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Heather Duke
Mar 01, 2018

Allowing clients to find their voices by incorporating the Feminism model into therapy

Sometimes when clients attend therapy, they are tattered and torn by the issues of life. Usually, clients are so distraught by their circumstances, it becomes cumbersome for them to “speak up” about their recent breakup, grief, or financial debt.  It is important that clients realize they can express their “point of view”.  Clients typically learn how to communicate by observing their parents, grandparents, and siblings. For example, if a client remembers her mother being very passive when interacting with her dad, she may display one of the two behaviors in her adulthood, such as a passive behavior toward the men in her life or very aggressive behavior because she felt her mother did not “speak up” during her marriage.

Next, if the therapist realizes the female client has a passive communication pattern and does not realize the importance of utilizing her voice, the therapist should incorporate certain aspects of the Feminist model into therapy. Corey (2009) Feminist therapy is built on the premise that in order to understand a person, it is essential to consider the social and political contexts that contribute to that person's problem.

When working with this specific female client, it is important to also remember any cultural premise of why she communicates in a passive manner.  In order to help this client develop a strong sense of self agency; the therapist should work from the Feminist framework of using one’s voice. Corey (2009) states that women’s and girl’s voices are valued and their experiences are honored. One goal of Feminist therapy is to replace patriarchal “objective truth” with Feminist consciousness, which acknowledges diverse ways of knowing women are encouraged to value their emotions and intuition, and to use their personal experience as a touchstone for determining what is   “reality”. Their voices are acknowledged as authoritative and invaluable sources of knowledge.

 Feminist therapy can be utilized for men as well as women.  This next illustration will highlight the specific way this model can be utilized with a female client.

Mock Scenario:

A female client attends counseling because her husband mistreats her in front of his children from a previous marriage. She feels broken and sad by his behavior. The client stated that she becomes very docile and passive when she tries to express her feelings to her husband concerning his behavior.

These are the questions that to be implemented during session

  • Who are you outside of this marriage?
  • Why does your husband's behavior make you feel sad?

These two questions will trigger the client to start realizing that her needs matter, and they are important. It does not matter whether she is a female and has a soft nature. Being respected, valued, and heard in her intimate relationship should be the overall goal for this client.

In today’s world, women are speaking up about the injustices they experience in the workplace. These women need to heal and continue to use their voice to share their experiences of pain and disappointment because their stories will encourage other women to utilize their voices too, whether in or out of counseling. Corey (2009) The valuing and facilitation of women’s voices, in or out of therapy, directly counteracts the often forced silence of women and contributes to an ultimate change in the body politic of society.

Corey, G. (2009) Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 9th Edition. Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning; Belmont, CA.

Heather B. Duke is a marriage and family counselor in training.  She will be completing her internship this summer in Chicago, Illinois.  It is her passion to work with couples  that are experiencing relational issues due to marriage, divorce, and custody arrangements.

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