Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Family Therapy


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


Pei-Fen Li

Committee Member

Ronald Chenail

Committee Member

Christopher Burnett


Since 1961, the Cuban government has used its medical missions worldwide for diplomatic, ideological, financial, and humanitarian purposes (Huish, 2014; Solano, 2019). Since the collapse of the Socialist Bloc, thousands of Cuban health workers have found a means of economic subsistence and exit from the island through these missions. The U.S. Department of State (2020) declared these medical missions to be forced labor and human trafficking, a move that had multiple consequences for these professionals and their families. From 2006 to 2017, more than 9,000 Cuban health workers entered the Unites States as refugee immigrants, with many settling in South Florida (Solidarity Without Borders, 2019). These doctors and families have experienced acculturation stress and substantial change intheir cultural identifications, practices, and values. Existing research has focused on individual perspectives, leaving a significant gap in the literature on theacculturation process from a family and systemic perspective. This study, using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) design, explored the lived experiences of acculturation of five Cuban refugee doctors and a member of each doctor’s family. Research themes indicated that for these immigrants, thefamily was the main motivation to undertake their migratory and acculturation process. In the midst of separations and stressful situations, participants preserved the family unit and valued the decision to immigrate. Findings suggested that these Cuban immigrants and their families have developed flexible bicultural pathways, actively integrating and discarding components of both cultures in order to facilitate integration in Miami. Based on the results, the researcher presents implications of the study for family therapists working with this population and pathways for future research.