Feminist Family Therapy

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					Feminist Family
  ACSW 2008 Annual Conference

             Dr. Deborah Foster, RSW
              Dr. Karen Nielsen, RSW
Slides will be posted on ACSW Web site
next week
Development of feminist family therapy
 What  is feminism
 What is family therapy
 Feminist family therapy
 Premises congruent with values of social work.
        What is Feminism?
 Radical   - capitalism is barrier to ending
  female oppression. No alternative other
  than the total uprooting and
  reconstruction of society to achieve goals
 Socialist - women being held down as a
  result of their unequal standing in
  workplace and the domestic sphere. Both
  must change for equality.
                 What is Feminism?
 Equality will happen through political & legal
 Belief in the interconnectedness of all forms of life
and each act effects the whole.
 All forms of oppression affect us all
 Two kinds of power: power over & power within.
Power from within is empowerment& is unlimited
& renewable.
 Diversity is needed in the system to maintain
stability. (true for political and economic systems
          The Influence of Feminism: Three Waves

First Wave - Right to vote
Second Wave – Right to reproductive control,
  equal pay for equal work, no fault divorce,
  gender neutral language & sanctions against
  marital rape
Third wave –celebrate diversity; combat
  inequalities women face as a result of age,
  gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status
  or level of education; access to NRT for single
  women and lesbians
    Gender Role Socialization
 What messages did you get about being
  an man/woman when you were growing
 How has your socialization influenced
  your practice
 Assign a recorder/discuss
 Be prepared to report back
 10 Mins
  Family Therapy Types





    Structural Family Therapy
Salvador Minuchin
 Directive & action orientated
 Goal: modify the present, not explore past
 Goal: not symptom relief but for family to
  reorganize itself around a symptom
 No pathologizing/ labeling of individuals
 Therapist not to impose their beliefs on family
 No consideration of power differential between men,
  women & children
         Strategic Family Therapy
Jay Haley
 Does not address gender/power differences
 Therapist responsible for influencing family
 Associated with use of paradoxical techniques
 Give tasks and homework
 Not concerned with the past
 View of dysfunction: symptoms regulate
  homeostasis in families; symptom is a type of
  behavior. Symptoms carry a function for the
        Strategic Family Therapy

   The identified patient ( symptom carrier)
    cannot be viewed separate & apart from
    the family. Unless the system changes, it is
    difficult for the individual to change.
   Insight is not needed for change to take
     Murray Bowen
 Goal for the individual to differentiate & take "I"
  position in family of origin
 Individual must stay connected to family &
  therapy generally involves 3 generations of family
 Triangulation is a key concept. Triangles are likely
  to develop during times of distance.
 In relationships, the partner who experiences the
  most distress will often connect with someone else
  as a way to gain an ally.

 Conceptualizes togetherness and
  individuality as competing forces
 Therapy focus on "overcoming
  togetherness needs and increasing
 No recognition that women are relational

 Therapist neutral

 Does not address gender/power
      Narrative Family Therapy

Michael White and David Epstein
 Developed as a reaction to labelling &
  pathologizing of traditional family therapy
 Stresses a collaborative relationship with
 Key concept is externalization, creates a team
  made up of therapist & persons united against
  an outside problem
               Narrative Therapy

 Emphasis is on victory over problems &
  not on problem-saturated story.
 Emphasis is on uniqueness of persons, not
  their “deviance”
 Fits very well with a feminist approach
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

 As you watch the video clip, consider the
  socialization messages?
 Who carries the power in this family?
        Feminist Family Therapy
   Developed in Second Wave
   Rachel Hare-Mustin (1978): A Feminist Approach to
    Family Therapy
   Application of feminist theory & values to family
    therapy, including personal & political
   Understanding gender & power is the core of
    therapeutic practice
   Understanding client’s problems requires a socio-
    cultural perspective
   Societal changes & empowerment of the individual
       Feminist Family Therapy

   Explores way gender roles & socialization
    affect each individual & their relationships
    with one another in family system, society &
    within the client therapist relationship
   Recognizes the unequal status of women &
    the reasons for that inequality
   Feminist family theory is a philosophy, not
    just a set of techniques
   Therapists help clients examine & challenge
    gender rules & roles
        Themes in Feminist Therapy

 Understanding power & control issues
 Examining external forces that influence behavior

