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

Morgan E. PettyJohn, Chi Fang Tseng, Adrian J. Blow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The impact of the therapeutic alliance on positive clinical outcomes 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 or differences in therapist and client identities has the potential to impact the bonds, tasks, and goals of treatment (key components of the therapeutic alliance; Bordin, 1979) depending on how it is addressed or avoided in therapy. In this paper, we present a model containing pragmatic steps therapists can follow to navigate these conversations with clients in a way that is therapeutically beneficial and culturally sensitive and attuned. Additionally, we provide suggestions for using the proposed model 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-327
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Process
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical Intervention
  • Diversity
  • Intersectionality
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Therapeutic Alliance
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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