Psychological Therapy for Women’s Health by Dr Alexandra Kasozi
What is Women’s Health Psychology?
We can think about women’s health psychology as the psychological impact of health issues or challenges that as a woman you are uniquely likely to experience across your lifespan.
It can be helpful to start by thinking about women’s health from a physical perspective. There are a lot of physical health issues that are unique to women (or trans men), from pregnancy and childbirth, to fertility and infertility, gynaecological health and certain oncological problems.
Women’s mental health concerns the psychological impact of all of these areas.
Why is the impact of women’s health issues on our mental wellbeing important?
Women’s mental health is important because the changes and challenges that women face throughout their lives are significant and difficult.
These challenges may be common and most women will likely face all or some of them at one time or another. However, as a society we have become used to considering them “normal” just because they are common, and so we often think we should just get on with things because many other women go through similar things.
Most of the time, though, if someone feels like they need help and support with how they are feeling, they would benefit from help, and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty, weak or negative in any way for seeking it.
What sort of frequency are we talking about?
Here are a few statistics to illustrate how common these problems are:
Statistically speaking, women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety ¹.
With regard to maternal health, 1 in 10 of women will experience postnatal depression at a conservative estimate ² and 30% of mothers report that they find some aspect of childbirth traumatic ³.
Couples who suffer from infertility are more anxious and emotionally distressed than couples who do not face fertility problems &sup4;.
All of these issues, and many others, can have profound impact on our identities, relationships and wellbeing.
What can psychological therapy for women’s health do?
Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space for us to explore how we feel and what we think about what we are going through. It is usually difficult for us to be truly honest with those around us about how we are feeling, because we are concerned with the impact that this will have on them.
In therapy, a therapist will work with you to improve your mental wellbeing in the area you are concerned about. How this happens exactly will depend on what you want, how your therapist works, and the concerns you are bringing.
How do I work with women who come to me for therapy regarding women’s health issues?
When I meet clients for the first time, we always spend the first session or two talking through what has brought them to counselling now, talking a little about their personal history and most importantly discussing what it would look like if counselling were fruitful. This is incredibly helpful in establishing where the client is currently and where they would like help getting to. It is then a task of working out how we get there.
With regard to women who come to me in relation to a women’s health concern, what I suggest and offer as a therapist often depends on the problem. If a client has had a traumatic birth experience, for example, then integrating a trauma-focused therapy such as trauma-focused CBT will likely be very useful in reducing post-traumatic stress symptoms and increasing well-being.
However, if a client is struggling to come to terms with infertility, or has suffered the loss of a miscarriage, a more person-centred approach which offers the client the opportunity to process and come to terms with the sense of loss, sadness, anger and grief that they may be feeling would be more appropriate.
As a psychological therapist, I believe in collaborative enquiry. As a women, no one will understand your womanhood and yourself better than you. You bring your expertise in you, I bring my expertise in psychotherapy, and we work together to tailor therapy to your journey to wellbeing.
1. Martin-Merino, E., Ruigomez, A., Wallander, M., Johansson, S. and GarciaRodriguez, L. (2009). Prevalence, incidence, morbidity and treatment patterns in a cohort of patients diagnosed with anxiety in UK primary care. Family Practice, 27(1), pp.9-16.
4. Baghianimoghadam, M. H., Aminian, A. H., Baghianimoghadam, B., Ghasemi, N., Abdoli, A. M., Seighal Ardakani, N., & Fallahzadeh, H. (2013). Mental health status of infertile couples based on treatment outcome. Iranian journal of reproductive medicine, 11(6), 503–510.