Empathy, Genuiness-And the Dynamics of Power- A Feminist Responds to Rogers - Psychotherapy Theory Research Practice Training 2007 Vol 44 No 3 257259

Empathy, Genuiness-And the Dynamics of Power- A Feminist Responds to Rogers

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EMPATHY, GENUINENESS—AND THE DYNAMICS OF POWER: A FEMINIST RESPONDS TO ROGERS LAURA S. BROWN Independent practice and Fremont Community Therapy Project Seattle, WA In this article, I discuss the points of convergence and divergence between Carl Rogers’ core constructs for ther- apy (Rogers, 1957) and the theories and practices of feminist therapy (Brown, 1994, 2007). The value of Rogers’ insights about the importance of the relationship in therapy is re- viewed, and the lacunae in his model arising from an inattention to issues of power and politics is discussed. Keywords: feminist psychotherapy, power, Carl Rogers In 1957, I was a child of five, four years away from figuring out that I wanted to be a psychol- ogist and 12 years away from first reading Carl Rogers as an undergraduate psychology major. Thus, when I entered the world of psychology, I entered a world already transformed by Rogers’ work. It is difficult for me to imagine the land- scape of psychotherapy as it existed before this document (Rogers, 1957), which I have long un- derstood to be central to the understanding of the process by which all psychotherapies are poten- tially effective. Rogers’ writing in this article can best be described as revolutionary, given his time and place. He moved the field of psychotherapy from a view of our clients as ill patients who required our expert ministrations to seeing them as whole persons in states of incongruence, pos- sessed of innate capacities for growth and change. His view of the therapist’s role was equally important to his subversion of psycho- therapy’s then-dominant psychoanalytic para- digm. The notion that a therapist not only could, but ought to, step out from behind the faux neu- trality of the psychoanalytic frame and be genu- inely present in the relationship is the basis for all of the work I have done as a writer, theoretician, and practitioner of psychotherapy. I am not alone in having been shaped by Rogers’ insights; the many generations of psychologists of my ac- quaintance who, like myself, began our doctoral education sitting in triad practices learning to demonstrate empathic active listening are his inheritors. I had not realized until the last few years how strongly I had been influenced by Rogers in my own work as a developer of feminist therapy theory because I went quickly in my own profes- sional development from reading Rogers to mov- ing away from humanistic psychologies into fem- inist practice. In 2002, when I was asked to redesign the basic skills course at the professional school where I then taught, which included the requirement that students demonstrate active lis- tening skills via a transcript and analysis of a taped session, I found myself reimmersed in the literature of person-centered therapies for the first time in 30 years, including this important article.
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