Home About Me disabled former page Arthur Articles

Personality Therapy from a Christian Perspective

The following represents Arthur's opinions only and not necessarily those of Christie.

Psychoanalytic Therapy
Adlerian Therapy
Existential Therapy
Person-Centered Therapy
Gestalt Therapy
Reality Therapy
Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Feminist Therapy
Family Systems Therapy

Feminist Therapy

            This theory utilizes the combined efforts of many contributors including Jean Baker Miller, Carolyn Zerbe Enns, Olivia Espin, and Laura Brown.  Feminist therapy is an inclusive therapy that puts gender and power at the center of the therapeutic process.  Essential to this theory is the premise that social and cultural context contributes to a person’s problems.  Further to this is the foundational concept that psychological oppression of women and the constraints imposed by the sociopolitical status affect one’s wellbeing and the opportunities they experience in life.

            The vast majority of clients are women as are the therapists who practice using this model of therapy.  This contrasts the previously discussed theories that were all founded by white males from Western cultures.  Thus, feminist theory challenges the male-originated assumptions in terms of what identifies a mentally healthy individual.  Questions that the theorists pose include why women are more frequently diagnosed with depression, how minority needs are best served, and how to deal with individuals being marginalized and oppressed within society.

            Feminist theory developed in the 1960’s in response to the emerging needs of women as they began expressing their dissatisfaction with the traditional roles that confined them.  Through a network of groups that developed to help women with improving shelter, rape crisis centers, and health and reproductive issues, the area of women’s issues developed.  Self-help became the primary focus of aiding these women rather than the traditional approach to psychotherapy.  Today, feminist therapy focuses on integrating aspects of understanding oppression, multicultural awareness, and multicultural competency.

            Therapy is a partnership between the client and counselor rather than a traditional model of therapist having a superior role of knowledge.  As culture and society changed, further areas of specialty developed in the field of feminist therapy including eating disorders, body image, incest and sexual abuse issues.  There are a number of philosophies included under the umbrella of feminist theory that continue to change as society and culture shifts.  These include such aspects as liberal feminists, cultural feminists, postmodern feminists, and global-international feminists.

            Feminist theory works to create a gender fair approach treating individuals with an understanding of the effect of the current social and cultural environment.  A major component of this understands that personality development is deeply ingrained in the societal expectation that women are the primary caretakers of children.  This role defines how women develop their sense of self and morality and their function of being responsible for those around them.  Feminist theory utilizes this quality towards relationships as a strength and approach to healing and growth.

            Understanding how women develop their identity falls under the perspective known as gender schema theory.  This encompasses components of belief such as girls wear makeup and boys do not.  These behaviors determine what is deemed as feminine and masculine and are specific and unique to both society and culture.  The therapist works with the client to understand the oppression the client faces and engages in therapy as a shared journey.  Trust is an integral part of the process with the therapist believing in and encouraging the client to move forward in a positive and constructive manner. 

            Therapy works with the client to develop self-awareness of how their beliefs have developed within the context of these gender role expectations.  As clients begin to identify that how they define themselves is based in part on this influence, they are able to begin to challenge these adopted roles and rethink the relationships they have as well as the values they hold.  Therapy helps clients to identify the internal messages they hold and replace these with beliefs that are more self-enhancing and positive. 

            Another component of the Feminist theory is to develop skills to bring about change in the environment to remove the gender bias that exists.  Individuals thus work to restructure institutions to eliminate the discriminatory practices.  Clients further work towards developing behaviors that are chosen freely rather than imposed upon them by society and culture and the expectations of predetermined roles.

            A significant limitation of feminist theory is the approach to client problems as being socially and culturally rooted rather than based on an individual level.  This may create an oversight in a problem that results from a personal situation or experience that is redirected to an environmental issue.  Further, clients who are part of a culture that places great value on tradition and roles may experience greater dissatisfaction with their life through the process of equalizing roles as encouraged in the feminist theory model.  Consideration of the individual effects of change identifies another limitation and criticism of this therapy.

Personal Evaluation

            Feminist therapy holds two fundamental assumptions that I feel are irrational and even dangerous.  First, it presumes that the majority of women’s problems are ultimately caused by masculinity, dismissing the feasibility that fault may lie with the individual or even with other women.  Second, for the most part it assumes that gender differences beyond sexual organs and hormones do not actually exist.   Any gender differences beyond that are due to society, and usually assumed harmful to women.  

            At its core, feminist therapy is a cover up for deep-rooted hominophobia, or fear of masculinity.  The concept of maleness is offensive to the feminist therapist, and in my belief this dysfunctional view towards men stems from a negative relationship with their own fathers.  Fathers who are not present in the lives of their daughters, who are abusive or unloving to their wives, or fathers who model emasculated lives can result in a woman with disdain towards men.     Traditions, especially Christian ones, are frequently discarded by feminists because they are seen to subjugate women, hence the continuous push to eradicate them from society.  Feminism also routinely rejects the pervasive and widely accepted truth that boys and girls have inherent differences beyond physical sexuality.

            Feminist therapy is misleading and utilizes dysfunctional assumptions in order to succeed, the primary one being that ultimately women do not need men, when in reality men and women need each other in any healthy, thriving society. The notion that women do not need men, or vice versa, is absurd in the greater schema of raising children, creating a rich society, or simply living together in this world. I believe that if a woman struggles with issues that have origin in male relationships, the feminist therapist is the worst counselor for the individual to see.   Doing so would be akin to the old proverb “the blind leading the blind.”  Feminist therapy does not understand male relationships and is in direct opposition to Biblical truth. 

           In feminist therapy, the idea that a woman needs to be "empowered" is derived from first defining that woman as a victim of masculine bias. The woman must now be "empowered" to rise up and fight back against the male oppression. This perpetuates a war against another class of people, and requires a hostile disposition against men as a stereotype in order to succeed. It also releases the individual woman from any personal responsibility for her condition. So in the end, feminist therapy requires first making women victims, followed by stereotyping men as oppressive, third, perpetuating a hostile war against a class of people, and fourth, blaming the woman's problems on another source when the woman herself may be to blame for her problems (deflecting personal responsiblity). Without the woman as a victim, "empowerment" in feminist philosophy would have no meaning. We as Christians need to move beyond perpetual victimization, stereotyping, and blaming everyone else (i.e. a male society) for our problems when engaging in therapy. Sometimes, one's problems may simply be due to their own bad choices. Feminist philosophy virtually ignores that possibility.

            I regret that our society had once oppressed women; forbidding them to vote or have equal opportunity in employment was a grave mistake brought on by early America.   When Alexander the Great conquered Israel, the Jews peacefully laid down, seeing him as fulfillment of prophecy.    In return, Alexander gave the Jews freedom to worship God.  But when Alexander suddenly died, his generals obtained power and enslaved them, desecrating their places of worship.  From this betrayal, the Pharisees were born; a resentful and hateful group of people who took an extreme position as a result of oppression and betrayal.   The Pharisees, with their extreme views, existed for many generations.  I cite this as an historical example that when a people are oppressed, they rebel to a polarizing extreme that can take many generations to heal.  Women were oppressed by early western civilization, and they struggled greatly against it. Feminism is the extreme philosophy that birthed itself out of that oppression, and in this sense, it is a manifestation of a "push-back" against past oppression that has finally been allowed to break free.   And while I can understand why it exists, that does not make it healthy.  It may be many decades before true healing for the modern woman in our society comes.  Until then, the anger, hostility, and resentment embedded in feminism will remain with us as a costly reminder that it is always wrong to oppress.