This book reveals four common patterns of interaction in the therapy partnership, and explains how social power dynamics influence those patterns.

Societal issues based in power and privilege inevitably enter the therapy room. In this book author Malin Fors offers an intersectional grammar to unmask the hidden dynamics.

Integrating theory, research, and a wealth of clinical narratives, Fors explores some core situations:

  • when therapist and patient have similar levels of social power
  • when either therapist or patient has more privilege relative to the other
  • when both therapist and patient have similar levels of nonprivilege

This fresh synthesis — for which the author was awarded the 2016 APA Division 39 Johanna K. Tabin Book Proposal Prize — offers new language for understanding power dynamics in psychotherapy, counseling, and all treatment relationships.

Clinical topics explored include voluntary and involuntary self-disclosure, visible and invisible similarities between patient and therapist, internalized oppression, and choosing whether or not to address privilege explicitly, among many others.

Nancy McWilliams contributed the Foreword to this book, which gives professionals from any therapy orientation a helpful framework for aligning their desire for social justice with healing interactions around race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, age, and other differences.

Table of Contents

Nancy McWilliams



  1. Our Blind Spots in Therapy
  2. Dynamics of Power and Privilege
  3. Similarity of Privilege
  4. Privilege Favoring the Therapist
  5. Privilege Favoring the Patient: Confused Subordination in Therapy
  6. Similarity of Nonprivilege
  7. Distortions in the Matrix of Relative Privilege
  8. Afterword: The Unthought Known

Appendix: Suggested Themes for Further Reflection



About the Author

Author Bio

Malin Fors is a Swedish psychologist and psychoanalyst living in the world's most northern town, Hammerfest, Norway. She has broad experience in both clinical work and teaching. She has worked for a decade at the local hospital's psychiatric outpatient unit and also has a busy private practice.

For more than 10 years, as a guest lecturer at Gothenburg University in Sweden, Dr. Fors has been teaching students in clinical psychology about how issues of power, privilege, and gender create biases in the assessment of psychopathology.

She is assistant professor at University of Tromsø, the Arctic University of Norway, where she teaches medical students on topics of diversity, privilege awareness, and critical perspectives on cultural competency.

Dr. Fors also serves as an external examiner for the Swedish Psychological Association's Specialist degree program. She was chosen to represent the Psychiatric Clinics on the Clinical Ethics Board for the Finnmark Hospital Trust, 2009–2012. A Grammar of Power in Psychotherapy is her first book-length manuscript.