Sustaining and enacting feminist values and practices in traditional contexts

Holly Higinbotham (1998)

This dissertation has explored with clinical supervisors how they sustain and enact their personal and professional values in light of practice settings that may adhere to and promote a different set of principles and priorities. Specifically, the inquiry focused on women supervisors who are feminists and their experiences of maintaining feminist values in their practices of clinical supervision. The study examined how supervisors withstand the pressures of strong cultural, professional, organizational and personal influences that are contradictory to feminist values, and explored the supervisors' personal, social and cultural sources of support for maintaining their feminist principles. Finally, the project examined and elaborated with supervisors the meaning and significance of those supports in maintaining their feminist values. This was a qualitative study conducted by a researcher who identifies herself as a feminist. The inquiry is located within feminist, postmodern and poststructuralist theories that challenge the influence of the dominant discourse on the development and institutionalization of psychological and scientific "knowledge". This theoretical frame recognizes the ways in which such "knowledge" has reinforced power structures and practices that privilege certain individuals and groups and marginalize others, and it promotes the development, exposure and maintenance of alternative knowledges and theories. It advocates a multiplicity of "knowledges" or theories--all of which are seen as having context, history and political agenda--and assumes that many of these alternative knowledges and perspectives are held by those whose views and voices have been marginalized, silenced and otherwise disqualified by the dominant discourse. The research design was developed from descriptions of reflexivity and re-membering practices in anthropological and narrative therapy literature. The methodology involved conducting individual and group interviews with feminist supervisors, and included participants in the data analysis and interpretation phases of the research. The study was seen as an opportunity for participants--and the researcher--to articulate and expand their "communities of concern" for their work. This research is likely to enhance readers' understanding of how individuals with alternative knowledges support themselves and maintain their values in their lives and work.