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social sciences

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Family Therapy  
page: 1  2  

Women in Families

In the late 1970s, family therapy underwent a challenge, initiated by Rachel Hare-Mustin, regarding the way women were treated by therapists and their failure to acknowledge the powerlessness of women in the traditional family. Also responding to the work of Jean Baker Miller and the Stone Center on the psychology of women, and Carol Gilligan's research on women's unique voice and experience, family therapists began to incorporate an understanding that, psychologically, women strive for connection and cooperativeness, whereas men tend to develop values of autonomy and independence.

In 1977, under the leadership of Betty Carter, Marianne Walters, Peggy Papp, and Olga Silverstein, the Women's Project was launched. This project was designed to facilitate an analysis of women and women's roles in the family, and how male therapeutic assumptions had contributed to maintain sexism in the family.

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Redefining Family

In the years following the development of the Women's Project, family systems therapy also examined the role of race, ethnicity, and class within families and between therapists and clients. The deconstruction of race, ethnicity, class, and gender within families set the stage for a postmodern, poststructural revaluation of definitions of family.

Consequently, multiple realities of family life that had previously been hidden became increasingly visible, exposing the limitations of binary thinking about the family in such terms as black or white, male or female, healthy or dysfunctional. The development of a specialized field--lesbian and gay family therapy--emerged during this era.

Queer Family Therapy

family therapy is a merging of the field of gay-affirmative therapy with family systems theories. Among the goals of glbtq family therapy is the recognition of the developmental processes of glbtq people, including issues related to coming out and living in a and society.

Issues of couple relationships and commitment within a culture that does not validate queer marriages also falls within the rubric of queer family therapy, as well as the impact of HIV and other illnesses on family relationships. As increasing numbers of glbtq people choose to have children, issues of conception, adoption, and parenting, as well as separation and divorce, have also become salient issues in queer family therapy.

Glbtq family therapy is a relatively new field, and clinicians specializing in it have diverse backgrounds and educational preparation. Some are trained in social work and psychology, while others come to the field from backgrounds in education and counseling.

Queer family therapists have not only received different training in competing schools of family therapy, but they practice assorted techniques. Hence, it is difficult to generalize about the field and its practitioners. However, the goal of glbtq family therapy is to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people create and maintain healthy families. Central to that goal is the acceptance, even celebration, of same-sex sexuality, diverse gender expressions, same-sex partnering, and alternative family structures for childrearing.

Arlene Istar Lev

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social sciences >> Overview:  Adoption

Although there are frequently social and legal barriers to overcome, adoption is an important way in which lesbian and gay male couples create families.

social sciences >> Overview:  Aversion Therapy

A form of behavior modification that employs unpleasant and sometimes painful stimuli, aversion therapy was one of the more popular treatments for homosexuality and cross-dressing in the 1950s and 1960s.

social sciences >> Overview:  Coming Out

"Coming out" is the revelation or acknowledgment that one is a member of a sexual minority, a process that is at once personal and social and often political.

social sciences >> Overview:  Counseling

In recent years there has been a push for glbtq-sensitive counselor training and glbtq-affirmative counseling, which, although occurring slowly and encountering resistance, marks a significant move in a positive direction.

social sciences >> Overview:  Developmental Psychology

Glbtq identity development has not yet been fully integrated into mainstream theories of psychological development, but recent work promises to further our understanding of the life experiences of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family

Many glbtq people reject a fixed definition of family imposed by society, and instead claim the right to define their own families as they choose.

social sciences >> Overview:  Mixed-Orientation Marriages

Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parenting

Even though glbtq people have been parents throughout history, recent political movements and advances in fertility technology have given rise to a much more visible and self-identified gay and lesbian parents.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis, which began as a therapeutic procedure, ultimately became one of the most powerful methods of cultural analysis and critique of the twentieth-century.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, the clinical process of treating mental and emotional health problems, has recently been energized by a movement to depathologize homosexuality and to enhance the dignity and self-respect of glbtq clients.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Addiction

A compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict's life, sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder that frequently causes severe stress on the addict and his or her friends and family.

social sciences >> Overview:  Social Work

Since the 1990s, Social Work has slowly become a more glbtq-friendly profession.

social sciences >> Overview:  Straight Men Who Have Sex with Men (SMSM)

Straight men who have sex with men do so for a number of reasons, but in general such activity is about physical release and sexual behaviors, not about attraction or desire for another man.


Brown, Mildred. True Selves Understand Transsexualism: For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

Carter, Betty, and Monica McGoldrick, eds. The Expanded Family Lifecycle: Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives. 3rd ed. Needham Heights, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Cohen, K. M., and Ritch Savin-Williams, eds. The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals: Children to Adults. Fort Worth, Tx.: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

D'Augelli, Anthony, and Charlotte J. Patterson, eds. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Identities over the Lifespan: Psychological Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Garner, Abigail. Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. San Francisco: Harper/Collins, 2004.

Glazer, Deborah, and Jack Drescher. Gay and Lesbian Parenting. Binghamton, N.Y.: Haworth Medical Press, 2001.

Laird, Joan, and Robert-Jay Green, eds. Lesbians and Gays in Couples and Families: A Handbook for Therapists. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

Lev, Arlene. The Complete Lesbian and Gay Parenting Guide. New York: Penguin, 2004.

_____. Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and Their Families. Binghamton, N.Y.: Haworth Press, 2004.

McGoldrick, Monica. Revisioning Family Therapy. New York: Guilford Press, 1998.

Slater, Suzanne. The Lesbian Family Life Cycle. New York: Free Press, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Lev, Arlene Istar  
    Entry Title: Family Therapy  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated January 20, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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