Rethinking Gender and Therapy: The Changing Identities of Women

Rethinking Gender and Therapy: The Changing Identities of Women

Rethinking Gender and Therapy: The Changing Identities of Women

Rethinking Gender and Therapy: The Changing Identities of Women

Synopsis

• How can women forge an identity for themselves against the backdrop of changing definitions of gender and sexuality?

• What has psychoanalytic thought to offer understandings of gender development?

• Can therapists draw upon a fuller picture of women's internal and external influences?

Rethinking Gender and Therapy brings together the contributions of psychoanalytic theory and sociological analysis to explore the interrelationship between the inner and outer worlds which impact on a woman's identity.

How a woman's experience is depicted by and perceived by the society of which she is a part profoundly affects how she experiences herself. This book seeks to explore that dynamic in relation to key life stages (such as infancy, adolescence and older age) and in terms of key issues such as relationships, work and family.

Rethinking Gender and Therapy moves beyond those past divisions between psychotherapy and sociological, gender and cultural studies that have fractured our understanding of the development of a personal gender identity. Moreover, it helps therapists in their practices to draw upon a well-rounded and deeper analysis of women's inner and outer worlds.

This book is an important resource for all trainee and practising therapists and counsellors, for all students of gender, women's studies, counselling psychology, and psychotherapy, and for those involved in helping women across the caring professions.

Excerpt

Introduction

Susannah Izzard and Nicola Barden What is most important
is not whether the feminine is defined by
society or endemic to the person but whether or not women
themselves determine the content and the conclusions of those
definitions.

(Chittister 1998: 3)

Books on women abound in the libraries of sociological and psychological texts. There are books on women as client groups, as sociological phenomena, books on the specific issues that they face or represent in culture and society. There are psychoanalytic books on the female psyche, attempting to rework and resolve the tradition of women as the second sex, the 'other', the deviation from the norm which is male.

What we have set out to do in this book is to bring together the psychoanalytic and the sociological, the internal and the external, by seeking to explore the interplay between the two. How does the way a woman is regarded by society affect how she experiences herself in relation to that society, and how does that experience in turn impact on her conception of her own identity, how she regards herself? We know that we need to 'belong', to feel we 'fit' – whether we are men or women – so we wished to explore what it is that is presented to women as 'that into which they must fit' in order to feel that they are recognizably Female. We also wished to think about what happens to a woman's identity when she feels outside of that 'fit' – when she cannot see herself mirrored in the images that society presents to her of 'Woman'. How does our society constrain women into or release them from narrow definitions and what part does psychoanalytic theory and practice play in such constraining or releasing?

Our thinking about the book was to include particular stages during a woman's life and particular aspects of her life in the world, and to ask . . .

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