The discursive and therapeutic limitations of psychotherapy: obscuring power issues?

Heenan, Colleen (2005) The discursive and therapeutic limitations of psychotherapy: obscuring power issues? In: British Psychological Society Quinquennial Conference, March 2005, University of Manchester. (Submitted)

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Abstract

This paper highlights and explores the discursive and therapeutic limitations of psychotherapy in dealing with issues of power and difference. In order to do this I focus on the difficulty of exploring issues of race and sexuality in a feminist psychodynamic eating disorders therapy group. Despite feminists' critique of psychoanalytic constructions of gender, object relations has been combined with critical theory to further understanding of women's gendered relationship with their bodies and food. In addition, 'feminist' psychotherapy has been regarded as a means to implement personal and political change. However, in promoting this approach, feminist object relations theorists have failed to deconstruct their own ideas. In theorising eating disorders as both social produced and constructed, feminists' concentration on women's oppression has obscured differences between women. The result is a hegemonic notion of 'woman' and 'women's bodies' as white and heterosexual. In turn, psychodynamic psychotherapy's individualistic focus on personal emotions limits exploration of how salient aspects of subjectivity are constructed - in particular sexual orientation. Taking a discursive position in relation to material from an eating disorders group psychotherapy offers ways to think about these issues not usually available to clinical practitioners. While feminism and psychoanalytic theory have provided insights about subjectivity and power, a failure to critique the assumptions underlying these modes of analysis functions to reproduce and maintain privilege. This has implications for clinical practice in making it difficult to satisfactorily address issues of difference as well as to question notions of normality.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: discourse analysis, race, sexuality, feminist psychodynamic eating disorders psychotherapy group
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Philosophy
Depositing User: Scott Wilson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 12:51
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2014 16:06
URI: http://ubir.bolton.ac.uk/id/eprint/342

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