Counseling Women: Feminist Perspectives and Contextual Action Theory



The field of psychotherapy has been greatly influenced by feminist thought over the past 50 years. Many of these ideas and practices are now deeply embedded in clinical practice, including egalitarian counselor/client relationships, empowerment and advocacy, the influence of systems and structures on individuals, and relational perspectives. Newer theoretical advances, specifically Contextual Action Theory (CAT), could be used as a meta-theory to further advance feminist counseling with women. In particular, CAT is a comprehensive perspective that provides an overriding framework, in which to better understand how context, relationships, and action influence women clients in therapy and in their everyday lives. CAT can be used as a way to examine the “actions,” “projects,” and “careers” of issues that women might bring to counseling.

The key commonality between the three clinical vignettes offered in this chapter is the focus on relationships and actions with key others. In each case, the women were stuck in negative and disempowering relational dynamics that caused significant psychological distress and impaired their ability to live fully and joyfully. Both CAT and feminist theories taken together provided a way to conceptualize how all three women were influenced by the larger systemic influences dictating women’s roles, emotions, and ways of being in relationships. However, one unique aspect of CAT, among many, is how individual and joint actions between people create meaning over time, resulting in a variety of projects, such as the “mother-daughter project” or “the health project.” Taken together, these projects, like building blocks, form the basis of longer-term “careers,” which can be examined by unpacking the embedded individual and joint actions and projects. Overall, CAT can be used to enhance and extend feminist therapies and ways of working with women clients.


Childhood Sexual Abuse Joint Action Action Theory Feminist Theory Borderline Personality Disorder 
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© Springer New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies, Faculty of EducationUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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