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SOWK 5801: FEMINIST PRACTICE WITH INDIVIDUALS,
COUPLES AND FAMILIES
School of Social Work, Carleton University
By appointment (please contact me by email)
Feminist counseling is a radical, revolutionary way of thinking about and working with women.
It is not a technique or a series of techniques but rather an approach that rests within an explicit
theoretical framework. The social worker acknowledges the oppression of women at the core of
her practice. A feminist approach refuses to blame the victim or to define women’s personal
struggles in terms of individual pathology. Women’s pain and distress are redefined in relation to
the society that has shaped them. Individual struggles are explicitly connected to the collective
experience of all women. Feminist counseling is a form of political action, subverting social
arrangements characterized by oppressive imbalances of power. The feminist counselor
recognizes how systemic racism, classism, ableism and heterosexism intersect to further
subjugate women. The underlying assumption of the feminist approach is that, given support,
options and a critical lens through which to view their experience, women can begin to
understand and take control of their lives. The central goal is to empower women, helping them
become advocates for change both in their own lives and in the social values and structures that
promote gender inequality and violence.
This course is designed to teach students how to apply a feminist framework in their social work
practice. The focus of learning will be to increase understanding of how gender-based oppression
plays out in women’s daily lives and to explore concrete ways of working that empower women
by connecting feminist theory to practice and the personal to the political. The readings are a
lively mix ranging from classics of feminist literature to key texts on feminist therapy. The class
itself will be experiential. We will examine how our practice as feminist social workers grows
from our personal values, worldview and understanding of what is happening to create people’s
experience. We will explore ways of making the client-social worker connection egalitarian,
authentic and empowering, and how to connect our own lives with the lives of the women we
see. We will examine the problem of diagnosis, ethics in feminist practice and will learn how to
critique our own work and lives. We will do some exploration of couples counseling and
consider how a feminist approach might work with men, children and families. We will examine
ways to be proactively antiracist and politically active in our practice.
We live in an allegedly postfeminist era. How is it, then, that in every culture, across class, race
and ethnicity, women’s lives continue to be circumscribed by institutionalized sexism, and
women in every country are subjected to high levels of threat, violence and coercion in intimate
relationships? How is it that women’s inevitable responses to emotional, physical and sexual
abuse are still very often pathologized by medical, mental health and child welfare practices?
How is it that revictmization by police and courts remains commonplace? How is it that subtler
forms of oppression are still routinely overlooked by persons in the helping professions, and that
women are often encouraged to adapt to, rather than resist, oppressive, subordinate roles? Lack
of in-depth knowledge of the prevalence and dynamics of patriarchal oppression is a barrier to
offering appropriate assistance to women, compounding their so-called “mental health problems”
and often further jeopardizing their safety.
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
Recognize the profound effect of gender-based oppression in women’s daily lives
Reflect critically on women’s problems and struggles in relation to the society that has
Work within a feminist framework, keeping women at the core of practice
Articulate the connection between the personal and the political so that it becomes visible
Think creatively about how to incorporate social action into social work practice
Recognize feminism as a powerful, creative force for personal and political transformation
Brown, Laura S., Subversive Dialogues: Theory in Feminist Therapy
Books, 1994. Available at Octopus Books, 116 Third Ave.
READINGS AVAILABLE ON-LINE THROUGH ARES, accessed through CuLearn
Combahee River Collective, “A Black Feminist Statement” (1977)
Farley, Melissa, Prostitution, Trafficking and Traumatic Stress
, New York: The Haworth
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, The Yellow Wallpaper
(1892), The Feminist Press, New York,
Glaspell, Susan, A Jury of Her Peers
Healy, David, Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the
Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression
, James Lorimer, Toronto, 2003
Jensen, Robert, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity
, South End Press,
Marvin, Caroline and Dusty Miller, Couples on the Fault Line: New Directions for
(Ed.) Peggy Papp, New York: The Guilford Press, 2000
McClung, Nellie L., In Times Like These (
1915), University of Toronto Press, 1972
Mainardi, Pat, “The Politics of Housework”, 1971
Overall, Christine, “What’s Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work”, Signs.
