Therapeutic Utility of Discussing Therapist/Client Intersectionality in the Treatment: When and How?

The impact of the therapeutic alliance on positive clinical outcomes in the practice of systemic family therapy has been established in the literature. However, literature is lacking on how the intersection of therapist and client identities influences this process. We propose that the relational intersectionality resulting from similarities and differences in therapist and client identities has the potential to impact the key components of the therapeutic process such as alliance building, case conceptualization, tasks, and goal setting—depending on whether it is addressed or avoided in therapy. In this session, we will present a model containing pragmatic steps therapists can follow to navigate conversations about intersectionality with clients in a way that is therapeutically beneficial, culturally sensitive, and attuned. Additionally, we will provide suggestions for using the proposed models to train new student therapists (or expose experienced therapists) to ideas of intersectionality and social justice by reflecting on the intersection of their own identities, acknowledging dynamics of power and oppression, and understanding how this could shape their relationship with clients. This session will be recorded for later viewing through AAMFT's Teneo platform.

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Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will be exposed to two empirically based models that can be used to facilitate positive exploration and discussion of intersectionality issues with clients in the therapeutic process.
  2. Participants will reflect, and practice mapping their own various social identities (i.e., positionalities) and how these shape their personal worldview and clinical work with clients from ALL backgrounds.
  3. Participants will be exposed to a case example of how the presenters have used the models presented to discuss their positionality in the therapy room with clients.

Caitlin Phoebe Edwards, MA, MFTC, LPCC

Ronald Asiimwe, MS, LLMFT

Caitlin Edwards (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in the Couple and Family Therapy program in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University. Her research interests lie in cultural adaption of attachment-based couple and family therapies, processes in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), and integration of LGBTQ+ populations into therapeutic research.  Previous research has included the impact of supervision on therapists’ clinical behaviors, how couples in therapy experience hope for their relationship, the association between attachment and hope, how therapists make cultural adaptations when using EFT, and development of an adherence measure for Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy (EFIT).  She is currently involved in research assessing the relationship between gender socialization and therapeutic processes in EFT, the cultural adaptations of Reflecting Teams (RTs), and the association between therapeutic alliance and depressive symptomatology. Caitlin’s research draws heavily from attachment theory and queer theory, with a feminist framework of values, attention to diversity, and desire for social change.
Ronald Asiimwe (he/him/his) is a doctoral student in the Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) program in the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University. Ronald is originally from Uganda and has 4 years of research and clinical experience practicing as a CFT in the US States of Oklahoma and Michigan. Ronald’s program of research examines parenting practices, child mental health outcomes, and ways to culturally adapt evidence-based parenting and family interventions for families in high trauma contexts in low-middle-income countries (LMICs) in Africa and underserved communities in the US. His clinical and research work draws heavily from attachment theory, social interaction learning theory, and the ecological cross-cultural model of cultural Adaptation by Bernal et al., (1995). His other areas of interest are in internationalizing systemic family therapy, CFT multicultural training, clinical supervision, and training of the person of the therapist (i.e., self-of-the-therapist issues). His previous research has examined masters’ students’ experiences in the diversity course offered in COAMFTE accredited US programs. Ronald is highly trained in evidence-based systemic interventions namely, the Parent Management Training Oregon (PMTO) model, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), and Cognitive Behavioral Couples Therapy (CBCT). He is currently working on a national NIH funded intervention grant, named project GRACE which is testing the feasibility of Cognitive Behavioral Couples Therapy for African American couples dealing with intimate partner violence. Ronald has a wealth of experience with research and clinical collaborations across the US and in several African countries of Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. He is passionate about cross-cultural exchange of clinical and scientific knowledge particularly of evidence-based relational interventions.