Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology


Domestic violence effects 1.8 million women a year in the United States. Despite the magnitude of the problem, the issue is largely unaddressed by the mental health community. Therapists' values, which significantly impact the therapeutic interaction, have not been scrutinized as to their impact on female victims of domestic abuse. Furthermore, four widely accepted therapeutic orientations (psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, and family systems) have historically promoted values which fail to provide a framework for understanding healthy female development, the experiences of women in general, and the experience of women who have endured domestic violence in particular.

Feminist developmental theory (particularly the work of Chodorow, Gilligan, and the Stone Center writers) provides a foundation for understanding female victims of domestic violence that values women's empathic and relational tendencies. By applying feminist developmental theory, therapists are equipped to work with female domestic abuse victims in a manner that is empathic, supportive, and empowering for the client.

Feminist developmental theory provides therapists with an orienting belief that is consistent with' the personal experiences of this population. This increases the probability of a positive outcome as it is congruous with women's developmental tendencies. Literature pertaining to the role of therapists' values, a model for healthy female development, and the dynamics of domestic violence will be reviewed.

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