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 F. Burnett

Committee Member

Shelley K. Green

Committee Member

Martha Gonzalez Marquez


Cooking is a universal activity which all humans can relate to on some level. Historically, cooking has continued to connect people across cultures and time, simultaneously providing nutritive sustenance as well as socio- and psychological benefits. Medical and mental health practitioners only in recent years have utilized cooking in a therapeutic process, and most of those cooking activities available tend to focus on cooking from an occupational and nutrition-education stance. A gap in the literature pertaining to cooking and its therapeutic applications exists around the relational nature underlying the cooking process, especially as it pertains to couples. While marriage and family therapists have used a number of creative experiential modalities in therapy for years, such as art and music therapy, cooking has been especially underutilized in comparison, despite its therapeutic and relational applicability. Therefore, this study was conducted to offer a foundation for understanding how the interactions in a kitchen can highlight relational elements between people.

Eight couples (16 participants) who have lived together for at least two years and who cook together often were interviewed in their homes. A constructivist grounded theory methodology was used for this study, and subsequent to data analysis, a three-part theory describing the relational components of couple’s cooking interactions emerged, called The Couple’s Cooking Triad. The theory is made up of Relationship Skills, Emotional Connections, and Languaging. Results from this study, organizing the complex interactions of couples in a kitchen, indicate further use by marriage and family therapists in an experiential therapeutic capacity.