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

Integrating theory, research, and a wealth of clinical narratives, Fors explores four core situations: when therapist and patient have similar levels of social power, when either therapist or patient has more privilege relative to the other, and when therapist and patient have similar levels of nonprivilege.

This fresh synthesis 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.

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, 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 an 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.

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.

In 2016, APA Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) and the APA Publications Office awarded it the 2016 Johanna K. Tabin Book Proposal Prize. In 2018, Fors will be featured in a video in the APA Psychotherapy Video Series.

Reviews & Awards

This book is brilliant. It's rare to find this combination of depth of scholarship, lucidity of writing, and integration of psychodynamic and political perspectives. Fors demonstrates a maturity and sophistication of conceptualizing that is a pleasure to read.
—Laura S. Brown, PhD, ABPP
Independent Practice, Seattle, WA

Fors beautifully articulates the malignant ways privilege shapes and embodies relationships and the clinical space. Using an engaging form of autotheory, she ties her analyses of privilege to her own real-life experiences, enabling her explorations and transformations of privilege to come alive for the reader. This is a must-read for clinicians and students alike.
—Katie Gentile, PhD
Professor of Gender Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, New York

Fors provides a unique and complex lens into privilege, vulnerability, and oppression as related to psychotherapy. Her authentic tone and style of writing reflect the best of feminist and psychoanalytic inquiry. This book is essential reading for therapists, educators, and scholars who want to engage in issues of diversity, privilege, and power with depth and honesty.
—Usha Tummala-Narra, PhD
Associate Professor, Counseling, Developmental, & Educational Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA