Often I am asked why I chose to focus my psychotherapy practice on the support of self-identified women and girls, and I always appreciate the question because it prompts me to pause and consider my journey. The truth is, I didn’t think this is the work I would be doing in the world.
In fact, my previous experience in community mental health agencies had almost entirely focused on the emotional health of boys who were tangled up in foster care and/or juvenile justice systems, as well as facing extensive systematic oppression. It was humbling work that felt important, and I’d be remiss if I said I don’t miss it sometimes.
But in the last election cycle things shifted for me. Like all of you, I watched as an unqualified man spewed misogynistic and racist slurs, while admitting to sexual assault – and still he was elected as president.
I’ll spare you the play-by-play recap, but for me it was heartbreaking and enraging. In the weeks that followed it became clear to me that I wanted my practice to support the so-called nasty women and girls in the world. To provide a space for them to express, heal and cultivate resiliency, and to unapologetically become the fullest versions of themselves.
The opening of my private practice happened to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump and the Women’s March in late January 2017. I knew definitively that I wanted to work from an intersectional feminist therapy framework, which is psychotherapy speak for an approach that takes into account not only the personal experiences of clients, but also their unique social and political experiences.
While the field of psychotherapy has historically pathologized women (think: Hysteria), intersectional feminist therapy shifts the power balance by placing the client as the expert of her own experience, views the therapeutic relationship as collaborative and embraces a commitment to equality. This way of working feels natural to me, and revolutionary.
To be sure, the issues women and girls face existed long before the election of Donald Trump (as did the issues facing all marginalized people), and still in our lives we may have pivotal moments, whether they be casual conversations or historical events, that make our paths clear. For me, this was one of them.
Now a year and a half later, I can’t say that politically things are looking any better. This was a rough week for those of us that are worried about reproductive rights … or human rights for that matter, but I continue to hold the hope as I bare witness to stories of wounding, healing and resiliency.
I hope you will tell your own stories, listen to others and seek support when you need it. I am here. Others are here. These are not easy times, but we are strong and I believe we will persist.