Understanding theoretical, clinical, and research training experiences of international doctoral students in marriage and family therapy programs in the United States



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Texas Tech University


Within the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT), there is a growing recognition and sensitivity to the mental health-needs of diverse populations. There is also an increase on the emphasis placed on cultural diversity and the recruitment of minority students However, the field of MFT has made little to no progress in recognizing issues surrounding the needs, experiences, and problems of international students and practitioners in an atmosphere that is often quite different from that of their country of origin. This dissertation is a step in that direction. Specifically, the aim is to gain a better understanding of international students' experiences in areas of: (a) theory, (b) research, (c) clinical training, supervision and practice, and (d) personal/family impact. In addition, this study attempts to provide insight into the processes of translation and integration of internationals students' cumulative learning in the U.S. into their future scholarly work here and their home countries.

A qualitative methodological approach, namely the tradition of phenomenology and some components of the tradition of ethnomethodology, were used for the purpose of inquiry into the research questions. Thirteen in-depth interviews were conducted and holistic/contextualizing strategies of qualitative data analysis and thematic analysis were predominantly used as guidelines for data analysis.

Results of the data analysis revealed that the field of MFT has made an affirmative move towards recognizing and discussing issues of diversity in the field. Yet, most discussions still center around racial and cultural diversity in the U.S. not including international students and practitioners. While most internationals reported having positive training experiences they felt that there was a lack of acknowledgement about the richness they were adding to the field. The findings of this study have implications for the conceptualization and understanding of diversity in the field of MFT.