognize and address gender inequality by challenging socially prescribed roles
- Client is guided to reclaim personal power
- Therapists make the therapy process less suspenseful and mysterious.
- Therapist builds up the client and reinforce the idea that the individual is necessary for societal change.
- Gender Oppression
- The systemic manner in which certain groups are privileged or disadvantaged because of their gender.
- A social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.
- Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
- Social Action
- Participating in a community activity that is likely to empower clients by helping them see the link between their personal experiences and their social context.
- “Personal is Political”
- Individuals’ personal problems have social and political causes. Feminist therapists encourage clients to become active participants, not only in their own behavior, but also in positively impacting society.
- Gender Neutral
- The notion that gender differences are not concrete and that society can be free of gender stereotypes.
ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT
- Therapists may self-disclose and share their own experiences, when appropriate, in an attempt to normalize the experiences and emotions of their client
- Therapists and client conduct a power analysis in which they discuss the impact of unequal power in society
- Therapists utilize reframing to focus on the strengths of their client
- Therapists encourage client to take social action by participating in community activities that are empowering
- Therapy is brief
STANCE OF THERAPIST
- Politically informed (“the personal is political”)
- Social change agents
- Demystifying therapy
- Egalitarian (seek to prevent power imbalance between therapist and client)
- Circularity/Equal Responsibility
- Feminists critique this concept because it supports patriarchal societal rules by suggesting that husbands and wives have contributed equally to and share equal responsibility for changing their problems.
- Feminists believe that maintaining neutral is is essentially helping to maintain the oppression and subjugation that already exists.
- Structural Model of Family Therapy
- Feminists did not agree with the foundations of the structural model because by definition it imposes a hierarchy and reinforces subjugation of women.