Healing Voices: Feminist Approaches to Therapy with Women

by Toni Ann Laidlaw, Cheryl Malmo and associates, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publisher, 1990 335pp., $22.95

Feminist therapy is both a philosophy of therapy as well as a method of doing therapy with women. Feminist therapists themselves often under-utilize the range of techniques and approaches available to them. This volume, then, edited by two Canadian therapists, fills a gap in the literature. It provides thirteen techniques that demonstrate how a therapist can take traditional techniques and methods and transform them to feminist purposes.

The book has a very creative and engaging format. Each author reviews the theoretical underpinnings of a given traditional technique, critiques it from a feminist point of view, and then reformulates the technique so that it is consistent with feminist theory, goals and practice. Ample case material is available to supplement the theory. Following each chapter, a client shares her own experiences of the technique. In this way, the volume is a living example of a basic tenet of feminist therapy: the client and the therapist are both viewed as experts of the clinical experience, and their voices are given equal weight.

The techniques are drawn primarily from experiential therapy, a nice counterbalance to other books’ important feminist work on other kinds of therapy (mostly object relations and family systems therapy). Techniques include hypnosis, touch therapy, storytelling and phototherapy. The major content of interest is sexual abuse, but there is also a focus on other clinical issues such as adult children of alcoholics, compulsive eating and working with the “inner child.”

This volume is written in straightforward, accessible language. Initially, I wished for more in-depth analysis. But as I read chapter after chapter, I realized that I was learning from the very structure of the book. Immersing myself in the stories of women therapists and clients who spoke about so many different issues in personal terms, I felt as if I was invited to move from my head to more experiential and metaphorical ways of working.

Michele Bograd on “Healing Voices: Feminist Approaches to Therapy with Women”