On March 7th, 2014, renowned therapist Victoria Dickerson presented “Therapy with Couples: Working with Power and Privilege” at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. The workshop offered therapists an understanding of Dr. Dickerson’s work using the cultural narratives of power, privilege, and patriarchy as a lens for understanding how cultural discourse shapes couples’ experiences.
Dr. Dickerson discussed the framework in which some people are historically privileged and others oppressed. “When we’re born into this world, if we are born male, we are historically privileged. It just comes with the territory. There are entitlements. There is access in ways that women and other historically oppressed people don’t have access. That’s the context in which we are thinking today.”
She highlighted Michael White’s “absent but implicit” approach, which guides therapists to pay attention to what is not emphasized or what is “left out” and talk about experiences not named.
Participants learned how to create a map for attending to the operations of power privilege in the couple’s relationship. They also analyzed the specific ways that power works on couples to invite conflict, how to closely follow a couple in the interview to bring forth ways of relating that lie alongside the influence of patriarchy, and questioning skills to help the couple relate in preferred ways..
*For anyone interested in learning more about Dr.Victoria Dickerson, her website is http://www.victoriadickerson.com. Her work was recently highlighted in “Patriarchy, Power, and Privilege: A Narrative/Poststructural View of Work with Couples” in Family Process in a special edition publication on couples.