Written by Laura S. Brown
Reviewed by Akanksha Anand
“What is inherent in feminist therapy is the radical notion that silenced voices of marginalized people are potentially the sources of great wisdom” (pg.4)
Feminist Therapy: Second Edition offers some insight into the beginnings of the feminist movement, educating the reader about the various political uprisings that spurred it into motion. Interestingly, there is no one founder of feminist therapy. Similar to a democracy, where the government is formed by and for the people, feminist therapy struggled with defining its boundaries and was left to the interpretation of the clinician practicing it. In recent years, certain ideals and practices have gained consensus support allowing this diverse field of therapy to retain its distinguishing qualities but rather expand into multiple trajectories where each clinician holds true to their version of the theory.
One of the most endearing parts of Feminist Therapy is its inclusion of not just women in its representation but of other minority and underrepresented groups. It is refreshing to read literature on feminism that does not just include a cisgendered perspective. The book begins with a chapter explaining and detailing why feminist therapy is not only restricted to cisgendered females from the Western part of the world but also includes folks of color, gay and bisexual individuals, gender-variant people and many other groups that usually are relegated to the margins. Brown is not shy in her writing and calls out the lack of representation in earlier works, bringing to light the fact that “therapy operating in the absence of an analysis of gender and power… can enable systemic forms of oppression” (pg.7)
Feminist Therapy focuses on actual therapeutic techniques as well. A chapter explains how the relationship begins with the process of “egalitarian consent”. The client is provided with a document to sign and review, which outlines the basic framework of feminist practice, the rights of the client and the responsibilities of the therapist. It also identifies the four axes of power: somatic, interpersonal, contextual and spiritual, and discusses strategies for the feminist empowerment model for each. Towards the end of the chapter a synthesis of the axes of power is presented via a case study entitled, Heidi.
Chapter 7 analyzes potential future developments (in this field) and how different groups of people may contribute effectively to this field. One of the most interesting topics in this chapter involves men. Brown explains that “feminists who are men are in the position to theorize patriarchy and its dangers from the center” (pg. 143), which is a novel outlook. In addition to this, men who experience a form of intersectional identity, such as men with disabilities, men who identify as a part of the LQBTQIA community also bring with them unique experiences of belonging not fully but partially to the dominant group membership of being a male. The chapter ends with a word of cautionary encouragement to all those men and women who carry the mantle of feminist politics and activism, advising them to be vigilant, to never lose this passion.
It is always a pleasure to read works by authors who are transparent about their knowledge in the field and are crystal clear on what the book offers. The text from start to finish is succinct, without any literary embellishments allowing the reader to focus on understanding the information, using their cognitive capacity to absorb the counsel given with a cogent sense of reasoning.
The book is like a well-made salad. It includes nuggets of wisdom, tossed expertly with a wholesome understanding of the concept at large, making for a perfect mouthful of intellectual postulation.
Laura S. Brown, PhD, received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1977 from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and has been in practice as a clinician and forensic psychologist in Seattle since 1979. A Diplomat in Clinical Psychology and a Fellow of 10 American Psychological Association (APA) divisions, Dr. Brown’s work in the fields of feminist therapy theory and trauma treatment has received numerous awards.
Akanksha Anand is an international student from India who received her Master’s in Forensic Mental Health Counseling from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is also a recipient of the Pinkerton Graduate Community Fellowship through which she had the opportunity to work closely in a therapeutic capacity with individuals struggling with severe mental illnesses, substance use and the unfairness of the criminal justice system.