Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Divinity and Femininity Issues in Counseling

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Divinity and Femininity Issues in Counseling

Article excerpt

Abstract

A survey of 80 Christian women, on the effects of patriarchal Christianity on female role stereotypes, was conducted as part of a Spirituality in Counseling class. Results of that survey and the journal entries of Christian women indicated that, even though some women's attitudes and beliefs are not reflected in the traditional patriarchal church structure, language, and images, many women are experiencing difficulty imaging God as anything other than masculine. Effective cross-cultural counseling involves understanding an individual's worldview. Worldview is shaped by a number of interconnected parts including individual beliefs, which are often based on religious tenets and built around religious practice, including language and divine imagery. Understanding how religious culture influences self-image can be a powerful and necessary tool in effective cross-cultural counseling.

The need to be an effective cross-cultural counselor grows exponentially every year. Harper and McFadden (2003, p. XV) state:

   ... increased prevalence [of culture-centered counseling] has been
   driven mainly by the requirements of (1) counselor training
   accreditation groups, (2) counselor certification boards, and (3) a
   multicultural counseling competence movement as presently reflected
   in standards of professional associations.

Increasing cultural consideration requires diligence on the part of those who desire to practice counseling competently and ethically. Even for those clients who are the "same" as their counselor culturally, understanding an individual's worldview will help the professional enlist the most functional treatments on a case-by-case basis.

Worldview is shaped by a number of interconnected parts including individual beliefs, experiences, and personality. The origins of most cultures are based on religious tenets and are built around religious practice including language, divine imagery, church government, and ceremonial expression (Stone, 1978). According to Harper and McFadden (2003, p. 188), "current recommendations for multicultural counseling competencies ask counselors to be able to understand the concept of 'worldview' of the client, and, in many instances, this worldview may include qualities of spirituality, religion, and the transpersonal." Understanding how culture and spirituality influence the client can be a powerful and necessary tool in the counseling process.

Most of the major religions practiced today are patriarchal and favor the male gender over the female gender (Stone, 1978). A male-identified deity that is directly imaged by men through Jesus is typically at the core of Christian experience. Many women are struggling to find spiritual support in the patriarchal models of Christianity. As society progresses and changes, these models are less relevant to roles and needs of some women. Some women are beginning to look beyond the male-oriented past to a more feminine understanding of God. Other women experience difficulty imaging their God, as anything other than masculine, even though their needs are not being met in the traditional patriarchal church structure, language, and images (see The Survey).

Counselors addressing the spiritual issues of women must be aware of the complications arising from the mixture of culture, class and ethnicity which make the religious identification of women difficult and conflicted. There may be a need for the counselor to address client ambivalence between being committed to some, or even most, aspects of her religion, while also experiencing discomfort with doctrines that interfere with her self-image or relational functioning. Women are impacted by patriarchal religions. Religion helps define gender roles and the family unit and support, the male hierarchy in both the family and the church (Siegel, et al., 1995). Miller (2003, p.50) states

   ....patriarchal religions teach women to be silent, to be
   economically dependent, to avoid identification with the divine in
   a feminine, to be cooperative or to exhibit a peaceful manner, to
   prevent alliances with women different from themselves, to create
   negative stereotypes of others that are not a part of her religion,
   and to justify the control of her body by society. … 
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