A Careful Balance: Multinational Perspectives on Culture, Gender, and Power in Marriage and Family Therapy Practice


  • Margaret L. Keeling, PhD, and Fred P. Piercy, PhD, Department of Human Development, Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program, Virginia Tech.

  • The authors wish to acknowledge the research team who greatly facilitated this research: Valerie Q. Glass, MS, Jotika Jagasia, MS, L. Reece Nielson, MS, and Robyn Nunley, MS. We further wish to acknowledge the following colleagues who assisted with the survey: Magdalani Agrafiotou, Consuelo Scalco Brum, Channah Frumin, Carlos A. Leiro, Jose Ruben Parra, and Mudita Rastogi.

Address correspondence to Margaret L. Keeling, Family Therapy Center at Virginia Tech, 840 University City Blvd., Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0515; E-mail: mkeeling@vt.edu


In this study, we examined how marriage and family therapists from various countries and diverse cultural backgrounds address the intersection of gender, power, and culture in therapy. Twenty participants from 15 countries responded to an Internet survey that included several hypothetical, clinical vignettes not associated with any one particular culture or nationality. Participants selected a vignette based on its similarity to clinical situations they face in practice within their cultural contexts, and provided information about their conceptualizations of gender, culture, and power, along with treatment recommendations. We analyzed data using analytic induction and constant comparison methods. Results indicate the careful balance with which the participants work to engage clients in therapy, respect cultural values and practices, and promote equitable gender relationships.