Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Daniels, Jessica


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of recently graduated mental health professionals from Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) programs in the United States who work with immigrant and refugee populations. The study intended to examine the experience of Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) working with immigrants and refugees to gain a deeper understanding of the therapists’ experience of working with these clients and their perceptions of their training. The body of literature on diversity training for mental health providers reveals a gap in the peer-reviewed literature regarding the understanding of how MFTs perceive their graduate school education prepared them to effectively work with immigrant and refugee populations (Adams, 2010; Shannon, Vinson, Cook, & Lennon, 2016; Villalba, 2009), and to improve cultural awareness in mental health professionals (American Psychological Association, 2008; Dadras & Danesphour, 2018; DuPree, Bhakta, Patel, & DuPree, 2013; Nixon et al., 2010; Seponski, Bermudez, & Lewis, 2013). The results of this study demonstrated that a need remains to reexamine current practices in the field of MFT to train future MFTs to work with diverse populations. This study underscores the idea that to work across cultures, and with immigrants and refugees, MFTs must be trained in settings that foster deep, difficult conversations about culture and inequalities in therapy with well-trained professors. This study highlights serving the mental health needs of refugees and immigrants is best supported by a family systems lens, and requires specific training, as well as a posture of flexibility, curiosity, self-awareness, humility, and adaptability to work with a population that is not a monolithic group but a vibrant, diverse, and complex group with needs and strengths that go beyond immigration trauma.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation