Comparing Person Centred Therapy and Feminist Therapy

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PERSON CENTRED THERAPY AND FEMINIST THERAPY

In looking at comparing person centred therapy with feminist perspectives I first thought that they were quite similar. However, with further research I discovered that in fact they are quite different approaches to therapy. In this essay I will compare and contrast both of these approaches to therapy. I will pay particular attention to key concepts, therapeutic goals, theory of change, the therapeutic relationship and situations where the therapies are appropriate and also inappropriate.

Key concepts

One of key concepts of person centred therapy is the belief that the client has the ability to become aware of their own problems and has the inherent means to resolve them. In this sense, the client directs themselves (Corey, 1996). This differs from feminist therapy in that the counsellor may take an active role in educating the client as to the source of the problems and although feminist therapist believe that a client makes their own decisions and chooses their own direction, feminist therapists believe that education may be required in order to give clients the skills to resolve problems. Clients may be referred to other services.

Person centred therapy is based around discrepancy between one's ‘ideal self' and ‘real self' ie. the discrepancy between what one wants to be and what one is. This is not so dissimilar to feminist therapy however, while person centred therapy concentrates on a personal journey, feminist therapy is centred around the "belief that society and the person are inextricably linked and awareness of oppressive forces of society are necessary in order to move toward a more ideal way of being" (Fook, 1993). Social context and oppression (particularly women but also other diverse groups) are a key concept of FT.

Both therapies acknowledge the key social work principle as outlined in AASW Code of Ethics (1999) of respecting human dignity and worth. In PCT this is in the concept of respecting everybody's individual uniqueness and experience of the world. In FT this is also true, but central to this is the awareness of the systematic oppression of women created by patriarchal and sexist social structures that impact on women and their sense of worth in our society. Feminist therapy goes further in their ethical practice to include other characteristics of diversity such as race, and class. Further, central to the concept of FT is the need to activate for social change as identified as the 2nd main principle outlined by the AASW Code of Ethics (1999). Not only is it important for women to overcome the problems caused by systematic oppression, but it is in fact, key to many feminist therapists that within the therapeutic environment they promote the need for social change. This is something that is not tackled by PCT. Indeed, PCT concentrates solely on the client-counsellor relationship and the internal process of self-actualisation.

Herein lies another difference. While PCT concentrates on the discrepancy between ideal self and real self, FT holds that the personal is political, and for women to become empowered, awareness needs to made of the social discrimination contributing to their position. That is, FT looks at the person in relation to their environment and believes that this is a major failing of traditional therapies (Chaplin, 1999). PCT concentrates on the individual and does not go into the political arena. In this sense, FT hold that they have an educative role in bringing to awareness the gender discrimination embedded in social structures. Through this, clients can overcome social limitations and thus enabling personal liberation (Ivey, 2002). This is done through consciousness raising and encouraging women to put that awareness into practice (Chaplin, 1999; Fook, 1986). PCT is not educative in the sense that through reflection and personal exploration a person will come to their own awareness and self...
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