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Women in Psychology

A Unified Wave That’s Revolutionized the Mental Health Field Since the 19th Century Historically, the mental health field was heavily male-dominated and highlighted psychological advances from only a male lens. This narrow view led to the non-inclusion and lack of representation of the lived experiences of many people, primarily women.

I invite you to meet the female pioneers who advanced the psychological field through their research, clinical work, dedication to breaking oppressive cycles and stigma, and commitment to enhancing mental health awareness in the public.


The Past


I start by remembering and honouring some of the influential women therapists of the 19th and 20th centuries whose work paved the way for women clinicians today. This list is not exhaustive, and I present it in alphabetical order.


Ainsworth was an American Canadian developmental psychologist who studied and researched mother-child attachments.

Mary Ainsworth (1913–1999)

Image from Public Domain by William Hamilton. http://jhir.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/56114




Ainsworth was an American Canadian developmental psychologist who studied and researched mother-child attachments. Her research subsequently contributed to the development of attachment theory and attachment styles (Mcleod, 2023).


Bernal was an American psychologist and the first Latina to earn a PhD. Bernal developed the widely used Ethnic Identity Questionnaire that expanded the multicultural studies field (Vasquez & Lopez, 2002).

Martha Bernal (1931–2001)

Image from American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity health/psychologists/bernal




Bernal was an American psychologist and the first Latina to earn a PhD. Bernal developed the widely used Ethnic Identity Questionnaire that expanded the multicultural studies field (Vasquez & Lopez, 2002).


A. Freud was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst who influenced the development of child psychotherapy and founded the concept of defense mechanisms (Sandler, 2015).

Anna Freud (1895–1982)

Image licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anna_Freud_1957.jpg




A. Freud was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst who influenced the development of child psychotherapy and founded the concept of defense mechanisms (Sandler, 2015).



Gilligan developed the ethics of care framework which is a feminist approach to ethics that challenges the injustices rooted in patriarchy (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2022).

Carol Gilligan (1936–Present)

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by Deror avi. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carol_Gilligan_P1010970_-_cropped.jpg




Gilligan developed the ethics of care framework which is a feminist approach to ethics that challenges the injustices rooted in patriarchy (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2022).



Stetter Hollingworth was an American psychologist who added to the feminist movement by challenging the assumptions that women are intellectually and mentally inferior to men.

Leta Stetter Hollingworth (1886–1939)

Image from Public Domain. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Letta_Setter_Hollingsworth_1915-02-26_NY_Tribune.png





Stetter Hollingworth was an American psychologist who added to the feminist movement by challenging the assumptions that women are intellectually and mentally inferior to men. Her research proved that women are as intelligent and skillful as men (Hochman, n.d.).



Horney was a German psychoanalyst and the main scholar to question S. Freud’s work. This challenge resulted in her founding feminist psychology (Eckardt, 2005).

Karen Horney (1885–1952)

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by Renate Horney Patterson & Culver Pictures, NY. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Karen_Horney_1938.jpg#filelinks




Horney was a German psychoanalyst and the main scholar to question S. Freud’s work. This challenge resulted in her founding feminist psychology (Eckardt, 2005).



Melanie Klein; Klein was an Austrian British psychoanalyst who first discovered the power of play in working with children, and she developed her work into play therapy.

Melanie Klein (1882–1960)

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International by Douglas Glass. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Melanie_Klein_1952.jpg





Klein was an Austrian British psychoanalyst who first discovered the power of play in working with children, and she developed her work into play therapy. Klein was also the developer of the object relations theory which led to a deeper understanding of how early attachments form (Amos, 2015).



Maccoby was an American psychologist known for her ground-breaking research on the impact of social, environmental, and cultural influences on gender roles and preferences (Gunnar & Phillips, 2019).

Eleanor Maccoby (1917–2018)

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by Quynh834. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ELEANOR_EMMONS_MACCOBY_(1916_-_2018).jpg





Maccoby was an American psychologist known for her ground-breaking research on the impact of social, environmental, and cultural influences on gender roles and preferences (Gunnar & Phillips, 2019).



Mamie Phipps Clark; Phipps Clark was an African American social psychologist who developed the Clark Doll test to study the psychological effect of racism on African American children.

