Study Points

An Overview of Feminist Counseling

Course #76883 - $25 • 5 Hours/Credits

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    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.
  1. Which of the following demographic statements is FALSE?

    WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES: SOCIODEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE

    Currently, women make up more than half of the U.S. population. As of 2017, U.S. Census data shows that, overall, women slightly outnumber men; 50.7% of the total population is female [74]. In 2017, there were 165.3 million women in the United States, outnumbering their male counterparts by 4.9 million [74]. There were 4.2 million women 85 years and older, outnumbering men in this age group by 1.9 million [74].

    Over the years, the educational disparity between men and women has decreased. In 1970, 5% more men than women graduated from college. This gap decreased by 2000, when 23% of women and 26% of men graduated from college [65]. Among the employed population 25 years of age and older, 37% of women had attained a Bachelor's or more advanced degree as of 2010, compared with 35% of men [75]. In 2017, women comprised 54.3% of all enrolled college students; however, this gap closes almost completely by graduation [78].

    This is also reflected in the occupational sectors, as more and more women are represented in professional fields. Overall, in 2017, women who are 16 years and over comprise 58.2% of the civilian labor force [74]. In 2012, the U.S. Census showed that 43.6% of persons working in the professional, scientific, and technical services fields were women; in 1970, only 17% of workers in comparable fields were women [65,77]. In the medical fields, the number of female physicians and surgeons increased by 27% and female dentists by 23% between 2000 and 2010 [76]. Although women have made great strides in the last three decades, there continue to be disconcerting trends. In 2017, women were still not well represented in the business, management, and financial services sector (43.7%) and in the computer, engineering, and sciences sector (24%) [79].

    Women tend to be over-represented as nurses, administrative assistants, and elementary and middle school teachers [88]. The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that women are still more highly represented as secretaries and administrative assistants than any other occupation [76]. In 2004, full-time employed women in the United States earned only 76% of the median annual salary of men [49]. In 2015, the median income for full-time employed men was $52,146, while for women it was $41,977 [136]. A female college graduate will earn $1.2 million less during her lifetime compared to her male counterpart [49].

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  2. What is the key difference between the terms "sex" and "gender"?

    SEX AND GENDER

    The terms gender and sex are often used interchangeably. However, it was not until the 1970s that it was advocated that the two terms not be used interchangeably [80]. The term "sex" conveys that sex differences are biologic and fixed [137]. On the other hand, gender is a sociologic concept and refers to the characteristics and traits that are viewed as appropriate to men and women as defined by societal norms [16,138]. In other words, gender is a social construct influenced by societal, institutional, historical, and cultural norms [63]. Gender affects patterns of societal, community, familial, and individual expectations; processes of daily life; intrapsychic processes; and social interactions [47]. Gender is also defined by existing institutions and ideologies and is imbued with views about power differentials. Meanwhile, sex is the biologic classification based on reproductive organs (i.e., male and female) [63]. Upon birth, an individual is classified as male or female based on the appearance of their genitals [16]. Sex revolves around what is biologic or natural, while gender is related to what is learned due to the social, political, and cultural influences [16]. This has important implications for discussions of differences between men and women. Is it implied that these differences are natural and unchangeable? Or can they be altered through activism and changes in social and institutional forces [80]?

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  3. Which of the following cognitive structures are influenced by gender?

    SEX AND GENDER

    Knowledge of an individual's gender provides information that ultimately influences how people behave, think, and react to individuals [38]. Hoffman and Pasley assert there are five cognitive structures influenced by gender [38]:

    • Perceptions about men and women

    • Attributions, or explanations based on being male or female

    • Expectancies, or predictions based on whether one is male or female

    • Assumptions regarding the nature of men and women

    • Beliefs or standards, or the underlying systems that define how men and women "should be"

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  4. Which of the following classifies women as a vulnerable population?

