Date of Completion


Embargo Period



feminism; feminist therapy; medicalization; managed care; diagnosis; Marriage and Family Therapy; qualitative; emotional labor

Major Advisor

Rachel Tambling

Associate Advisor

Kari Adamsons

Associate Advisor

Marysol Asencio

Associate Advisor

Laura Mauldin

Field of Study

Human Development and Family Studies

Open Access

Open Access


Feminist theorizing has had a marked impact on the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT). Previous research has shown that a feminist perspective in therapy is commonly operationalized through a number of behaviors, such as equalizing power between the therapist and client and addressing social inequality in clients’ lives. To date, however, little work has examined how feminist therapists apply their feminist values to professional contexts beyond the therapy room. As a result, scholarship overlooks how feminist therapists themselves are embedded in a mental healthcare system where issues of power and societal context influence to their ability to conduct feminist therapy. The current study remedies this gap by investigating how feminist MFTs enact their feminist values in professional contexts beyond the therapeutic encounter. Specifically, this study addresses three primary objectives: (a) explore how feminist MFTs enact their values in relation to their colleagues, (b) examine strategies of feminist MFTs in relation to the institutional structure of managed care, and (c) examine strategies of feminist MFTs in relation to the current diagnostic system for mental disorders. Data were gathered from 21 self-identified feminist MFTs through semi-structured qualitative interviews and analyzed with techniques associated with grounded theory methodology. Results revealed how feminist MFTs negotiate their feminist values and practices with respect to power and institutional structures. These findings are discussed in the context of the medicalization of mental health and the labor that feminist therapists perform in order to achieve their goal of providing clients with access to high-quality mental healthcare.