Date of Award

Fall 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

Michael J. Rohrbaugh

Committee Director

Ellen Rosen

Committee Member

Joy Kannarkat

Committee Member

Laura Giat Roberto

Committee Member

Michael Nichols


The feminist critique of family therapy has had a growing impact on theory and practice for almost two decades (Hare-Mustin, 1978; Bograd, 1990). Writings on feminist family therapy (FFT) reveal both common and diverse opinions about what FFT is. The present study examined how views of FFT are segmented using Q-methodology (Stephenson, 1953; Brown, 1980; McKeown & Thomas, 1988), a small-sample empirical technique for identifying emergent viewpoints and studying their similarities and differences. A Q-sort instrument of 60 statements was constructed to sample diverse discourse on FFT. Magraw's (1992) interviews with leading experts in FFT served as a primary source for loosely structuring the Q-sort instrument into hypothesized areas of consensus and divergence in FFT; a smaller set of items sampled critiques of both FFT and feminism in the broader culture. A convenience sample of 29 experienced and novice family therapists, 12 of whom were experts in FFT, ranked the statements by sorting them into 10 categories along a continuum from "least agree" (category 1) to "most agree" (category 10). Factor analysis of correlations among the Q-sorts produced six emergent factors or viewpoints accounting for 69% of the variance. Two factors represented distinctly feminist viewpoints; all the FFT experts loaded on one of these two factors. The remaining participants were scattered across four other factors, representing various views of FFT. The two feminist views were interpreted in the context of schools of feminism. Three issues in particular distinguished the two views of FFT: whether feminist energy should be directed toward both sexes or more toward women; whether racial inequities override gender inequities; and the place of hierarchy between therapist and clients. Respondents on the two feminist viewpoints shared some common ground: they rejected therapeutic neutrality; viewed therapy as a political act; and endorsed challenging power arrangements in the family. The results suggest that views of FFT can be understood in a broader intellectual context: diverse views of FFT appear to parallel divisions of opinion in feminist theories and in cultural perceptions of the women's movement.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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