Feminist Counseling aka Feminist Therapy

Remember when I wrote about the analogy of counselling being like a favourite pair of jeans? No. Well, here is my previous post called “Counselling.” I talk about how a previous counsellor once told me that counselling is like a favourite pair of jeans. If you ever had a favourite pair of jeans, you would know what I am talking about.

Only about a year ago, I also started a new form of counselling. It was referred to as “feminist couneslling.” I know sometimes people flinch at the very sight or sound of the word “feminist.” I have even met some people who have asked me “Are you a feminist?” I simply answer, “Sure, I believe in equality for everyone.” That is what feminism to me, equality for everyone.

So when I heard that I was a part of this thing I never even heard of before called “feminist counselling” I will admit, I kind of flinched. However, I didn’t flinch because I don’t like the word feminist/feminism. I flinched because I don’t like trying new things when it comes to such a huge commitment like counseling, and I also didn’t think that a thing could exist for me and that being a new technique when it came to counseling.

Since the age of about 13 I had seen countless counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists…whatever you want to call them or their technique–I’ve probably seen it and heard it all. It was very frustrating by the time I was 18 years old. I was tired of it all. Eventually, I just gave up. I learned how to deal with things on my own. I learned what to say in order to get what I want. I learned what to say to get out of situations I ended up in. Sure, call that manipulative but it was the only way to survive. It was the only thing I thought I had and that being: my word.

I had really bad anxiety attacks from about the age of 18 years. I used to know how to get the medication that “worked” for me. The problem with that was the medication was a short term fix. Some of these attacks were so bad that I couldn’t move. I remember when I used to hear people talk about “not being able to move” when they had an attack, I thought “Oh, that couldn’t happen to me.” Then, it happened to me. I was supposed to be heading back home but when I got in the cab I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get out of the moving car (because well, it was moving), the car was closing in on me, I tried to open the windows but I couldn’t move my arms or my hands or my fingers. I just cried and tried to tell the cabbie to bring me to the hospital. That was the last major anxiety attack (I have had ones much less severe since then but have since learned techniques to control them or prevent them without the use of medication). The problem with medications is that they don’t really get to the root of the problem. A quick fix. Sure they work for some, that is great but they never really worked for me. I didn’t feel like I was myself taking them.

When I started the “feminist counseling,” I was kind of not interested but I wanted it to work. I hoped it would to work. I hope it would work because I was literally being as open and honest as I could about everything. I didn’t say things to make the other person happy or didn’t make up feelings or emotions to make the other person feel at ease. I was honest about everything.

What is different about this approach is that is acknowledges that I am a person, an individual. I am not weak. I am empowered. I am encouraged. My feelings are not diminished to a medication or a diagnosis. My choices are not belittled whether they be good or bad. I am given options. I am not given ultimatums.

Probably the most significant difference in comparison to another professional I had seen had been the instance where he had put me on a medication to help me sleep and calm my anxiety attacks. This medication, much like similar medications, had the potential to be addictive. I told him I didn’t want anything addictive. He told me, “Well this is all [I] had. Medication or none.” He didn’t help me with calming or grounding techniques. He gave me an ultimatum. Then a few months after being on this medication, I started to feel weird. I started to have thoughts of wanting to die. I don’t know why. My life was great or well as great as it could be. I was in school and actually working at a big law firm in downtown Toronto. That’s good right? Why would I have thoughts of wanting to die? I told him this. He didn’t really help me work this out. Then a week later, I tried to kill myself. I obviously didn’t die. I went back to him and told him. He asked me why I did that. I told him I didn’t know why because I don’t know why I was having these feelings. He again didn’t help with what was going on. He blamed me and said basically held a “hand gun” to his temple and said to me, “You just walk around your whole life saying I am going to kill myself if you are not my friend.” I got up and left. Crying.

I never went back to him. I never dealt with what was going on but what I did find out was that the medication he put me on had a side effect of “increased suicidal ideation” in young adults. Being 22 years old, I was considered a young adult. I told him that I had these feelings but I didn’t know why. He obviously didn’t know either.

What’s difference with the “feminist counseling”? Well, that’s just it: I am not blamed. Belittled. Brushed aside. I am, as I said before: I am empowered. I am encouraged. My feelings are not diminished to a medication or a diagnosis. My choices are not belittled whether they be good or bad. I am given options. I am not given ultimatums.

You don’t have to be a female to be apart of this or even a feminist per se. You just have to be willing to try it out for yourself. There are many different techniques out there (and I can attest to this), but this is what works for me and I like it. I am an individual with dreams and goals and a definite desire to work on my past life experiences and be…The best person that I can be. Perhaps one day I will share with the rest of you that part that I am working on to sort out and make sense of but only after I make sense of it myself FIRST 😉

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