 Identifying messages receive in growing up

 Learning to accept appropriate responsibility

 Exploring personal values/beliefs

 Recognition that both women & men live in a
  gendered context & that male gender roles can also
  be problematic
 Parenting is not the sole responsibility of women
         Feminist Family Therapy

 Egalitarian role of feminist therapist
 Therapeutic alliance: Recognize power imbalance
  between client & therapist
 Judicious use of self-disclosure to reduce power
  differential between client & counselor
 No labelling & pathologizing

 No giving interpretations

 Client is “expert” on self
           Feminist Family Therapy
 Historically women & men have been
  socialized in different way. Men socialized to
  be task focused; women are socialized to be
  emotional caretakers.
 Masculinity is defined through separation;
  femininity is defined through attachment.
 Important to incorporate a gender lens when
  counselling couples & families. Empowerment
  is a key concept.
       Brokeback Mountain

 How do same sex relationships challenge
  our assumptions about male female
 Consider the importance of a gender lens

Empowerment: the process of increasing
 the capacity of individuals or groups to
 make choices & to transform those
 choices into desired actions & outcomes.
        Feminist Family Therapy
o   Includes male clients and male therapists
o   Seeks non-gendered & culturally fair ways to
    approach & interpret traditional
    psychotherapeutic theories and techniques
o   It looks at gender role strain for both men &
o   Family seen as powerful resource for positive
o   The task of therapy is to mobilize that resource
         Intervention Techniques in Feminist
                   Family Therapy
   Gender-role analysis
      Help family understand the impact of gender-role
       expectations in their relationships
      Provides clients with insight into the ways social
       issues affect their problems
   Power analysis
      Emphasis on identifying the power differences in
       relationships, in society, and impact on family
      Clients helped to recognize different kinds of
       power they possess and how they and others
       exercise power
      Intervention Techniques in
      Feminist Family Therapy
o   Power issues detrimental to the family system
    are confronted
o   Feminist family therapists help clients examine
    and challenge rules and roles and reorganize
    them so that destructive patterns can change
o   Feminist family therapists encourage the
    development of inner resources and goal
 Turns problem behaviors into resources & conflict
  situations into platforms for agreement
 Fundamental shift in our cultural paradigm
 Encouraged & rewarded to be problem-solvers
  from early age
 Seeing self through the filters of being a problem
  solver sets our perceptual filters to "scan for
 Life is seen primarily as a source of problems
  being served up so that we can maintain our status
  as master problem solver
 Problem solving is dominant theme in schools,
  psychotherapy, management & counseling
 This orientation can hide from us the small
  successes that if noticed and nurtured, can lead
  to creative spirit of continuous improvement &
 An individual attitude of reframing problems
  into potential and opportunity is more than just
  “sleight of mind”. It is literally a way to
  change the perceptions of ourselves and others
             Gaylord’s Wall

   Acknowledging small successes: is it
    sleight of mind?
      Social Work & Feminist Family Therapy

Core Social Work Values and Principles
Value 1: Respect for Inherent Dignity and Worth of
Value 2: Pursuit of Social Justice
Value 3: Service to Humanity
Value 4: Integrity of Professional Practice
Value 5: Confidentiality in Professional Practice
Value 6: Competence in Professional Practice
      Core FTT Values and Principles

Value 1: Respect clients' freedom to choose;
 emphasize development of collaborative
 relationships; therapy must be geared to helping
 the client see that she must be her own rescuer -
 that the power she longs for is not in someone else
 but in herself. Client as expert (Respect for
 Inherent Dignity and Worth of Persons)
Value 2: The personal is political; consider problems
 within societal context; actively seeking to change
 gender injustices experienced by women and men.
 (Pursuit of Social Justice)
      Social Work & Feminist Family
Value 3: Feminist therapist seeks multiple
 avenues for impacting change, including
 public ed. & advocacy within professional
 organizations, lobbying legislative actions
 (Service to Humanity)
Value 4: Feminist therapist is accountable
 self, colleagues & clients. (Integrity of
 Professional Practice)
    Social Work & Feminist Family
Value 5: Open agenda, informed consent;
 egalitarian relationship (Confidentiality
 in Professional Practice)
Value 6: A feminist therapist will contract
 to work with clients & issues within the
 realm of her/his competencies
 (Competence in Professional Practice)