Learning/Teaching Feminist Counselling
by Carol Arkinstall
Last June I was among the first graduates of a new course which combines contemporary feminist theory with the practice of counselling. The Counselling Women Certificate Program (C.W.C.P.) is offered by the Women's Program through the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. The course is designed for women who work with women in counseling settings and who are interested in a feminist perspective. Its purpose is to expand the range of counselling services available to women by providing education in women-centered counselling. Although completion of the program does not confer professional status, it does enable students to apply feminist approaches to counselling women.
The prerequisites are a familiarity with the language and skills of basic counselling, credit in an introductory level psychology course, and experience in working with women in a relationship which involves an element of counselling. Course topics include feminist psychology and sociology, communication and counselling skill development, advanced counselling in the context of multiple oppression, and advocacy. The program ends with an applied project which resembles a practicum.
The program is two years in length and is intended for part-time students. Classes are held in the Department of Extension on the university campus in Edmonton. The first class began in September 1991, with forty students registered. There were two basic scheduling patterns: two or three consecutive days once a month, or a particular weekday throughout the month. As would be expected, students who live far from the city chose the first option. In my section two women traveled from a neighboring province and several like myself came from as far as three hundred miles away. Costs of travel and accommodation add significantly to the overall expense of the course. Fees for each of the six core courses are about $275 and electives are approximately half of that amount. Material costs are included.