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Reality therapy focuses on the unsatisfying or lack of relationships a client possesses, which is often believed to be the attributing factor to their problems. It emphasizes what the clients can control in their relationships as they themselves are the only ones they can control. Reality therapy gives little attention to self-defeating total behaviors, such as creating excuses and placing blame, as they are ineffective behaviors in guiding the client in the direction that is needed to reach their ideal or quality world.
Feminist therapy believes that to understand a person you must consider not only the social but cultural and political contexts that contribute to the individual’s problem. This includes valuing and affirming diversity, striving for change rather than adjustment, creating social change, building self-nurturance, and empowering the client (Corey, 2013). Feminists therapy aspires for a transformation of not only the individual but of society as well. A key goal in feminist therapy is to help the individual see themselves as an active agent, working not only for their self but on behalf of others as well. The counselor strives to help the client recognize and embrace their personal power, this is in an effort to empower the client to free themselves from gender oppression while also challenging institutional oppression. No single vantage point or knowledge claim can be judged as more valued than any other (Mann, & Patterson, 2016). In this paper, I will be comparing and contrasting reality theory and feminist theory to identify ways in which both theories are similar and different.
In the counselor-client relationships of both reality therapy and feminist therapy, there are some differences in the client expectations and goal. These differences are noted in the fact that reality therapy emphasizes change solely in the client while feminist therapy emphasizes a change in both the client and society. For example, reality therapy emphasizes choice and responsibility, the client is responsible for their own actions. The only person the client can change is themselves. The counselor uses the counselor-client relationship to teach clients how to relate to others in their lives. It focuses on helping the client become successful in relationships that are of most importance to them. This is different than feminist therapy where much of the responsibility is taken from the client and placed on other factors. Feminist therapy emphasizes the belief that the person is political, this assumes that the problems the individual brings to counseling stem from political and social contexts, not per se the client’s behavioral choices (Mann, & Patterson, 2016). There is a commitment to social change. Counselors strive to help the individual with their problems and struggles but also works to empower them to become advocates for transformation in society as well. Another difference to note in the counselor-client relationship of both therapies is the interaction styles of the therapist. In reality therapy, the counselor works as a teacher or mentor and may need to be mildly confrontative in order to help the client realize which behaviors are debilitating while additionally striving to maintain a stable, supportive, and understanding position. In feminist therapy, the counselor aims for equality and focuses on the power of the client. They make the client an active partner in the relationship and demystifies the therapeutic process to encourage the counselor and client being seen as equals. While both therapies encourage an alliance and collaborative relationship between the counselor and client, reality therapy counselors are seen in a more authoritative position as opposed to feminist therapy counselors who strive for a nonhierarchical relationship.
A similarity in the client-counselor relationship of reality therapy and feminist therapy includes both offering a supportive counselor working in the best interest of the client. The practice of reality therapy seeks to create a counseling environment that is supportive and challenging to encourage the client to begin making changes in their life. A counselor thriving to set this tone will work to build an alliance with the client. This resembles feminist therapy in which the counselor strives to achieve a nonhierarchical relationship. It avoids assuming that the counselor is the all-knowing expert in the client-counselor relationship. The goal is to empower the client to live according to their own values and judgment of what in their opinion is best for them. Both therapies aim to empower the client and create a relationship that allows both the counselor and client to work collaboratively. Another similarity to note is the counselors’ goal of instilling hope and action in the client so they realize that change can occur. In reality therapy, the counselor acts as an advocate on the side of the client. The goal of the counselor is to help the client gain a deeper understanding of how their current behavior is affecting their present situation while simultaneously conveying the idea that no matter how bad things may seem there is hope. Similar to reality therapy, feminist therapy also does not view the therapeutic relationship as enough to produce change, the client must put their learning into action for change to occur. Hope is instilled through teaching the client to recognize that problems do not stem from within but are a result of the views and expectations society places on the individual. In both therapies, the belief is that if the counselor instills hope then the client no longer feels alone and believes it is possible to achieve change
Description of the counseling process
In both reality therapy and feminist therapy, the counseling process begins when the client comes to the realization that change is needed. In reality therapy, the counseling process helps lead the client in changing their behaviors and connecting or reconnecting with important relationships they perceive as being part of their quality world. The first step in this process includes ensuring that the client is motivated to change. If they believe their behavior is not leading them to the results they want, and accept that there are alternative behaviors to learn in place of the ones they are currently not finding happiness with, then the process of change can begin. In feminist theory, the counseling process includes educating the client to realize that many of their problems stem from the way they perceive themselves and the world as a result of societal pressures and expectations. Once clients begin to understand that society has persuaded the formation of their views or thoughts then they are able to learn how to free themselves from these oppressions and work towards the process of change and empowerment.
