A Note on Psychotherapy for Women
While men and women face many of the same life issues, women’s evolutionary biological makeup and their socialization clearly produce differences in their functioning, their strengths, and their vulnerabilities.
Beneficially, women, in general, do tend to be aware of their stress and their emotional pain, and they do tend to reach out for help. But they also tend to be self-critical, focusing more on their inadequacies and deficiencies than on their strengths and achievements. For this reason, women often come to therapy wanting to develop greater self-esteem, greater confidence in their abilities and their worth.
Women also come to therapy because they are having trouble asserting their desires and preferences, and defining and maintaining their boundaries. Because women characteristically have a great preference for connection, it is often difficult for them to know how to assert themselves and how to set appropriately self-protective boundaries while maintaining connection and closeness.
Women often struggle with conflicts about how to maintain their roles and relationships with partners, children, family and friends when they also need to earn a living or pursue a career. Women often grow up learning to put everyone else’s needs before their own. Therapy can help find a healthier balance between caring for others and attending to their own well-being.
From early adolescence, women are about twice as likely as men to develop depression. This appears to be in part due to their hormonal makeup; in part due to socialization differences in the way women learn to feel about and care for themselves; and in part due to the multiple demands and conflicts women face both in the home and in the workplace. Therapy can be a great help in learning to manage those stresses, in recovery from depression, and in strengthening anti-depressive thinking and behaviors that minimize the likelihood of depression in the future.
Although fortunately this is changing, women are still not as likely as men to be encouraged to dream big and to have confidence in their ability to achieve their dreams. A most important and exciting part of therapy for women is encouraging them to expand their expectations of what is possible for them in life, and providing support for persistence and resilience in their pursuit of those possibilities.