Women's Therapy

Saunter through the pathways of women's mental health history. Each landmark, like an ancient tree, tells a story of struggle, resilience, and triumph that shapes our understanding and approach today.

history of therapy: An overview

The history of therapy and mental health is a fascinating journey that spans thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations that attributed mental illnesses to supernatural causes. Over centuries, theories evolved from demonic possession to humor imbalances, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, mental health began being understood more as a medical issue, leading to the rise of asylums. The 20th century brought in a psychological revolution with Freud's psychoanalytic theories, the development of cognitive-behavioral approaches, and an increased understanding of the biological bases of mental illness. In recent decades, the integration of diverse therapeutic modalities and the advent of psychopharmacology has advanced therapy's effectiveness. The advent of digital technology and the Internet has brought therapy and mental health education to the masses, democratizing access like never before. The journey is far from over as mental health continues to be a vital field with ongoing research and evolving perspectives.

history of women's mental health and therapy: An overview

The history of women's mental health is a complex tapestry woven with social, political, and medical threads. Traditionally, women's mental health was largely misunderstood, often blamed on hysteria or attributed to the supposed emotional and hormonal nature of women. The 19th century saw the emergence of 'rest cures,' often prescribed to women experiencing what we now recognize as depression or anxiety. However, these treatments were not therapeutic, instead based on the idea that women needed rest from their duties.

The 20th century brought about significant change. Women's mental health started receiving legitimate attention and understanding. World Wars I and II played surprising roles, as many women took on roles outside of the home, leading to new societal perceptions of women's abilities. The advent of feminism further pushed for a more nuanced understanding of women's mental health. This era also saw the development of psychological theories and therapies that considered the unique experiences of women. Today, therapy for women's mental health is more sophisticated, nuanced, and tailored, recognizing the unique socio-cultural factors that impact women's mental health.

A timeline of women, mental health and therapy


1850's : The term "hysteria" is popularized, predominantly used to diagnose women who were deemed overly emotional or irritable. Treatments were unhelpful and often harmful.

Early 1900's

1900-1910 : Sigmund Freud begins his psychoanalytic work, laying the groundwork for modern psychology. His views on women, however, were controversial and often skewed by prevailing sexist beliefs.

Mid 1900s

1940s-1950s: World War II shifts societal roles, with many women entering the workforce. This begins to reshape societal perceptions of women's capabilities.

1960s-1970s: The second wave of feminism brings increased focus on women's mental health and criticizes the male-centric views of traditional psychoanalysis. More women become psychologists, bringing fresh perspectives to the field.

Late 1900s

1980s: The impact of trauma on mental health becomes more widely recognized, with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980. Recognition of trauma's impact helps bring attention to issues disproportionately affecting women, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.

1990s: Evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) become more widely used. These therapies are applied to a wide range of mental health conditions, benefiting women and men alike.

Early 2000s

2000s: Recognition grows for the effects of societal and cultural factors on mental health. There's an increased focus on understanding and addressing the unique mental health needs and experiences of diverse women, including women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and women from varying socio-economic backgrounds.


2010s: Mental health advocacy increases, with efforts to destigmatize mental health issues and encourage those struggling to seek help. The internet and social media play a significant role in these changes, providing platforms for information sharing, advocacy, and support.

2020s: Teletherapy and online mental health resources become more widespread and accepted, largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This expands access to mental health support, especially important for women who may face barriers to in-person therapy.

Next, Delve into the world of influential women who have shaped the landscape of therapy and mental health. This inspiring group comprises pioneers who've revolutionized therapeutic techniques, brought fresh insights, and shaped policy. Their groundbreaking work has opened doors, challenged norms, and continues to influence therapy today. Explore their unique journeys and contributions below.

Anna Freud

Daughter of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud made significant contributions in the field of psychoanalysis, particularly in child psychology. Her work has influenced the treatment and understanding of children's mental health around the world.

Dr. Brené Brown

Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation's Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers.

Dr. Inez Beverly Prosser

Known as the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in psychology, Prosser made substantial contributions to our understanding of the impact of racially segregated and integrated schools on the personality development of African American youth.

Dr. Joy DeGruy

Dr. DeGruy is an internationally recognized researcher and educator. She is best known for her exploration of "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome," a theory that explains the multi-generational trauma experienced by African Americans resulting from centuries of slavery and racial oppression.

Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark

Alongside her husband Kenneth Clark, Dr. Clark conducted pivotal research on the psychological effects of segregation on African American children, famously known as the "doll tests". Their work played a crucial role in the historic Brown vs. Board of Education case, leading to desegregation of American schools.

Dr. Marsha Linehan

An American psychologist and author, Dr. Linehan is the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioral science, dialectical philosophy, and Zen practice to treat people with borderline personality disorder.

Dr. Martha Bernal

Dr. Bernal was the first Mexican-American woman to receive a doctorate in psychology in the United States. She dedicated her career to increasing diversity in psychology and developed strategies to improve mental health services for ethnic minorities.

Dr. Melba J.T. Vasquez

An American counseling psychologist, Dr. Vasquez has made substantial contributions in the areas of professional ethics, multicultural competence, and diversity issues. She was the first Latina president of the American Psychological Association (APA), serving in 2011, and has tirelessly advocated for inclusivity in the field of psychology.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

A pediatrician, Dr. Burke Harris is celebrated for her work in the area of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Her research sheds light on the long-term health effects of childhood trauma, leading to transformative changes in the medical field.

Dr. Reiko Homma True

Dr. True was a groundbreaking figure in mental health services, making significant strides in the understanding and treatment of mental health within multicultural contexts. Her work has been instrumental in advancing culturally appropriate mental health services, especially for Asian American communities.

Dr. Robin Smith

An acclaimed television personality, Dr. Smith is a licensed psychologist known for her frequent appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her work focuses on personal healing and growth.

Dr. Sue Johnson

Dr. Johnson is a British clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, author, and the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT), a popular form of therapy that centers on attachment and bonding.

Dr. Teresa LaFromboise

Dr. LaFromboise is a renowned psychologist specializing in Native American mental health. Her groundbreaking work on suicide prevention among Native American youth is nationally recognized. She has contributed significantly to the body of literature regarding cultural competence in therapy.

Esther Perel

Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist known for exploring the tension between the need for security and the need for freedom in human relationships. Her work on erotic intelligence and her candid discussions about infidelity have received international acclaim.

Karen Horney

Horney was a German psychoanalyst who postulated theories about neurosis, challenging Freud's perspective on psychoanalysis and femininity. Her innovative perspective on the psychology of women and self-identity was groundbreaking during her time.

Virginia Satir

Satir was a notable American author and psychotherapist, known especially for her approach to family therapy. Her innovative methods have had a profound and lasting impact on the field.

Empower. Your. Mind.  
For more insights, recommendations & knowledge just like this just join the mailing list. Sign up for free.
Thank you! You're all signed up to receive updates and resources from us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.