Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Christopher Burnett

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

Anne Rambo


Sometimes when a person who has been diagnosed with cancer finds out that his or her cancer returned and continuously has to go for surgeries, treatments, regular follow-ups, and continued overtime to deal with the same life-threatening illness, he or she can actually feel frozen due to feeling depressed and anxious in not knowing how to move forward with life. Dance is a metaphor used in this study to move forward. Psychotherapy can offer major benefits to help cancer patients cope with the depression, anxiety, stress, and other emotional reactions that often accompany a cancer diagnosis (Stuyck, 2008). Many studies have explored the benefit of psychotherapy for cancer patients, but little is known about the personal narratives of cancer patients who sought individual therapy to talk about their experience with cancer. The purpose of this study is to explore, through autoethnographic inquiry, what role dance plays in the process of seeking individual therapy. It also explores the impact of facing cultural biases that exist in the Haitian culture about mental health. Finally, this study explores what role psychotherapy played in my reflective therapeutic journal that I wrote while in therapy. This autoethnography was written from a first-person perspective, thus giving readers the chance to enter into the researcher’s world. This study brings a social constructionist and systemic understanding to the experience of being a Haitian Marriage and Family Therapist cancer patient who sought individual therapy and became transformed by accepting my therapist’s invitation to dance with cancer. Additionally, this study examines my unique position as a Marriage and Family Therapist to receive therapy.

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