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


Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

Anne Rambo

Committee Member

Susan Kabot


The main aim of this dissertation is to identify the importance of utilizing both a behavior analytic lens and systemic thinking lens when working with families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Currently, the prevalence of ASD is on the rise, which means more families are in need of services. Services are typically available for the individual with ASD or the family; however, it is the researcher’s belief that services delivered utilizing a both/and lens are more impactful. Through the use of transcendental phenomenology, trained behavior analysts and marriage and family therapists were interviewed to gain insight into their experiences working with families with children diagnosed with ASD. Specifically, this dissertation focused on clinicians who implement both lens. The findings of the study revealed three central themes and two subordinate themes: Participants noted boundaries that influence a dual perspective, Participants found it useful to use a dual perspective, Participants noted this is a different approach not shared by others, Participants found it useful to apply ABA and systemic thinking in a specific order, and Participants found a larger systems perspective useful. The experiences of participants were captured through these themes. Their experiences suggest that the utilization of a dual perspective, while challenging, is more beneficial to families with children diagnosed with ASD. This demonstrates a large need for dual perspectives’ training in both ABA and systemic thinking fields.