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Gender and Power in Psychotherapy: Creating a Place for a Feminist Sensibility

How does a female therapist negotiate power, gender, and psychic violence in the therapeutic dyad with a male patient? In this presentation, one clinician will present the case of a male patient with an erotized transference with a strong coercive element to it. The therapist struggled for months with identifying the coercive element, feeling hopelessly dissociated and powerless in their sessions. Once she was able to identify this element, and find a way to speak to it that he could hear, something shifted. He began disclosing incidents from his past that involve him coercing women into sexual activity with him, as well as a fantasy life dominated by wishes for his partner’s total submission to his desire, in order to feel truly loved.

After presentation of this case, the three panelists will discuss the questions this case raises about gender and power, both societally and in the clinical setting. Did the therapist have difficulty identifying this prominent coercive element for over a year of treatment because as a woman in this society, she has gotten accustomed to being an object of desire? To that end, how are she and this patient playing out not only a pattern from his life (and, unbeknownst to him, hers), but also a particular societal dynamic? As a therapist it’s part of the job to be available to our patients to be used for their transference fantasies and needs–but how could or should that be handled when these particular transference fantasies replicate (and feel like) acts of violence? How does her power as the clinician and his vulnerability as the patient juxtapose with his power as a white heterosexual male and her vulnerability as a queer woman? Must they be stuck in an endless cycle of power exchanges? Or can we—the clinician and her patient, and also our society—find a way to move beyond doer and done to? The panelists will speak to these questions–and others–from theoretical lenses borrowed from classical (Oedipal) theory, self psychology, and relational theory.


Andrea Barbour, MA is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She specializes in dissociative disorders and psychosis in private practice in Indianapolis, Indiana. Andrea is a third year Ph.D. student at The Institute for Clinical Social Work.

Cate Desjardins is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice in the Detroit metro area, working with adolescents and adults. Cate is also a third year doctoral student in the ICSW distance Ph.D. program.

Danielle Trudeau is a student at ICSW, where she is studying to receive her MA in Counseling and Psychotherapy. She is moving on to her second and final year of the program this summer. In her first internship, Danielle enjoyed working with clients at the Stop-It Trafficking drop-in center with the Salvation Army, where she worked with victims of trauma and led group activities in a therapeutic milieu. In her second year, she is excited to be building on her experience through her internship with The Kedzie Center.

When & Where

Friday, July 13, 2018
9:00 – 12:00 pm

At ICSW: Downtown Chicago
401 S. State St.
Suite 822
Chicago, IL 60605

Registration & CEUs

Registration: $50.00 / $40.00 (Full-time student & clinician rate)

Please email Sebastién Beaudet for reduced rate.

THIS EVENT IS AVAILABLE VIA LIVE STREAM – to stream this event, please complete registration and then contact Sebastién Beaudet.

Three Continuing Education Credits Available for LSW/LCSWs, LPC/LCPCs, et al.

The Institute for Clinical Social Work, License # 159-0000152, is an Approved Provider of Continuing Education Credits for the Illinois Department of Federal and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)


For questions or more information contact LaTrina Gamer or (312) 935-4245.

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