Transforming Gender Discourse in Couple Therapy: Researching Intersections of Societal Discourse, Emotion, and Interaction

  • Carmen Knudson-MartinEmail author
  • Jessica ChenFeng
  • Aimee Galick
  • Elsie Lobo
  • Sarah K. Samman
  • Kirstee Williams
Part of the The Language of Mental Health book series (TLMH)


Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy transforms how couples enact societal discourses that maintain power disparities. It evolved out of action research in which clinicians studied how they addressed these discourses in the moment by moment of couple therapy. In this chapter we describe the critical social constructionist foundations of SERT and report four research studies that drew upon grounded theory, task analysis, and narrative analysis to examine how discursive gender practices organize heterosexual couple therapy and how therapists can position their actions to transform inequitable societal discourses. Three phases of clinical work are identified: (1) positioning—attuning to sociocultural emotion and discourse and exposing relational consequences of power inequities; (2) interrupting—shifting sociocultural discourses in in-the-moment relational power processes; and (3) practicing—envisioning, enacting, and reinforcing increased options for mutuality and shared relational responsibility. We encourage practitioners to study their work in order to demystify intersections of social discourse and clinical change.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmen Knudson-Martin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica ChenFeng
    • 2
  • Aimee Galick
    • 3
  • Elsie Lobo
    • 4
  • Sarah K. Samman
    • 5
  • Kirstee Williams
    • 6
  1. 1.Graduate School of Education and Counseling, Lewis and Clark CollegePortlandUSA
  2. 2.California State UniversityNorthridgeUSA
  3. 3.Government of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Loma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA
  5. 5.Alliant International UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  6. 6.Lee UniversityClevelandUSA

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