On Monday, May 13, the American Psychological Association issued new guidelines reminding therapists to be aware of the adversities that women are facing.
The updated "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" (first released in 2007) offers recommendations for mental health professionals to encourage strength and resilience, recognize oppression (race, sexuality, disability, etc.), and offer diagnosis only when necessary.
"Women suffering from psychological problems need treatment, but that has to be in a more affirmative, more empowering way, and it has to be effective," explained Lillian Comas-Diaz, the co-chair of the group that formulated the new guidelines.
New Guidelines Reflect A Changing World
The original recommendations from the association contained the same themes, but Comas-Diaz and her colleagues believe that it is time for an update. The guideline is meant to be revised every 10 years or so in order to adapt to the changing world.
Moreover, the new recommendations provide heightened attention to groups that have been ignored in the previous guideline. It emphasizes that transgender individuals, female veterans, elderly women, immigrants and refugees, and women with disability have an increased risk of experiencing sexual and physical violence and bias.
Instead of framing these experiences as an individual's failure to thrive, the authors are encouraging therapists to consider the impact of outside forces on female clients.
"In the medical establishment, historically, there has been a view of females as less than, as victims, as helpless," stated Comas-Diaz. "We in psychology also need to add to that a perspective that has to do with the social forces and the history and legacy of discrimination and oppression."
In addition, the new guidelines remind mental health professionals that treatment and intervention are based on studies that are more often conducted among young, white, able-bodied, verbal, intelligent, and successful clients. The same practices, therefore, might not work on women and people of color.
Empowering Women And Women
The updated "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" follows the first-ever "Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men" issued earlier this year by the APA. The recommendation seeks to improve the mental health of boys and men by warning about aspects of "traditional masculinity" that are harmful.
The "Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men" has already received backlash from conservatives who believe that the recommendations, which are backed by more than 40 years of studies, are an affront to American men.