Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Megan J. Murphy


Lesbian couples often present for therapy for the same reasons as heterosexual couples; however, lesbian couples also have to negotiate societal homonegativity that devalues and marginalizes their relationships. The aim of this study was to explore a common experience of therapy from the perspective of lesbian couples and their therapists. A feminist qualitative method was used to attend to diversity within and among triads, maintain an awareness of the multiple influences on the client-therapist relationship, view the participants in their larger societal context, and consider the power dynamics that are inherent in relationships. Interviews were conducted with seven lesbian clients and five therapists utilizing a semi-structured format to inquire about their experience of therapy and what they thought influenced that experience. The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed through open and focused coding using a constant comparison method. Themes that emerged from the interview process indicated that the quality of the client-therapist relationship or the therapeutic alliance was central to the therapy process. Participants described working together, a sense of connection, the therapist stance as a non-expert, and the therapist as a professional as concepts that led to a positive experience in therapy. Therapists fostered a sense of connection by attending to the physical environment in their offices, creating emotional safety for lesbian couples via being caring and non-judgmental, and through the appropriate use of humor within the therapeutic context. The therapists took a non-expert stance and positioned the clients as the experts on their own lives and relationships by asking questions and letting clients lead the therapeutic process. Therapist professionalism was noted by clients when there was minimal self-disclosure and when the therapist had knowledge about the issues that lesbian couples experience in their personal lives and in the broader societal context. Consistent with the feminist idea of multiple influences on relationship dynamics, power was seen as central in the therapeutic context as participants described the relationship between power and the themes that emerged in this study. The results have implications for clinical training programs and continuous self-monitoring by therapists.


Copyright Owner

Mary Sue Green



Date Available


File Format


File Size

227 pages