Emotion and family therapy: Male clinician's attitudes and use of emotion as a main component in therapeutic intervention and theory

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Emotion, Family therapy, Clinician, Therapeutic intervention, Gender

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Emotion as a main component in family therapy enjoys empirical support and increasing popularity, yet little is known about the clinicians who are using theoretical models inclusive of emotion. Also, when considering traditional gender stereotypes and socialization that leads to devaluing emotion, there is limited knowledge about the impact this may have on male family therapists' attitudes and use of emotion in clinical practice. I hypothesized that male family therapists would report unfavorable attitudes about emotion and low levels of use of emotion as a main clinical tool overall, and when compared to female therapists. Method. Two-hundred and twenty-one therapists (120 male, 101 female) recruited through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy completed self-report questionnaires about emotion as a main component in practicing family therapy (Emotion in Family Therapy Questionnaire), and demographic data. Results. Male participant means on perceptions of the field on family therapy's support of using emotion (PFE), clinician's personal attitudes about the use of emotion (CPA), prevalence of use of emotion (PUE), confidence using emotion (Conf), and feelings of effectiveness using emotion (Effect), all indicate favorable attitudes about emotion. No significant differences exist between men and women, as mean scores were similar for all scales. None of the test variables were found to significantly relate to emotion for men. For women, age and relationship status correlate positively with Conf. Significant differences exist between work settings in terms of Conf for females. When controlling for age, female clinicians with children have more positive attitudes about emotion and higher prevalence of use of emotion than those without children. Conclusion. Male family therapists generally feel positive about each area of emotion examined, as do their female counterparts. How participants conceptualize emotion as a main clinical component is unclear, as are the factors that influence emotion for male therapists. Training can focus on the impact of gender socialization with regard to emotion specifically to gain insight into these matters. As emotion in family therapy gains notoriety, future research is needed to best understand the clinicians using emotionally inclusive approaches and provide the most effective methods of training.


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