Political Assumptions of Feminist Counseling
1) The woman caller/ client/ patient/group member is an equal who may not be functioning as such at the moment she seeks help but could. She has as much intrinsic worth as the woman helper/teacher/therapist/counselor/group leader.
2) It is the common experience of growing up as girls and women from which we draw our consciousness of ourselves as women and as disadvantaged. It is the sharing of those insights and experiences that raises our consciousness of ourselves as part of a group oppressed. The availability of this personal life experience to share is a political reason favouring women counselors to women violently victimized by men and to favour mutual peer support in groups over individual counseling.
3) Counseling women who do not yet have an option to refuse that counsel, who do not have physical safety and security, women who do not have food and housing for themselves and their dependents is always unacceptable and inappropriate.
4) Protection and confidentiality of the records of women’s conversations, self doubts, and self blame are essential and applies to conversations with themselves in journals, and diaries, with each other in groups and projects and with counselors..
5) Emotional turmoil, unhappiness and symptoms are signs of distress or discontent, not of illness or personal pathology. The major causes or origins of this turmoil are external: our socialization, exploitation in relationships at home and at work, unequal opportunities, oppressive financial and political circumstances
The role of feminist counselors is at least:
a) To help to identify the external not just internal patriarchal forces currently holding us back;
b) To teach skills and develop strategies for dealing with these;
c) And to provide support for experiencing and expressing the feelings that result from our current situations and attempts to get personal and political change.
d) It is important to acknowledge that to raise one’s consciousness is not enough to bring about social change on any level. CR as practiced by feminists requires the integration of thought with action: that is CR is the praxis of theory and practice.
6) Not only are women oppressed, the fact we are oppressed is masked or hidden, which leads to confusion and inappropriate self-blame. Information about the conditions of women, consciousness raising or increased awareness is therefore healing/therapeutic.
7) The psychological oppression of women is the result of exploitation of emotional resources. Women are trained to give more than we receive which in energy terms, is depleting or exhausting.
8) Women are further oppressed psychologically by the simultaneous training to develop and engage in behaviours that serve others (warmth, nurturance, support, flexibility, understanding) while foregoing the development of (or refraining from using) behaviours and characteristics that would increase our own effectiveness in the world (autonomy, self direction, initiative, drive, perseverance, identifying and grouping with women). This helps to render us dependent and to ensure our subordination.
9) Traditional female behaviours are of enormous importance and value. They are underappreciated until they are withheld or withdrawn. We need to extend them to ourselves and to other women rather than giving them to men and children exclusively.
10) Effective human functioning requires expanded behaviour repertoires. We need to learn whatever behaviours and feelings we are missing. Women generally need to demand more and teach those around us to be more supportive.
11) Creative energies and untapped potential need expression. Holding in, holding on, and holding back are major behaviours that women need to change.
12) While women are not to blame for the situation we find ourselves in, we are responsible for our own change. We must be the ones to identify the ways if any in which we can make ourselves less available for victimization and to do so, change any necessary internalized patterns of behaviour.
13) Sharing knowledge, skills and perceptions is therapeutically effective. Knowledge brings power and should not be withheld on any claim of expertise.
14) There are individual differences in knowledge, awareness, culture, consciousness, intelligence, creative ability. We need not deny these or falsely equalize. We can recognize each other’s authority in different areas without treating some people as intrinsically better than others.
15) There are group differences between women of power and oppression such as class and race differences that must be recognized and attended (differences in approach such as pro working class and anti-white supremacy affirmative action strategies in leadership positions)
16)Cooperative uses of power are more effective and more fulfilling than competitive uses of power.
17)Constructive criticism and feedback is more useful than unconditional support.