    SEX AND GENDER

    A vulnerable population is defined as a group that is more at risk of physical, psychologic, and social harm or lacks the means to protect themselves [1]. A group's lack of protection may be due to past or existing marginalization or lack of access to services due to social, economic, and/or political circumstances [70]. Consequently, women as a group can be classified as a vulnerable population [1]. For example, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, and studies show that gender differences in presentation of depressive symptoms may start as early as adolescence [81]. They are also 1.5 to 2 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder [141]. Women are at a higher risk of violence by their intimate partners, and in some countries, they are at higher risk for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). Their gender and the differential access to resources and privileges impacts their protective capacities. A woman may be afraid to ask her spouse/partner to wear a condom because to do so could be perceived as accusing him of adultery and could result in negative repercussions, such as domestic violence [1]. Women who perceive and experience sex discrimination (conceptualized as a social stressor) are more likely to have poor health or a diagnosis of clinical depression [142].

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  5. In which wave of feminism did the women's suffrage movement take place?

    HISTORICAL SNAPSHOT OF THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT AND FEMINIST THERAPY

    The feminist movement can be classified in three different waves. The first wave spanned the 19th century to the early 20th century. Middle-class women in the 1830s formed charitable and benevolent societies to help sex workers and the destitute. They later embraced the cause of slavery and put voice to the abolitionist movement [24]. Feminists during this time also advocated for the importance of bringing women's influence into men's spheres, such as for women's right to vote [112]. The Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848 rejected the prevailing doctrine of women's innate inferiority. After the Civil War, these first-wave feminists took up the temperance movement, which continued into the early part of the 20th century. During this time, they also focused on social welfare and labor reform, advocating for reform of working conditions in factories and for women and child laborers, specifically limiting women's working hours, developing minimum wage, and banning child labor [24]. After women won the right to vote in 1920, this first wave of feminism waned and lost momentum [16]. In this first wave, issues of class and race can affect women's lives were largely ignored [112].

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  6. Which wave of feminism places emphasis in making feminism more inclusive, diverse, and palatable to younger generations of women?

    HISTORICAL SNAPSHOT OF THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT AND FEMINIST THERAPY

    The third wave of feminism started in 1990 and continued to around 2013 [112]. With roots in black feminist work, this wave is considered diverse, with no one philosophical stance; however, the third wave was viewed as a new feminist discourse for understanding gender relations that takes into account the inadequacies of the previous waves [48,82]. Third-wave feminists saw themselves as, "making right some of the second wave's wrongs. They posit many of their arguments in response to or in reaction to second-wave positions on sexuality, power, and culture" [57]. Third-wave feminists gave women the latitude to define feminism for themselves, and they strove to make the movement more inclusive and diverse [32,48]. This third wave has underpinnings in postmodernism, contending for individual choice and individualized feminism [112]. These feminists targeted young women who may believe in feminism but are concerned with the negative connotations [4]. Feminists of this period emphasized individual empowerment; however, critics assert that they did not adequately focus on collective activism to challenge systemic injustices and inequities perpetuated by structural forces [146].

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  7. What is intersectionality in the context of feminism?

    HISTORICAL SNAPSHOT OF THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT AND FEMINIST THERAPY

    Third-wave feminists argued for intersectionality. The first and second waves of feminism downplayed the role of ethnicity and race and instead emphasized the unity of all women—the sisterhood of women and issues pertinent to all women [48]. Third-wave feminism argues that multiple, simultaneous oppressions exist, including oppression stemming from gender and race/ethnicity, and they are inseparable and intertwined [48]. In other words, women inhabit simultaneous conditions of marginality based on race, class, sexual orientation, age, and many more factors [82,144]. As a result, the third wave of feminism advocated for a more inclusive approach, embracing other social groups (e.g., racial/ethnic minority women, gay women, etc.) [4]. Queer theory, for example, emerged during this period [144]. There are three core tenets of intersectionality [84]:

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  8. Which type of feminism argues that the solution is to develop a separate "womanculture"?

