• Ciara Kelly

Feminist Therapy: An Approach for the Intersectional Identity

Therapy that doesn’t just speak to healing the past. Therapy that takes into account the social, economic, and political environment of the current moment. Therapy that understands trauma is not a thing of the past, but it is also the present and future. Some call this approach feminist therapy, but it is becoming a norm for many therapists in approaching minority mental health. It is about bringing intersections to light in a room where they may have been previously ignored, and AYANA is bringing this to the world of online therapy.

This form of psychotherapy is integrative, it focuses on the fact that as an individual people are facing biases, stereotypes, oppression, discrimination, and many other factors that actively effect one’s mental health. Confronting each part of one’s identity can allow for a clearer understanding of what is going on, regardless if that is the cause of depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness someone may be facing, it is most definitely a part of it.

The goal with this approach to therapy is to not only solve a mental problem, break down a wall, or find a way to talk about what is going on, but also about empowering the patient in understanding the social factors that are a part of who they are. This approach allows for people to see that there are other contributions to what they are feeling, but that it is so utterly important for them discover and claim their unique identity in this world, and build from that to improve their mental health. The modality itself can be considered a mix of both cognitive behavioral therapy and narrative therapy.

Minority mental health

Picture Tim, a gay, first generation Asian-American, struggling with coming out to his family, in his twenties, and struggling with anxiety. Without this feminist approach to therapy, the parts of this man’s identity that may be at the cusp of his anxiety could be ignored. But with a perspective that sees this man struggling with breaking the barriers of his traditional Asian culture, fearing rejection or disapproval from his family, while also navigating America as a young adult. It then becomes more obvious that there are factors that may be playing into the way this man views the world and what his options for help are.

Often times feminist therapy gives a new lens to a patient that they did not see before, that they are not only battling what is inside their head, but also the hurdles that society has put in front of them. It can often focus specifically on mental illnesses that society may have a great impact on, including treating eating disorders because of the societal standards for body size, or panic attacks that may be a result of having to suppress part of your identity to fit in. It is all about minority mental health and addressing that as part of someone’s identity. To encourage a relationship between therapist and patient that sheds light on the oppression one has faced, there are some key aspects that feminist therapy pays attention to:

  • Personal and political context of a person’s life

  • Commitment to creating change not only within oneself but also within the community

  • Valuing diverse perspectives in the therapeutic process

  • Create an egalitarian relationship between therapist and patient

  • A strength-focused approach- avoiding labels in order to highlight a person’s identity

  • Recognition of all types of oppression.

Each of these becomes an important role in creating a mindset that empowers a person whom society has previously marginalized. Some sessions with a feminist minded therapist may include more self-disclosure from the therapist, to provide a sense of safe space, possible power analysis that examines the way unequal power has impacted the patient’s ability to grow, and reframing ideas and perspectives in a patient’s mind to promote individuality.

AYANA and the Minority Approach

Marginalized groups deserve an approach to their mental health that understands where they come from and what they have faced, and that is what AYANA hopes to bring to the table. It is about finding each individual a match, highlighting every aspect of one’s diverse identity and celebrating that in online therapy. AYANA embodies the idea of feminist therapy that understands that someone cannot just heal, when oppression and barriers are still a part of the present and future. Linking a patient to some of the best therapists in the country that shares their unique traits, values, and sensibilities will allow for proper diagnosis and a greater path to mental wellness.

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