Summer 1992, Volume 17. No. 4. pp 705-724
Rabin, Claire Low, Understanding Gender and Culture in the Helping Professions:
Practitioners Narratives From Global Perspectives,
Rabin, Claire Low, Equal Partners-Good Friends: Empowering Couples Through
Stoltenberg, John, Refusing to Be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice,
Syfers, Judy, “Why I Want a Wife”, 1971
ASSIGNMENTS AND MARKING
• Weekly Journal (40%)
10 entries, due beginning of each class starting September 12, 2013. No entry required for last 2
classes. A central principle of the feminist approach is that counselor and client are equal
partners in the struggle for social justice for women. The effectiveness of the counselor is related
to her/his awareness of, and ability to articulate, how gender and power intersect in her/his own
life. Each week please write a 1-page entry (12 point font, single spaced) connecting your experience to the previous
week’s readings and class discussion. Number your entries from #1 to #10. On September 12th you will hand in Journal #1, which will be your thoughts on the introductory class and discussion. Journal #2 will be based on the readings and discussion for Week 2.and so on. The journals will be marked out of 4, with a .5 penalty for each day the entry is late. • Integrative Paper or
Class Presentation or
Activist Project (50%)
The integrative paper
is due the final class, December 5. It is expected to be 15-20 double-spaced pages and deal with an issue related to feminist practice. It should incorporate themes of the course, which you may explore in terms of your own life and work. This is an academic paper requiring research, footnotes and bibliography. The use of the personal “I” is not only accepted but encouraged. (For an example of a student paper that effectively combines the personal and political, see “Assent and You are Sane: My Grandmother’s Story of Forced Institutionalization” by J.D., 2011, in “Readings for Week 4”.) Class presentations
should develop the week’s topic. They may be made individually or in small groups and will take place starting Week Six. Each
student must submit along with her/his presentation a 2-5 page synthesis of learnings. Please include references. The activist project
should address the central tenet that feminist counseling does not end at the door of the counselor’s office; change must take place simultaneously in oppressive social arrangements and imbalances of power that give rise to people’s problems. Organize a campaign or action on campus to raise awareness and promote social change on an issue pertaining to women’s status and well-being. The project should connect to and develop the course themes and readings. You are encouraged to work in groups. Each
student must submit a short paper (5-10 pages; include references) explaining the rationale, implementation, and outcome of the project. • Class Participation (10%) This is an advanced graduate seminar organized around the idea that we are building new knowledge about theory and practice. The expectation is that you will arrive on time having read the material and with discussion points you are prepared to contribute, and that you will participate in promoting an egalitarian classroom conducive to learning. Please advise me by email if you are required to miss a class.
Week 1/September 5 Introductions, course objectives, administration. Fundamentals of
feminist ways of working. The feminist classroom.
Week 2/September 12 Traditional approaches to helping: a critique. Why a feminist
approach remains relevant.
What is happening to shape women’s experience in the year 2013? The personal and political assumptions underlying conventional practice. Why mainstream approaches are potentially harmful when it comes to addressing women’s problems and concerns. How is feminist counseling a radical act? Readings:
Brown, Laura, “Toward a Subversive Dialogue with the Reader”, Subversive Dialogues:
Theory in Feminist Therapy
, Basic Books, 1994, pp 1-46.
·Chesler, Phyllis, “Women in Asylums: Four Lives”, Women and Madness
, Avon Books,
·Chelser, Phyllis, “2005 Introduction”, Women and Madness
-30th Anniversary Edition,
·Levine, Helen with Schneider, Faith, “Fanning Fires: Women’s Studies in a School of
Social Work”, Minds of Our Own. Inventing Feminist Scholarship and Women’s Studies in Canada and Quebec, 1966-1976
, Wendy Robbins, Meg Luxton, Margrit Eichler and Francine Descarries (Eds.), Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008, pp 54-60.
·No More Miss America! (1968), Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global
, Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim (Eds.), Routledge, 2003, pp 80-82.
Week 3/September 19 The client-social worker relationship
How does change occur in the counseling relationship? Exploring mutuality, authenticity, self-
disclosure, vulnerability, connection, and power.
·Brown, Laura, “The Relationship in Feminist Therapy”, Subversive Dialogues
·Levine, Helen, “The Personal is Political: Feminism and the Helping Professions”,
Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to Politics
, Geraldine Finn and Angela Miles (Eds.), Black Rose Books, 1982, pp 175-209.
·Miller, Jean Baker, “Strengths”, Toward a New Psychology of Women,
·Rich, Adrienne, “On History, Illiteracy, Passivity, Violence, and Women’s Culture”,
Lies, Secrets and Silence
, W.W. Norton, 1979, pp 9-18.
Week 4/September 26 The problem with diagnosis
Understanding pain, distress and depression from a feminist perspective. Diagnosing the
situation, not the woman. What is the origin of women’s anger, guilt, fear, conflict and
dependence? What are the connections with family, work, wifehood, motherhood, poverty,
racism, aging and sexuality? Locating and validating anger. Suicide and sadness.