A difference to regard in the counseling process of reality therapy and feminist therapy is the actual process the client will go through. Reality therapy has a structured process while feminist therapy focuses on using what works best for each individual client. For example, in reality therapy, once clients come to the realization that change is needed the reality counselor will help the client identify their basic needs, aid them in discovering their quality world, and help the client understand that they are in control of the total behaviors they choose. They do all these things within a process called WDEP which stands for wants, direction and doing, self-evaluating, and planning and action (Glasser, 1975). This is in contrast to the process of feminist therapy which includes assessing the cultural context of the client’s problems and obtaining information about the client’s power or need of it to assist the client in not experience blamed. Feminist therapy works to help clients differentiate between what is best for them and what they have been told is socially acceptable. Empowerment is one of the main goals of this therapy. It endeavors to enable clients to see themselves as active agents of change for themselves and others around them. Another dissimilarity in the processes of both reality therapy and feminist therapy is the responsibility placed on the client. In reality therapy, a main component of the process is seeking out what the client is doing. Reality therapy focuses on clients becoming cognitive of their total behaviors and how to change them to progress towards their quality world. The goal is for clients to learn which behaviors are effective in meeting their needs and wants so they are able to plan how to acquire their quality world. In feminist therapy, the main component is focusing on the cultural context of the client’s problem. The goal is to find the main source or causes of the client believing or perceiving things as they do. Once this occurs the client can work to reframe their thinking or belief with a focus on what is best for them and not based on what society expects, deems the norm, or finds acceptable. The goal is to educate one’s self and empower the client so they do not view themselves as the source of the problem. In feminist therapy, there is a strive for change while in reality therapy, there is a strive for adjustment.
Description of techniques
Both reality therapy and feminist therapy implement a variety of techniques with clients to achieve goals they choose to attain. One similarity in the use of techniques is that both therapies focus on empowering the client and focuses on what the client chooses to pursue. The client chooses or identifies their ideal outcome or desire and the techniques the counselor chooses to use will be focused on bringing out the client’s strengths. Feminist therapy chooses its interventions based on what works best with the client’s strengths. It aims to create new ways of thinking, new meanings and new categories for critical reflection (Brown, 2018). A large contributing factor in feminist therapy is the gender role analysis. This explores the impact that gender role expectations have played in the client’s choices and behaviors. If the message a client is receiving from society is pinpointed then it can be related to the gender role analysis information to help the client identify what message they would prefer to have in place of the societal message being received. In this technique, societal views and expectations are explored. The therapist helps inform the client of how these views have played into the client forming certain opinions or feelings of themselves. The counselor’s insight opens the client to the possibility of thinking about how their newly found knowledge or views can be used to contribute to change. Just as feminist therapy uses the client as the expert in choosing what is best for them so does reality therapy. In reality therapy, the emphasis on choice and responsibility is placed on the client. The client’s definition of their quality world is their choice in what they work to achieve. What the client deems as a need or a want in their lives is what the counselor guides the client to work towards through questioning, metaphors, humor, and at times through mild confrontation. According to Wubbolding, clients gain more control over their lives with plans that are simple, attainable, measurable, immediate, controlled by the client, committed to, and consistently done. He uses the acronym SAMIC to remind the counselor of the components of an effective plan. He believes that without a plan you set yourself up for failure (Wubbolding, 2000). The techniques the counselor implements should help the client set and work towards goals which are simple, attainable, measurable, immediate, controlled by the planner, committed to, and consistent.
Reality therapy and feminist therapy share similarities in the counseling techniques used in reference to working alongside the client. They allow the client to make the decision to pursue change while implementing techniques that strive to meet the client where they are to make changes in their best interest. Although there are these similarities to note in these two therapies there are many more differences when comparing the two. Some of the main differences in the counseling process and techniques of these two therapies include the fact that reality therapy follows a set of interventions, being the WDEP and SAMIC systems, while feminist therapy has no set of techniques and implements what works best for each individual client. Reality therapy does not diagnose or label the client and believes that the client is simply experiencing different symptoms based on their total behavior choices while feminist therapy diagnoses clients when necessary. The goal of reality therapy is to find the client’s quality world and the relationships they value in order to help direct them towards the best total behaviors they need. It assumes the belief that the only person the client can change is themselves. The goal of feminist therapy is to empower and educate the client in how societal views affect the views they form about themselves. It assumes the belief that change should be within the client as well as in society around them. If the client is able to change their frame of thought they can in turn also advocate for social change. The aim is both personal and social change (Ballou, Hill, & West, 2008). Reality therapy uses techniques to guide the client to make adjustments in their total behavior choices to achieve change while feminist therapy uses techniques to guide the client to make changes in their thinking and views. Both therapies, with their similarities and differences in techniques, strive to motivate and empower the client.