Mamie Phipps Clark (1917–1983)

Image from Public Domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mamie_Clark_1958.jpg






Phipps Clark was an African American social psychologist who developed the Clark Doll test to study the psychological effect of racism on African American children. Her research assisted in the desegregation of schools in the United States (Butler, 2023).



Prosser was the first African American to achieve a PhD in psychology.

Inez Beverly Prosser (1895–1934)

Image from Public Domain by Gwendolyn Gray. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inez_Beverly_Prosser_Portrait.png






Prosser was the first African American to achieve a PhD in psychology. She was the first researcher to explore the debilitating effects of segregation on African American children (Benjamin et al., 2005).



Satir was an American psychotherapist who developed the change model process which revolutionized the family therapy field (Edwards, 2019).

Virginia Satir (1916–1988)

Image from Public Domain by William Meyer. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VirginiaSatir.jpg




Satir was an American psychotherapist who developed the change model process which revolutionized the family therapy field (Edwards, 2019).


Current Day


Now I present the women therapists of the 21st century who continued the work of their predecessors and are still revolutionizing the therapeutic field with new theoretical approaches. This list is not exhaustive, and I present it in alphabetical order.



Insoo Kim Berg; Berg was a Korean American psychotherapist who founded the widely used solution focused therapy approach (Yalom & Rubin, 2003).

Insoo Kim Berg (1934–2007)

Image retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/insoo-kim-berg




Berg was a Korean American psychotherapist who founded the widely used solution focused therapy approach (Yalom & Rubin, 2003).



Deb Dana; Dana is a complex trauma clinician, consultant, and author who facilitates the clinical application of polyvagal theory to public and mental health professionals.

Deb Dana

Image retrieved from https://psychology.org.au/aps-ccoun-conf/2022/program/keynote-speakers/dana





Dana is a complex trauma clinician, consultant, and author who facilitates the clinical application of polyvagal theory to public and mental health professionals. People seek her trainings to learn more about emotional regulation, repatterning the nervous system, and building neurological pathways rooted in connection and safety (Dana, 2018).

Dana’s Polyvagal Flip Chart (Dana, 2020) and book Polyvagal Theory in Therapy (Dana, 2018) are must-have companions for clinicians in the therapy room.




Jennifer Eberhardt; Eberhardt is an American social psychologist who contributes greatly to the cognitive psychology field by researching the relationships between race and crime while investigating people’s unconscious biased beliefs (Chang, 2019).

Jennifer Eberhardt

Image by John D. & Catherine t. Macarthur Foundation. https://www.macfound.org/fellows/class-of-2014/jennifer-l-eberhardt#photos


Eberhardt is an American social psychologist who contributes greatly to the cognitive psychology field by researching the relationships between race and crime while investigating people’s unconscious biased beliefs (Chang, 2019).



Fisher is a clinical psychologist and an international expert in the treatment of complex trauma and dissociation. She teaches the latest trauma treatments and how to integrate them in clinical settings.

Janina Fisher

Image retrieved from https://janinafisher.com





Fisher is a clinical psychologist and an international expert in the treatment of complex trauma and dissociation. She teaches the latest trauma treatments and how to integrate them in clinical settings.

Fisher’s books are highly recommended for the general public and mental health professionals: Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma (Fisher, 2021) and Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors (Fisher, 2017).



Julie Gottman; Gottman is an American clinical psychologist and cofounder of the Gottman Institute and the Gottman method for couples therapy.

Julie Gottman

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by The Gottman Institute. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julie_Gottman.jpg




Gottman is an American clinical psychologist and cofounder of the Gottman Institute and the Gottman method for couples therapy.

Gottman’s training is highly recommended for practitioners working with trauma in couples therapy. To access resources and trainings, please go to the Gottman Institute’s website: https://www.gottman.com.



Homma True is a Japanese American psychologist known for expanding and making the mental health field more accessible for Asians, Asian Americans, and minority groups (Rayburn et al., 2010).

Reiko Homma True

Image retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/women/iampsyched/museum-day/speakers





Homma True is a Japanese American psychologist known for expanding and making the mental health field more accessible for Asians, Asian Americans, and minority groups (Rayburn et al., 2010).



Sue Johnson; Johnson is a British clinical psychologist and founder of emotionally focused therapy (EFT), a cutting edge and evidence-based approach to couples therapy.