·Brown, Laura, “Naming the Pain: Diagnosis and Distress”, Subversive Dialogues,
·Brownmiller, Susan, Femininity
, Fawcett Columbine, 1984, pp 11-19.
·Herman, Judith, “A New Diagnosis”, Trauma and Recovery,
Basic Books, 1997, pp
·Rickles, Nathan, “The Angry Woman Syndrome”, Archives of General Psychiatry
·Kaplan, A., et al., “Women and Anger in Psychotherapy”, Women Changing Therapy
Joan Hammerman Robbins and Rachel Josefowitz Siegel (Eds.), Harrington Park Press, 1985, pp 29-40.
·J.D., “Assent and You Are Sane: My Grandmother’s Story of Forced
Institutionalization”, Integrative Assignment, SOWK 5801, Carleton University, 2011, pp. 3-12.
3 A conversation with Helen Levine
In 1980 Helen Levine taught the first feminist counseling course at the Carleton School of Social
Work. She has published numerous articles on feminist counseling, motherhood, psychiatry and
·Levine, Helen, “Feminist Counseling: A Woman-Centered Approach”, Women, Work
, Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Research Foundation, 1989, pp 227-252.
· ·Dosanjh, Raminder, “If We Save Even One Woman”, Bringing It Home: Women Talk
About Feminism in Their Lives,
Brenda Lea Brown (Ed.), Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1996, pp 62-75.
·McClung, Nellie L., “Should women think?”, In Times Like These
, McLeod and Allen
Week 6/Ocotber10 Working with women who have been battered
How can the social worker be proactive and effective in helping women confront control and
violence in their intimate relationships? What are the key dynamics to keep in mind? Leading a
woman through the process of liberation: breaking the silence, sharing feelings and concerns,
analyzing (who is doing what to whom, and why?), contextualizing, strategizing, and acting.
Martin, Del, “A Letter From a Battered Wife,” Battered Wives,
Pocket Books, 1977, pp
·Herman, Judith, “The Combat Neurosis of the Sex War”, Trauma and Recovery,
·Romito, Patrizia, “Introduction”, A Deafening Silence: Hidden Violence Against Women
The Policy Press, 2008, pp. 1-10.
·Lewis, Stephen, Foreword to The War on Women
, Brian Vallee, Key Porter Books,
·Stoltenberg, John, “Preface” and “Battery and the Will to Freedom: An address to a
conference on counseling men who batter”, Refusing to Be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice
, New York: Meridian, 1989, p.1-5 and 199-204.
·MacKinnon, Catherine, “Human Rights and Global Violence Against Women,” Are
Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
, Belknap Harvard Press, 2007, pp 28-33.
·MacKinnon, Catherine, “Are Women Human?”, Are Women Human? And Other
, Belknap Harvard Press, 2007, pp 41-43.
·Burstow, Bonnie, ‘Toward a radical understanding of trauma and trauma work’,
Violence Against Women
, Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2003, pp 1293-1317.
· Stark, Evan, “Gender Entrapment” and “It’s the Men, Dummy”, Coercive Control:
HowMen Entrap Women in Personal Life
, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 129-132.
·McEvoy, Maureen and Ziegler, Maggie, “Feminist Trauma Intervention”, Best Practices
Manual for Stopping the Violence Counseling Programs in British Columbia,
2006, 2.4.2, pp. 16-30.
Week 7/October 17 The power of women coming together in groups
When are groups useful? What is the role of the facilitator? How is power shared? Peer-support,
social action groups and a concurrent model for mothers and children will be explored.
Women whose children have committed suicide will speak about how coming
together with other mothers helped them cope with profound trauma and loss.
·Allen, Pamela, “Freespace”, Radical Feminism
, Anne Koedt, Ellen Levine, Anita
Rapone (Eds), Quadrangle Books, New York, 1973, pp 271-279.
·Caplan, Paula J., “Mother-Blaming”, Don’t Blame Mother
, Harper and Row, pp 39-67.
·Levine, Helen and Estable, Alma, “On Guilt, Anger and Self-Blame”, The Power
Politics of Motherhood: A Feminist Critique of Theory and Practice
, Occasional Paper, Centre for Social Welfare Studies, Carleton University, 1981, pp 31-36.
·Johnson, D. with Helen Levine, “Creating a Space for Mothers Who Have Lost a Child
Through Suicide”, Moms Gone Mad: Motherhood and Madness, Oppression and Resistance
, Gina Wong (Ed.), Demeter Press, 2012, pp. 185-194.