    TYPES OF FEMINISM

    Radical feminists link women's oppression to the sexism that permeates every dimension of day-to-day lives [49]. They argue that gender differences are rooted in the notion of essentialism [52,148]. Essentialism propounds that women's identity is linked to a single trait, specifically that women are more caring and nurturing and less aggressive than men. Neither essential gender role is superior, but the existing social order is predominantly patriarchal and reinforces male attributes [52,148]. Sexism is so deeply ingrained that some radical feminists have argued for separatism, advocating for an exclusive "womanculture"—a female science, female religion, female arts, rejection of the nuclear family, etc. [17,115]. These political tenets had underpinnings of destruction, and Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto became the prominent symbol for radical feminists [115]. One of the major criticisms of radical feminism lies in their assertion for essentialism, focusing on the objectification of a woman's body and a reductionistic explanation linking women's roles to biology [148].

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  9. Marxist feminism focuses on

    TYPES OF FEMINISM

    Marxist feminism is viewed as revolutionary. Although these feminists argue for structural change, they focus on class structure, as they believe women's oppression is rooted in capitalism [17,149]. Women's socioeconomic positions and classism are at the heart of this type of feminism. Marxist feminists trace patriarchy and women's oppression to women's roles being historically limited, meaning that patriarchy can only be eradicated if the separation of public and private work (i.e., housework) disappears [90]. Therefore, women are doubly oppressed as a result of their sex and class [149]. To Marxist feminists, domestic work is considered productive work, because although this work is "invisible," it is still important [116]. Therefore, Marxist feminists target women's work (both paid and unpaid) and focus on raising revolutionary consciousness of working women to instigate change [17]. They also posit that classism results in disparities in access to resources, manifested as, for example, healthcare disparities. However, beyond this, Zrenchik and McDowell assert that classism also results in the unequal distribution of respect and admiration [91]. Segments of the poor in society are therefore often labeled as "immoral," "criminal," or "dirty" [91]. Marxism feminism has resurfaced in recent years as globalization has increased poverty, migration, and violence around the world [150]. Marxist feminists attempt to understand these trends as the struggle within class, race, and gender.

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  10. What was an early explanation for mental illness in women?

    GENDER BIASES

    The notion of abnormality is heavily influenced by social and cultural norms. Early philosophers have depicted women as irrational beings [16]. Harris and Lighter assert that, historically, when women were the focus of attention in the mental health fields, they were "in the role of patient or repository of psychopathology, not as exemplar of healthy personality development" [36]. In the 1700s and 1800s, women's mental illness was linked to sin and vice [152]. Later, women's mental illness was tied to the "weaker" female constitution due to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause [71,152]. Some even argued that a woman's womb moved aimlessly throughout the body, causing insanity and draining life energy [71]. Hysteria, a disorder that involved the nervous system, was commonly diagnosed among women in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and many physicians believed this was a natural state for women (e.g., excitability, difficulty, egocentrism), but a "morbid state" for men [120].

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  11. Which of the following personality disorders is diagnosed more frequently in men than women?

    GENDER BIASES

    Some experts have argued that the DSM is androcentric and that the diagnostic labels are gender biased, arising from the psychopathologization of women and their roles [121]. In 1968, the DSM-II portrayed hysterical personality disorder as an extreme parody of femininity [120]. Personality disorders like dependent personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder reinforce notions about the pathology of dependency and emotionality, attributes generally ascribed to women [154]. Interestingly, dependent personality disorder is not associated with men, despite the fact that, historically, men were often reliant on women to care for the home and to provide caregiving [27,72]. Borderline personality disorder is also diagnosed more often in women than men and is characterized by impulsivity, instability in relationships, and intense fear of abandonment, which consequently leads to behaviors to avoid abandonment [95]. Many have argued that the constructs behind this diagnosis are inherently laden with gender bias. Other personality disorders are more likely to be diagnosed in men (e.g., antisocial personality disorder). It has been hypothesized that personality disorder diagnoses reflect certain gender stereotypes based on age, class, and marital status [43]. In general, women are more likely to be diagnosed with borderline, dependent, and histrionic personality disorders, while men predominate in compulsive, paranoid, antisocial, schizoid, and passive-aggressive personality disorders [28]. Some of this bias is inherent to the diagnostic criteria, but individuals' own cultural values and beliefs regarding gender roles (their socialization) will affect how they respond to diagnostic assessments as well [73].

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  12. What is the overarching goal of feminist therapy?