Sue Johnson

Image retrieved from https://drsuejohnson.com






Johnson is a British clinical psychologist and founder of emotionally focused therapy (EFT), a cutting edge and evidence-based approach to couples therapy.

The following EFT books are highly recommended for couples and practitioners; Hold me Tight (Johnson, 2008), An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us (Kallos-Lilly & Fitzgerald, 2014).



Linehan is an American psychologist and creator of dialectical behavioural therapy which has become a standard treatment for people with personality disorders and addiction (Carey, 2011).

Marsha Linehan

Image retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/marsha-m-linehan





Linehan is an American psychologist and creator of dialectical behavioural therapy which has become a standard treatment for people with personality disorders and addiction (Carey, 2011).



Angela Neal-Barnett; Neal-Barnett is an American child psychologist whose work enhances the lives of young African Americans with anxiety (Rowell & Neal-Barnett, 2022).

Angela Neal-Barnett

Image by Gary Hardwood. https://www.simonandschuster.ca/authors/Angela-Neal-Barnett/16904250




Neal-Barnett is an American child psychologist whose work enhances the lives of young African Americans with anxiety (Rowell & Neal-Barnett, 2022).



Neff is an associate professor at the University of Texas who has done pioneering work in the self-compassion field and she developed the Self-Compassion Scale (Houston, 2019).

Kristin Neff

Image retrieved from https://self-compassion.org


Neff is an associate professor at the University of Texas who has done pioneering work in the self-compassion field and she developed the Self-Compassion Scale (Houston, 2019).



Pat Ogden; Ogden is a psychotherapist known for developing sensorimotor psychotherapy, a body-based modality that enhanced the way clinicians work with trauma.

Pat Ogden

Image retrieved from https://sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/therapist-directory/pat-ogden-phd/





Ogden is a psychotherapist known for developing sensorimotor psychotherapy, a body-based modality that enhanced the way clinicians work with trauma. The book Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment (Ogden & Fisher, 2015) is a highly recommend resource for trauma therapists.



Esther Perel ; Perel is a Belgian American marriage and family therapist, a sex therapy supervisor, and a bestselling author who revolutionized the realm of couples work. Perel adds much wisdom and compassion to the understanding of modern relationships.

Esther Perel

Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by PopTech. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Esther_Perel_2017.jpg



Perel is a Belgian American marriage and family therapist, a sex therapy supervisor, and a bestselling author who revolutionized the realm of couples work. Perel adds much wisdom and compassion to the understanding of modern relationships.

Perel’s card game Where Should We Begin (Perel, 2021) is highly recommended to increase intimacy, curiosity, and playfulness among couples and friends.



Babette Rothschild; Rothschild is a highly experienced psychotherapist who developed somatic trauma therapy which highlights the importance of working with and through the body to process traumatic experiences.

Babette Rothschild

Image retrieved from https://www.somatictraumatherapy.com




Rothschild is a highly experienced psychotherapist who developed somatic trauma therapy which highlights the importance of working with and through the body to process traumatic experiences.

Rothschild’s book 8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery (Rothschild, 2009) is highly recommend for practitioners.



Francine Shapiro; Shapiro was an American psychologist who founded eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR has become a standard treatment for trauma symptoms (Shapiro, 2014).

Francine Shapiro (1948–2019)

Image retrieved from https://www.emdr.com/francine-shapiro-ph-d/




Shapiro was an American psychologist who founded eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR has become a standard treatment for trauma symptoms (Shapiro, 2014).



As you read this, I hope you found the inspiration and strength to continue pursuing your dreams and goals. It is a privilege to witness the work of these women and to reflect on how far the field of psychology has come due to their perseverance, dedication, and emotional stamina to fight the stigma, oppression, and prejudices that women face on a daily basis.


References


Amos, A. (2015). Melanie Klein. Institute of Psychoanalysis British Psychoanalytical Society.

https://psychoanalysis.org.uk/our-authors-and-theorists/melanie-klein


Benjamin, L. T., Jr., Henry, K. D., & McMahon, L. R. (2005). Inez Beverly Prosser and the education of African Americans. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 41(1), 43–62.

https://doi.org/10.1002/jhbs.20058


Butler, S. (2023, February 21). Mamie Katherine Phipps Clark. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2938


Carey, B. (2011, June 23). Expert on mental illness reveals her own fight. The New York Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/health/23lives.html


Chang, A. (2019, March 28). Can we overcome racial bias? 'Biased' author says to start by acknowledging it [Radio broadcast]. NPR.

https://www.npr.org/2019/03/28/705113639/can-we-overcome-racial-bias-biased-author-says-to-start-by-acknowledging-it.


