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Feminist therapy is a set of related therapies arising from what proponents see as a disparity between the origin of most psychological theories and the majority of people seeking counseling being female. It focuses on societal, cultural, and political causes and solutions to issues faced in the counseling process. It openly encourages the client to participate in the world in a more social and political way.
Feminist therapy contends that women are in a disadvantaged position in the world due to sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, age and other categories. Feminist therapists argue that many problems that arise in therapy are due to disempowering social forces; thus the goal of therapy is to recognize these forces and empower the client. In a feminist therapy setting the therapist and client work as equals. The therapist must demystify therapy from the beginning to show the client that she is her own rescuer, and the expectations, roles, and responsibilities of both client and therapist must be explored and equally agreed upon. The therapist recognizes that with every symptom a client has, there is a strength.
Feminist therapy grew out of concerns that established therapies were not helping women. Specific concerns of feminist therapists included gender bias and stereotyping in therapy; blaming victims of physical abuse and sexual abuse; and the assumption of a traditional nuclear family.
See also: Psychotherapy § General critiques
In 1977, scholar Susan Thomas argued that feminist therapy was "more [a] part of a social movement than [a] type of psychotherapy", and was so intimately tied to broader social and political feminism that its legitimacy as a therapeutic school was questionable.
Psychiatrist Sally Satel of Yale University has been critical of feminist therapy since the late 1990s, characterizing it as promoting a paranoid conspiracy. Satel argued in her 2000 book P.C. MD: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine that the very concept of feminist therapy is contrary to the methods and goals of psychotherapy, sometimes so far as to veer into potential malpractice. Traditionally, notes Satel, the goal of therapy is to help the patient understand and alter unrealistic thinking and unhealthy behaviors to improve the patient's confidence, interpersonal skills, and quality of life. Traditional therapy, while rooted in well-tested methods, must also be flexible enough to adapt to each patient's unique experiences, personality and needs.