Week 8/October 24 Working with women who have been raped
The current social context for rape. The lack of adequate justice system response. How does a
“legitimate” rape victim act? Exploring our own conceptions about how a woman should behave
when facing sexual violence or coercion. How does the feminist counselor help a woman prepare
for the revictimization she may well face from police, courts and community?
·Doe, Jane, “Why Men Rape”, The Story of Jane Doe,
Vintage Canada, 2004, pp
·Doe, Jane, “Still and Always a Feminist”, The Story of Jane Doe
, Vintage Canada, 2004,
·Griffin, Susan, “Rape: The All-American Crime”, in Women: A Feminist Perspective,
Freeman, (Ed.), Harper and Row, Mayfield, 1975, pp 24-39.
·Johnson, Donna F., “Out of the icy water: Regina vs. Douglas X”, Canadian Journal of
Woman and the Law: The Legalization of Responses to Violence Against Women
[October 31/Fall Break-No Class]
Week 9/November 7 Prostitution, freedom, coercion
Feminists are divided over the issue of prostitution. While we debate the issue intellectually,
women who have been involved in sex work appear in our offices suffering deep emotional
wounds. How are we to help women make sense of this trauma?
Film: Lamont, Eve, “L’Imposture: La Prostitution Mise à Nu”,
Les Productions du
Rapide-Blanc, Inc., 2010. “A burning documentary about the sex industry in Quebec,
producer Eve Lamont speaks for women who have very little chance to speak.”
·Jensen, Robert, “A Pornographic World (What is Normal?)”, Getting Off: Pornography
and the End of Masculinity,
New York: Barnes and Noble, 2007, pp 37-50.
·Jeffreys, Sheila, “Pornochic: Prostitution constructs beauty”, Beauty and Misogyny
·Farley, Melissa, “Prostitution, Trafficking and Cultural Amnesia: What We Must Not
Know in Order to Keep the Business of Sexual Exploitation Running Smoothly”, Yale Journal of Law and Feminism,
Vol. 18 (
2006): pp 1-4.
· ·Lee, Taylor, “In and Out: A Survivor’s Memoir of Stripping”, Not For Sale: Feminists
Resisting Prostitution and Pornography,
Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant (Eds.), Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2004, pp 56-63.
·Carter, Vednita, “Prostitution and the New Slavery”, Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting
Prostitution and Pornography
, Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant (Eds.), Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2004, pp 85-88.
·Farley, Melissa, “Bad for the Body, Bad for the Heart: Prostitution Harms Women Even
if Legalized or Decriminalized”, Violence Against Women,
Vol. 10 No. 10 (2004): pp 1087-1125.
Week 10/November 14 Antiracism as an ethical imperative for the feminist practitioner
Feminist counseling theory as an integrated analysis of oppression. The personal is political, but the personal is an intersection of identities and locations. Integrating multi-cultural perspectives. The feminist counselor as “ethical activist” (Brown). Can the counselor challenge harmful practices across cultures without undermining cultural diversity or being racist? What is harmful anyway? Who gets to say?
·Brown, Laura, “Theorizing From Diversity”, Subversive Dialogues
, Chapter 3, pp 69-91.
·Rushin, Donna Kate, “The Bridge Poem”, Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global
Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim (Eds.), Routledge, 2003, pp 172-173.
·Hirsi Ali, Ayaan, “Dishonor, Death and Feminists”, Nomad,
Toronto: Knopf , 2010, pp
·Taylor, Pamela K., “I Just Want to Be Me: Issues in Identity for One American Muslim
Woman”, The Veil: Woman Writers on History, Lore and Politics,
Jennifer Heath (Ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, pp 119-136.
·McEvoy, Maureen and Ziegler, Maggie, “Diversity and Oppression”, Best Practices
Manual for Stopping the Violence Counseling Programs in B. C., 2006, 2.4.2, pp 30-38.
Week 11/November 21 Feminist approaches to working with couples and families
The family as a key site of the oppression of women. The relationship between inequality in
marriage and marital distress. Targeting sex-role attitudes and behaviors as a central goal of
feminist counseling. Equalizing power.
·Brown, Laura, “The Master’s Tools: The Dilemma of Dealing With Patriarchy”,
, Chapter 7, pp 178-199.
·Parker, Lynn, “The unequal bargain: power issues in couples therapy”, Journal of
Feminist Family Therapy
, Vol. 10 (3), 1998, pp 17-39.