    BASIC PRINCIPLES OF FEMINIST THERAPY

    Although there are several types of feminism, a few principles or overarching themes are common among them and in feminist therapy. It is important to remember that feminist therapy is not meant to exclude men or to isolate women from men. The goal of feminist therapy is to assist every individual to break out of stereotypical expectations regarding gender norms and behaviors that ultimately lead to dysfunction [4].

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  13. Nonsexist therapy is characterized by

    BASIC PRINCIPLES OF FEMINIST THERAPY

    Feminist practitioners advocate for social change in order to eradicate injustices and oppression. On the other hand, a nonsexist clinician focuses on assisting women to minimize the distress they experience due to traditional gender role socializations and to adjust to discrimination and gender role inequalities. Feminist counseling/therapy emphasizes change at the macro level, to cultural, social, and political forces, that will help to eliminate women's problems and result in social justice. Nonsexist counseling/therapy focuses more on a client's intrapsychic state rather than the environment in which the client exists [20].

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  14. Which of the following is NOT a step in gender role analysis?

    FEMINIST INTERVENTIONS AND STRATEGIES

    The goal of gender role analysis is to assist clients to identify the specific gender role expectations and messages that influence their behaviors [124]. Five steps are necessary in true gender role analysis. First, the clinician helps the client to identify various gender role beliefs and expectations experienced from early childhood [60]. Second, the clinician and the client discuss how these expectations have affected the client's life negatively and positively. Third, the client works to identify internalized beliefs based on these gender role expectations. Fourth, with the help of the clinician, the client will decide which of the internalized beliefs he/she would like to address. Finally, a specific plan is developed to implement and monitor changes [60]. It is important for clients to understand the sources of gender role messages and to identify what reinforcers and punishments exist for adhering to these messages [159]. Clients should be encouraged to evaluate the costs and benefits if they were to eliminate certain messages.

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  15. A feminist counselor is working with a client who is having difficulties adjusting to her new job. The client states that she does not feel confident about talking with her husband about helping her with various household chores so she can balance her time better. After discussing various intervention plans, the client states she would like to learn some new skills—assertiveness, time management, and coping. Which theoretical orientation may be helpful in guiding this case?

    FEMINIST INTERVENTIONS AND STRATEGIES

    Assertiveness has been defined as behaviors that involve standing up for one's rights without violating the rights of others [60,161]. Assertive skills training frequently involves cognitive-behavioral strategies to assist clients in verbalizing their needs/desires, developing social skills, and reducing anxiety that arises when executing assertive behaviors [161]. Many feminist practitioners argue that women may need to be taught assertiveness skills due to the fact that assertiveness is not usually considered a desirable female attribute. The underlying assumption of assertiveness training is that after women are educated about their personal rights and taught skills to overcome perceived barriers, other positive outcomes (e.g., enhanced self-esteem) will follow [25].

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  16. How is the practitioner-client relationship viewed within a feminist therapeutic context?

    FEMINIST INTERVENTIONS AND STRATEGIES

    Feminist practitioners work with clients to promote awareness of the differences in power relations between men and women in society (also known as power analysis) [60,124]. The first step is to explore definitions of power with the client and to assist clients to identify which definition of power best fits within the client's value orientation. Subsequent steps involve helping the client to recognize internalized messages about power and to alter them [15]. In order to model egalitarian relationships, the therapeutic environment becomes crucial. As discussed, in feminist counseling and therapy the clinician/client relationship is collaborative. Instead of the clinician simply diagnosing the client's distress, the therapist and client dialogue and work collaboratively to discuss potential reasons and meanings of the symptoms [29]. Clients are given the position of the expert and control what occurs in therapy. They also have the freedom to voice disagreements with the practitioner [18].

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  17. Which of the following statements regarding the ethics of care is FALSE?

