Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 385–399 | Cite as

Gendered Patterns of Interaction: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis of Couple Therapy

  • Olga SutherlandEmail author
  • Andrea LaMarre
  • Carla Rice
  • Laura Hardt
  • Nicole Jeffrey
Original Paper


In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in attention to gender and gender-based inequalities in family therapy. Despite this, there is a dearth of empirical work that examines how gendered inequalities intersecting with other axes of privilege/oppression are maintained within families, including in the therapeutic context. In this study, we used Foucauldian discourse analysis to examine how gendered power is produced and reproduced circularly or through recurrent patterns of interaction in couple therapy. We identified gendered discourses and assumptions informing partners’ constructions of their gendered selves and relationships. We highlight the complexity and intersectionality of gendered subjectivities and relations in contemporary Canadian couples involved in heterosexual relationships. Although women in this study contest their oppression and exhibit agency to negotiate who they are in general and in relation to men, they simultaneously continue to occupy subordinate positions in a gender order that is culturally and interactionally allocated to them. We discuss implications for family therapy practice.


Gender Power Patterns of interaction Foucauldian discourse analysis Intersectionality 



The authors would like to thank clients and therapists, and other individuals, who helped develop the archive of therapy sessions used in this article. This work was supported by funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olga Sutherland
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea LaMarre
    • 1
  • Carla Rice
    • 1
  • Laura Hardt
    • 1
  • Nicole Jeffrey
    • 1
  1. 1.Couple and Family Therapy Program, Department of Family Relations and Applied NutritionUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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