·Vecchio, Del and Dolan, Ken, “Dismantling White Male Privilege within Family
Therapy”, Re-Visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture and Gender in Clinical Practice,
Monica McGoldrich (Ed.), Guilford Press, 1998, pp 159-175.
·Dominelli, Lena, “Working with Children and Families”, Feminist Social Work Theory
, Palgrave, 2002, pp 105-124.
Week 12/November 28 Feminist Practice and Social Action
·Brown, Laura, “Emerging from the Wilderness”, Subversive Dialogues
, Chapter 9, pp
·Pitts, Claudia, Margolies, Liz, Leeder, Elaine, “Ethics and Activism: Application”,
Feminist Therapy Theory and Practice: A Contemporary Perspective
, Ballou, Hill, West, (Eds.), Springer, 2008, pp 127-134.
Week 13/December 5 Review
This final class will also deal with the importance of endings in our work. Final Paper Due
Students at Carleton University have a clear set of rights and responsibilities that can be found at
in the school of social work are expected to behave in accordance with this document.
In addition, social work is a profession, meaning that social workers are educated to exercise
judgement in the face of complex and competing interests and claims (CASW, 2005). The
educational programs of the School of Social Work at Carleton University have been developed
to prepare students to become members of the social work profession. As such, students must
conduct themselves in a professional manner both in class and in the community. This means
that students must be familiar with and adhere to the CASW Code of Ethics. They must also treat
everyone in the school including staff, professors, field supervisors, and each other
The rights and responsibilities document and the code of ethics outline, among other things, the
foundation upon which we have developed processes to deal with conflict. If conflicts arise, it is
expected that people will address their concerns or complaints directly with the people involved
in a constructive and respectful manner. If the conflict cannot be resolved at this level, only then
would it be appropriate to involve the graduate supervisor who will either deal with the situation
or refer it on to the most appropriate person in the university. At no time would it be acceptable
to post details of the concerns on-line or on a social media website. ACCOMMODATION
Students with disabilities requiring academic accommodations in this course are encouraged to
contact a coordinator at the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities to complete the
necessary letters of accommodation
. After registering with PMC, make an appointment to meet
and discuss your needs at least two weeks prior to the first in-class test or midterm exam. This is
necessary in order to ensure sufficient time to make the necessary arrangements.
The Senate of the University has enacted the following regulations for instructional offences:
Any student commits an instructional offence who:
1. cheats on an examination, test, or graded assignment by obtaining or producing an answer by
deceit, fraud or trickery, or by some act contrary to the rules of the examination;
2. submits substantially the same piece of work to two or more courses without the prior written
permission of the instructors from all courses involved. Minor modifications and amendments,
such as changes of phraseology in an essay or paper, do not constitute a significant and
acceptable reworking of an assignment;
3. contravenes the regulations published at an examination or which are displayed on the reverse
side of a properly authorized examination booklet;
4. commits an act of plagiarism (which for the purpose of this regulation shall mean to use and
pass off as one's own idea or product work of another without expressly giving credit to another);
5. disrupts a class or other period of instruction if he or she:
a) is a registered member of the class or period of instruction;
b) is warned to discontinue any act or behaviour reasonably judged by the instructor of the
course or period of instruction to be detrimental to the class, and having ignored such warning is
ordered by the instructor to leave and refuses to leave.
Any student found in violation of these regulations may be:
b. suspended from all studies at the University;
c. suspended from full-time studies; and/or:
d. awarded a reprimand;
e. refused permission to continue or to register in a specific degree program but subject to having
met all academic requirements shall be permitted to register and continue in some other program;
f. placed on Academic Warning;
g. awarded an F or Abs in a course or examination.
Allegations of instructional offense may be investigated by instructors and/or departmental
chairs and, in all cases, will be reported to the faculty Dean. The Dean will promptly advise, in
writing, the student and the University Ombudsperson of the allegation and of the student's
rights. The Dean will review the allegation and, if not resolved at that level, the allegation
becomes subject to final disposition by a tribunal appointed by the Senate. Information about
procedure governing tribunals is available from the Clerk of Senate, 607 Robertson Hall.
Allegations of Instructional Offense involving students participating in the Carleton/University
of Ottawa Exchange program will be investigated according to procedures established at the host institution. The results of such investigations will be forwarded to the home institution for final disposition. Donna F. Johnson Fall 2013
Position Paper: Closing The Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule Co-payment Measure (CTG PBS Co-payment) – Improving access to Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule Medicines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Background The cost of medicines is a significant barrier to improving access to medicines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Despite two to th
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