    ETHICAL ISSUES

    Kohlberg's theory of moral development has been criticized for being androcentric, meaning the dilemmas capture male moral development and do not apply to women. Furthermore, some experts argue that Western conceptualizations of ethics are based on the premise that there are a set of universal, rational, neutral, objective, and impartial rules that are applied to everyone [53]. For example, the concept of justice is based on the assumption that the individual is autonomous and independent, with a rational ability to exercise control [46]. Carol Gilligan, a leading critic of Kohlberg's work, asserted that men and women have different ways of conceptualizing morality, and therefore, the decisions made will be different [35]. In her study, for example, girls did not want to make a moral decision without considering the social context; they wanted to avoid conflict, and their thinking reflected a need to take into account interpersonal relationships. In a cross-cultural study in Turkey, women managers scored higher on reproductive moral imagination (i.e., taking on the perspectives of another individual) than men [101]. The authors argued that women tend to take interpersonal relationships into account in their moral decision making.

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  18. Which area does the Feminist Therapy Code of Ethics NOT cover?

    ETHICAL ISSUES

    The Feminist Therapy Institute developed a Feminist Therapy Code of Ethics, which offers a set of guidelines to supplement rather than replace the code of ethics of the field in which a practitioner practices (Table 1). The Feminist Code of Ethics covers five areas that direct practice, training, and research [30]:

    • Cultural diversity and oppressions

    • Power differentials

    • Overlapping relationships

    • Therapist accountability

    • Social change

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  19. Which of the following is NOT a step in the feminist ethical decision-making model?

    The feminist ethical decision-making model involves seven steps. Although it is presented in a linear manner, the practitioner frequently moves back and forth through the steps [37].

    Step 1 involves recognizing the problem. The recognition of the problem is influenced by a range of factors, including the practitioner's level of experience and his/her values system. Often, a feeling of discomfort might arise for the practitioner, and it will be crucial to identify feelings and reactions that might influence understanding of the problem.

    Defining the problem is step 2. This consists of identifying the nature of the conflict and whether it stems from potential discrepancies between the code of ethics, laws, clinical issues, and agency guidelines. To the extent possible, the client should assist in defining the nature of the problem. Defining the problem also involves evaluating how the practitioner's and client's contextual factors (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, age, and other social variables) affect the situation. On the emotional-intuitive side, the practitioner should begin to examine his/her feelings of potential discomfort.

    Step 3 of the feminist ethical decision-making model is generating solutions. As various potential solutions are brainstormed, a cost-benefit analysis should also be conducted for each option. The risks and benefits should also be considered. The client should be involved to the fullest extent possible in the brainstorming and cost-benefit analysis. The emotional-intuitive component continues in this step, as the practitioner should reflect on initial reactions that arise with each option.

    The next step is selecting a solution. Practitioners should determine the solution that is the best fit both emotionally and rationally for both the client and him or herself. It should be a solution that meets everyone's needs, can be implemented, and is acceptable to both parties [37,165].

    Reviewing the process is step 5. In the review process, the practitioner should carefully consider how a solution was reached. Questions that may be helpful to this process include:

    • "Do I want to be treated in this manner?"

    • "How am I using my power?"

    • "To what extent am I comfortable in being transparent with others in the solution identified?"

    • "Does this feel right?"

    Implementing and evaluating the solution should be undertaken next. The plan will be implemented, and the consequences can be observed and noted. In some cases, new information comes to light and the problem will be redefined.

    The final step in the process is continuing reflection. The lessons learned from the experience should be reflected upon in order to be applied to future situations. Practitioners should determine what they would do differently, what they have learned, and how they have changed as a result of the decision [165].

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  20. In what ways are there parallels between feminism and multiculturalism?

    KEY CONTROVERSIES AND TRENDS

    Feminism and multiculturalism share many commonalities and roots. Both concepts grew out of social movements in the 1960s that challenged the established norms. Both recognize the marginalization and discrimination experienced by women and racial/ethnic minority groups and how this is reinforced and perpetuated by societal infrastructures, and both emphasize strength, human growth, and potential instead of pathology [55]. The client, rather than the clinician, is considered the expert in telling his/her story [103]. Because of their concerns with oppression and marginalization, counselors from both perspectives are entrenched in social advocacy work, fighting for justice and equality, and reducing disparities [103]. Despite sharing similar values and coming out of a shared history, these two philosophies have remained in their distinct spheres [55].

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  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.