Why gender matters in therapy
I went recently to a live recording of the Guilty Feminist podcast. A thousand seats filled by young women. The podcast has 150 million downloads and the charismatic presenter uses her platform to be funny, address issues and promote other women.
Deborah Francis White (presenter) passionately knocks male privilege and the sham of ‘balance’. As far as she is concerned we’re on a see-saw with an elephant (men) on one side and a mouse (women) on the other.
A good hypnotherapist will treat all clients as unique, will take a pick 'n' mix style of tools, techniques and theories and marinade them in experience, insight and instinct.
But while ‘gender therapy’ is a type of therapy, we don’t have it underpinning all the work we do. And why not?
We live under patriarchy; men hold the power. They set up the major religions, political structures and even codified the language (why else are most swear-words thrown at men, actually about their mothers or female genitalia!).
On a societal level, we’re in a system we didn’t create. We exclusively give birth, breast-feed and experience menopause which forces us to make different life choices to men. Every month, we get hormone riots that impact not just our body but our emotions.
Women face unique challenges, issues and choices throughout life that men don’t. So when I think about how to ‘do’ therapy I think we should not just give a ‘nod’ to gender but that gender should underpin it entirely.
Some books give a uniquely female perspective:
- The Female Brain which explains how we are physiologically so different,
- Inferior which shows how scientific research is skewered to help men (what happened to the male pill?).
- Lean In which you learn what it takes to be a successful woman.
- Women in Power gives a historical perspective.
- Work like a Woman reckons instead of ‘leaning in’ we need another system entirely.
Your hypnotherapist may consider asking how you specifically experience being a ‘woman’; this could be ask how you are on their periods, your desires (or not) to have kids, questions on how you view family, friends, society, and how you position yourself accordingly. So many clients come with a symptom, but as the hypnotherapist digs underneath for the cause, there is often a painful void. This void is identity.
Women suffering lack of identity, goes back a long time. I was brought up believing ‘woman’ (me) was created from a rib of Adam (my brothers). Apart from the insult (!) it permeates society; how many films show women to be the wife of… the mother of… the one-dimensional bit part to the main guy? How many adverts show a sexy girl (wanted by another) and an active man (independent, fulfilled)?
Women who feel their identity only in relation to another are divorced from their ‘self’. The result of this is crushing lack of confidence, low self-esteem, over-reliance on partner, anxiety and depression. These come up time and time again and thankfully, hypnotherapy is incredibly well equipped to deal with it.
Hypnotherapy tools can be used to question the narratives clients have given themselves, to dispute them, to re-build their beliefs into more useful ones and thereby build – bit by bit – their self-worth, confidence, independence and sense of self.
In hypnotherapy, we can look at women’s narratives and how its damaged their self-worth. We can re-fashion confidence, identity and their right to entitlement through solution focused techniques, CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) tools and Ericksonian permissive suggestions (which I love as it taps into our deep connection to story-telling).
I find women are far more likely than men to hold contradictory thoughts and parts therapy work helps us embrace this complexity. We are complex but that’s okay! We’re also clever, capable and we can give birth. If we’re the givers of life, aren’t we God? My daughter has spread THAT around the playground!
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About Elizabeth Knights-Trench
I spent years as a TV political reporter, before that I studied feminist philosophy under Germaine Greer; this combination makes me opinionated but also open for rigorous debate! As a therapist, I aim to build up women's self-esteem, confidence and sense of entitlement.