Neither Mask nor Mirror: One Therapist's Journey to Ethically Integrate Feminist Family Therapy and Multiculturalism
Before continuing, I would like to be transparent about my biases. I am a White, middle-class female doctoral student in a marriage and family therapy program located in a conservative mid-sized town in the Southwest. In my training I have been exposed to feminist family therapy and am interested in applying the premises as I understand them. Currently I am working as an in-home therapist as part of a university-sponsored project. The majority of clients are low-income ethnic minority (most are Hispanic) mothers with children. In my desire to be sensitive to cultural differences, I have found myself questioning whether and how I should introduce feminist ideas to clients who will remain in a traditionally patriarchal culture with little support after I am gone. For example, one young Hispanic mother with four children, separated_ from her abusive husband, has a new boyfriend who wants him to move in with her. How much do I discuss her value as a woman alone when her culture-including son and brother-in-law-tell her differently? She sees constrained futures for her young daughters; how do I introduce other options without ignoring important cultural values about women and men? When she parentifies her young son because he is the only male, should I talk with her about not depending on him too much although the community sanctions this behavior? In this paper, I will describe my struggle to find a therapy that honors both cultural and feminist values and some of the quandaries I face. I will begin by providing a brief overview of the tenets and critiques of FFT and multiculturalism, followed by an analysis of their ethical integration, and will conclude with suggestions and further questions.