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

Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

Kara S. Erolin


Marriage and family therapists and other mental health professionals and clients can be thought of as their own, divine emotional unit, generating and distributing the anxiety of one to the other. In fact, Kerr and Bowen (1988) described anxiety as a driving force exchanged by every living organism, and the energy surrounded by every human relationship. Within a hospice setting, anxiety can be heightened due to catering to end-of-life care, which can potentially affect the emotional response and reactivity of the mental health professional, changing the course of treatment for the patient and their family. Emerging research within healthcare has focused on patients; however, research regarding the impact clients have on mental health professionals have been scarce. The present study seeks to explore how dealing with grief narratives on a daily basis impacts the functioning of mental health professionals in both their work and family system, informed by Bowen family systems theory. The study utilized interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore the lived experiences of mental health professionals impacted by the grief narratives of the patients and families each serve within hospice. The aim of the research was to expand mental health professionals' understanding on how clients may impact and potentially change the way therapists interpret the world from a Bowenian lens.