NIU receives lecture from feminist therapist

By Dee O'Neal

Feminist therapist Adrienne Smith came to the NIU campus Tuesday to speak on “Empowerment as an Ethical Imperative in Feminist Therapy”.

The lecture, which was sponsored by the psychology department, was attended by a group of about thirty persons including undergraduates, graduates and faculty.

Smith, who has a private counseling practice in Chicago, said that, contrary to popular opinion, feminism is not “man-hating.” Feminism is the belief that women are “equal” to men even though they are not the “same” as men.

Smith told the audience there is a difference between “liberal” and “radical” approaches to social change. Liberals want everyone to get a bigger share of an existing “pie,” while radicals want to make a whole new pie. “Radicals want to change the system at its roots,” Smith explained.

To maintain a system of inequality, Smith said, it is necessary for society to divide itself into “we” and “they” groups. Smith said when we label others as “different” from ourselves we can then give ourselves “permission” to hurt them because “they are not real people.”

Smith said there are two kinds of power, direct and indirect. Direct power is the ability to accomplish a task on your own. Indirect power requires that you convince those who have the real power to help you. Smith said traditional therapy has sometimes labeled the use of indirect power as “manipulativeness.” She said, however, indirect power is used by all oppressed people to accomplish their ends because “they don’t have any other alternative.”

The purpose of feminist therapy is to “radicalize the consciousness” of the client so that she will not only make positve changes in her own life but will get involved in changing the entire “patriarchal system.” Smith added that feminist therapy can be practiced with men as well as women. The only requirement is that both the client and the therapist see the “political ramifications” of what appear to be individual dilemmas.

Smith concluded her talk with a question and answer period and by recommending several new books on the topic of feminist therapy.