A case study of a therapy group for divorced women framed by attachment theory, feminist thought, and a collaborative language systems approach to therapy and practice



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Texas Tech University


In 1997, two therapists in their doctoral program began a divorced women's group at a Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic. This group of women suffered from emotional trauma related to their experience of divorce. The purpose of this dissertation was to explore how both women and therapists experienced this women's group that dealt with divorce issues. This qualitative case study incorporating ethnographic and phenomenological components was framed by attachment theory, feminist theory (as it applies to therapy), and a collaborative language systems approach to therapy. Within the case study, the researcher investigated emergent patterns from three different perspectives including the women and therapists' experiences of the group processes and their individual experiences within the context of the group.

For the initial investigation of group processes, the researcher interviewed two focus groups (three women and four therapists), as well as intensely reviewed videotaped sessions (twelve hours of transition times in the group). Additional tape segments were also viewed by the principle investigator in order to find segments that represented sessions across the life of the group (approximately ten hours of additional therapy). Also, the researcher conducted individual interviews with all of the therapist participants (n=6) and the women participants (n=6). All qualitative data (selected videotaped group sessions, focus group interviews, and individual interviews) were transcribed and analyzed according to the guidelines outlined by Spradley's (1979, 1980) Developmental Research Sequence (DRS).

The overall positive experience of the group, the group as a safe place, the collaborative process of the group, and the gender-split of the therapists as important were identified as emerging themes. From an analysis of the group process themes that emerged were the group as a powerful and positive experience, the group as a safe haven, the group's collaborative process, and the benefit of having a gender-split among therapists. Furthermore, the women and therapists identified a number of categories about their individual experiences in the group. They included: the overall positive experience of the participants, group therapy compared to individual therapy, the implications of this group being conducted in a MFT training program, reflections on gender, a male participant entering the group, the termination of the group, and the impact of the researcher as the interviewer.

The concluding chapter presents a discussion on how the study's significant themes relate to the predominant theories that were used to frame the study. These theories include: attachment theory, group therapy, feminist ideology, and collaborative language system (CLS). Additionally, implication for using this type of group therapy as an educational instrument in a marriage and family therapy (MFT) programs is addressed by the researcher. Clinical implications, the limitations of the study and the need for future research conclude the document.