Evaluation of successful therapeutic outcomes
In both reality therapy and feminist therapy, the evaluation of successful therapeutic outcome has some similarities. Both therapies are able to show successful outcomes when clients are able to self-manage. In reality therapy, the counselor knows the client is progressing when they can make behavioral changes, have better decision making, achieve improved significant relationships, and become more satisfied in their psychological needs (Corey, 2013). In feminist therapy, the counselor knows progress is being made when the client is able to understand how societal views affect the way they form views of themselves. Once the client understands and embraces this idea, they become empowered and are capable of paving the way for not only personal change but social change as well. A difference in the successful outcomes for both therapies is the focus of change. Reality therapy finds the client is successful when they can adjust their behavior choices to achieve their desired quality world and improved significant relationships. All the adjustments and changes are done by and for the client. In feminist therapy, the client is successful when they can create change in not only themselves but society as well. The change is by and for the client as well as society.
Reasons these two approaches should not be integrated
Reality therapy and feminists therapy have some similarities but would not work the way they were intended to if integrated. This is due to the fact that their goals and views are not aligned in the areas that are the key components of each individual therapy. Reality therapy strives to have the counselor function as a teacher or mentor who is moderately confrontational in order to help clients realize and evaluate what they are doing and how their total behaviors are fulfilling their basic needs. The common underlying problem of most clients is believed to stem from a presently unsatisfying relationship or lack of a satisfactory relationship. Problems clients bring to counseling are caused by their inability to connect with others and build a satisfying, successful relationship with at least one other individual (Corey, 2013). The client strives to make changes in their total behavior to achieve their quality world. The only person they are able to change is themselves. Feminist therapy strives for the counselor to achieve a relationship with the client that is egalitarian and collaborative through self-disclosure and informed consent. The counselor militates to empower the client so they can begin making changes in themselves and in society. The problems clients bring are viewed in sociopolitical, culture, and gender contexts, as opposed to being an imbalance the client is experiencing in basic needs and relationships. The larger goal in feminist therapy is both personal and social change.
Although both therapies incorporate techniques or processes that benefit the individual, they do not seem compatible enough to achieve integration that flows effortlessly. Techniques from each could be drawn upon and used within either of the two therapies but the integration of these two therapeutic processes may have more conflicting interests then success.
My reaction to each theory, and how they correspond to my personal approach to counseling
My reaction to both theories is one of respect. I believe each offers great techniques that are invaluable in use with all types of clients. I, however, am intrigued by the process and views of reality therapy. I seem to find myself agreeing with many of the ideas and goals this therapy sets to achieve. The role of the counselor is not exactly what I would see for myself as I do believe in allowing the client to be the expert in order for them to achieve meaningful change. For this reason, I am in agreement with feminist therapy where the client is viewed as the expert on their own lives. I do, however, agree with the view in reality therapy of the client being responsible for themselves and their behaviors; the only person the client has the ability to change is themselves. When clients step into the room for therapy the goal of the counselor is to see how they can best serve the individual in making changes, in themselves, to achieve their desired future or as reality therapy calls it, their quality world. The process of reality therapy is also helpful in ensuring that the client is going somewhere and is building goals for themselves in order for them to be able to attain the quality world they desire. If clients are able to understand what they are doing and how these actions affect their lives and/or relationships, then change and progress will commence. I believe that when clients can make goals and begin working to achieve them then the counseling process is working successfully.
- Ballou, M., Hill, M., West, C. (2008). Feminist therapy theory and practice: a contemporary perspective. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
- Brown, L.S. (2018). Feminist therapy (theories of psychotherapy series). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Cengage Learning.
- Glasser, W. (1975). Reality therapy: a new approach to psychiatry. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publisher, Inc.
- Mann, S.A, Patterson, A.S. (2016). Reading feminist theory: from modernity to postmodernity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Wubbolding, R.E. (2000). Reality Therapy for the 21st century. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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