Dana, D. (2018). The polyvagal theory in therapy engaging the rhythm of regulation. Norton Professional Books.

https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393712377


Dana, D. (2020). Polyvagal flip chart: Understanding the science of safety. Norton Professional Books.

https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393714722/about-the-book/product-details


Eckardt, M. H. (2005). Karen Horney: A portrait. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 65, 95–101.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s11231-005-3620-6


The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2022, November 24). Carol Gilligan. Encyclopedia Britannica.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Carol-Gilligan


Edwards, B.G. (2019, August 31). Remembering family therapist guru Virginia Satir. Psychology Today.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/progress-notes/201908/remembering-family-therapist-guru-virginia-satir


Fisher, J. (2017). Healing the fragmented selves of trauma survivors: Overcoming internal self-alienation. Routledge.

https://www.routledge.com/Healing-the-Fragmented-Selves-of-Trauma-Survivors-Overcoming-Internal-Self-Alienation/Fisher/p/book/9780415708234


Fisher, J. (2021). Transforming the living legacy of trauma: A workbook for survivors and therapists. PESI Publishing & Media.

https://catalog.pesi.com/sales/bh_c_001477_livinglegacyoftrauma_organic-194549


Gunnar, M. R., & Phillips, D. A. (2019). Great leaders in developmental psychology: Eleanor Maccoby, PhD. APA Div. 7: Developmental Psychology.

https://www.apadivisions.org/division-7/leadership/maccoby


Hochman, S. K. (n.d.). Leta Stetter Hollingsworth: Her life. Webster University.

http://faculty.webster.edu/woolflm/letahollingsworth.html


Houston, E. (2019). The Self-Compassion Scale and Test. PositivePsychology.com.

https://positivepsychology.com/self-compassion-scale/


Johnson, S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little, Brown Spark.

https://www.littlebrownspark.com/titles/dr-sue-johnson-edd/hold-me-tight/9780316113007/


Kallos-Lilly, V., & Fitzgerald, J. (2014). An emotionally focused workbook for couples: The two of us. Routledge.

https://www.routledge.com/An-Emotionally-Focused-Workbook-for-Couples-The-Two-of-Us/Kallos-Lilly-Fitzgerald/p/book/9780367444037


Mcleod, S. (2023, March 8). Mary Ainsworth: Strange situation experiment & attachment theory. Simply Psychology.

https://simplypsychology.org/mary-ainsworth.html


Ogden, P., & Fisher, J. (2015). Sensorimotor psychotherapy: Interventions for trauma and attachment. W.W. Norton.

https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393706130


Perel, E. (2021). Where should we begin - A game of stories.

https://game.estherperel.com


Rayburn C., Denmark, F., Reuder, M., & Austria, A., (2010). A handbook for women mentors: Transcending barriers of stereotype, race, and ethnicity. Praeger.

https://publisher.abc-clio.com/9780313366260/


Rothschild, B. (2009). 8 keys to safe trauma recovery: Take-charge strategies for reclaiming your life. W.W. Norton.

https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393706055


Rowell, T., & Neal-Barnett, A. (2022). A systematic review of the effect of parental adverse childhood experiences on parenting and child psychopathology. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 15, 167–180.

https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-021-00400-x


Sandler, A. M. (2015). Anna Freud. Institute of Psychoanalysis British Psychoanalytical Society.

https://psychoanalysis.org.uk/our-authors-and-theorists/anna-freud


Shapiro, F. (2014). The role of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in medicine: Addressing the psychological and physical symptoms stemming from adverse life experiences. The Permanente Journal, 18(1).

https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/13-098


Vasquez, M. J. T., & Lopez, S. (2002). Martha E. Bernal (1931–2001): Obituary. American Psychologist, 57(5), 362–363.

https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.57.5.362


Yalom, V., & Rubin, B. (2003).Insoo Kim Berg on brief solution-focused therapy. Psychotherapy.net.

https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/insoo-kim-berg

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