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Psychological Counselling in Russia: The Making of a Feminised Profession

By Maria Karepova


This thesis investigates the development of the profession of psychological counselling post-1989 in Russia and analyses how gender shapes the processes of feminisation and professionalisation in this field. The post-perestroika period saw a rapid rise in the popularity of psychology and the expansion of therapy services, which were banned before 1989 for ideological reasons (Balachova et al. 2001; 2004; Sukhodolsky et al. 1995; Vasilieva 2000). Although the attitudes towards counselling are still ambivalent due to its link to the notorious legacy of psychiatric services in the Soviet Union (Bloch and Reddaway 1977; 1984; Cohen 1989; Etkind 1997), nevertheless, since its emergence, the new profession immediately became trendy, rather well-paid and female-dominated. Drawing on 26 semi-structured interviews with practising psychologists in two Russian cities (Moscow and Vladivostok), I investigate the process of professionalisation of this female-dominated field in a transitional society and show how and why it became feminised. In the analytical chapters of this thesis I examine professional education, working practices, regulation and infrastructure, and counsellors’ views on the role of gender in their profession. I analyse how the counsellors’ entry opportunities into the profession are gendered, aged and classed. I discuss the challenges that the counsellors face when working in the state, private and informal sectors of the economy and how their working choices and opportunities are structured by gender. Further, I analyse how the counsellors see the work of gender in their profession and unpack the relationship between these gendered discourses and realities to show how they shape the development of the profession and the gender distribution in it. Finally, I look at the state of professional regulation in psychology, consider how it is perceived by practitioners, and how organisational experiences can be different for men and women. My findings reveal that the development of the profession is structured by the interplay of a certain gender ideology, professional specificities, and the larger social, economic and historic context of Russia. I demonstrate how the development of psychological counselling is a complex process, embedded in a particular socio-cultural environment and shaped by structural and interactive forces. This thesis is the first comprehensive study of the counselling profession in post-1989 Russia and extends the understanding of the feminisation of the professions in transitional societies

Publisher: Centre for Women's Studies (York)
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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