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


Anne H. Rambo

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

James Hibel


The conditions that allowed early MFTs the freedom to creatively explore different interventions and theories of change are no longer available in today’s mental health care system. Although there are many benefits to the structure of managed behavioral healthcare organizations, a thorough review of the literature demonstrates that many therapists working in managed care agencies struggle with maintaining their theoretical creativity, claiming third-party payers’ service requirements and paperwork a barrier to their creativity. A phenomenological transcendental research method was utilized to understand the phenomenon of successfully combining creativity and accountability in the practice of marriage and family therapy from the perspective of six creative MFTs who have effectively incorporated creative therapeutic techniques into their work, while adhering to the structured requirements of managed care.

The findings and themes of the study were organized into two categories. The themes in the Textural / Content Category (description and purpose of therapeutic creativity at a managed care agency) are: (1) Creatively combining the needs of the clients, the different professional entities, insurance companies and you as a therapist, (2) Translating post-modern information into the medical model language that meets the third-party payers’ requirements, (3) Completing documentation with clients, (4) Incorporating technique from a range of therapy models, (5) Keeping clients engaged through a variety of resources and activities, and (6) Utilizing metaphors and themes to uncover patterns of relational dynamics and behaviors. The themes in the Structural / Supportive Conditions Category (factors that allow the balance of creativity and accountability to occur) are: (1) Systemic understanding of how the therapeutic and business systems of managed behavioral healthcare interact together, (2) Having a supportive network of colleagues, (2a) Supportive group of coworkers within the job setting, (2b) Supportive network of MFT colleagues outside of the work setting, (3) Desire to make a difference in peoples’ lives, (4) Continuous education on all aspects of the mental health field, (5) Employers’ support of creative therapy, (6) Self-reflection, (7) Self-care, and (8) Organization and time management.

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