Doing Therapy With Intercultural Couples: A Pastoral Theological Study of Premarital Counseling Open Access

Noronha, Sunita (2016)

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This study seeks to investigate how cultural realities can be addressed within intercultural premarital couples counseling. Four intercultural couples give their perceptions about the kinds of understandings that were helpful during their marital discernment process and recommend what areas could be improved. Using a cultural focus approach couples' stories around their particular culture and relationship were analyzed. Themes related to relationship, family and social ties, and parenting bicultural and bi-racial children were examined. Issues of religious and social influence, money, race, ethnicity, extended family, immigration and biases in family of origin, are explored as are roles and responsibilities, communication, respect, trust and gender stereotyping. The study addresses how these themes relate to the experiences of intercultural couples and provides suggestions for therapists working with intercultural premarital couples. For therapists it is pointed out that there are several characteristics at play that need consideration. These include family upbringing, cultural influences, value systems, traditions, therapists' own understanding of culture and cultural nuances, and prejudices that may help or hinder the therapeutic process. The need to realize that the therapist's personality comes into play in how he/she is received by the client is highlighted. The research adopts a pastoral theological cycle in working towards a deeper understanding of premarital relationships of partners who represent cultural difference and diversity. In conclusion recommendations to therapists and care givers for counseling intercultural couples are made, and suggestions for further research are offered.

Table of Contents

Chapter I

Introduction, Research Problem and Questions Being Addressed

Introduction 1

A. Statement of the Problem 5

B. Statement of Purpose 9

C. Research Questions 10

D. Sub Questions 11

E. Overview of Methodology 11

F. Rationale and Significance 13

G. Role & Subjectivity of the Researche 14

H. Research Assumptions 19

I. Research Limitations 21

J. Organization of the Dissertation 22

Chapter II

A Pastoral Theological Framework for Intercultural Premarital Couples Counseling

Introduction 24

A. Pastoral Theological Perspective on Marriage 25

B. Pastoral Theological Perspective on Intercultural Marriage 27

C. Pastoral Theology and the Correlation Method 35

D. Psychological Theoretical Framework 46

E. Contribution of Kohut's Theory to Intercultural Premarital Counseling 50

Summary 52

Chapter III

Exploring Clinical Literature and Structural Frameworks for Intercultural Premarital Couples Counseling

Introduction 54

A. Review of Literature 54

B. Conceptual Framework 72

Summary 75

Chapter IV

Describing Research Methodology for Intercultural Premarital Couples Counseling

A. Rationale for Qualitative Research Approach 77

B. Research Setting /Context 78

C. Research Sample and Data Sources 79

D. Research Protocol Process 81

E. Data Collection Methods 82

F. Data Analysis Methods 85

G. Risks and Discomfort: 95

H. Limitations: 95

Summary 96

Chapter V

Reporting Findings of the Research for Intercultural Premarital Couples Counseling

Introduction 97

A. Demographic Information 99

B. Cultural Diversity Screening I 100

C. Cultural Diversity Screening I 101

D. Description of Findings 102

1. Understanding of culture 102

2. Understanding of racial divide in our society 103

3. Learning experiences from their intercultural exposure 107

4. Being culturally sensitive 108

5. Cultural expectations 109

6. Things they appreciate in their culture 110

7. Things they do not appreciate in their culture 111

8. Expectations of themselves that are culturally conditioned 113

9. Expectation of their partner that is culturally conditioned 114

10. Culture vs. personality 114

11. Exposure to other interracial couples 115

12. Their identity as an intercultural couple 116

13. Benefits of intercultural relationship/marriage 117

14. Raising Bi-cultural or Bi-racial child(ren) 118

15. Resolving political differences of opinion 120

16. Ways culture has changed their value system 121

17. Does their value system play out in their relationship? 123

18. Is being an intercultural couple a help or hindrance? 124

19. What (cultural) attitudes attracted them to their partner? 125

20. Who brings up cultural issues and why? 128

21. What cultural issues lead to discord in relationship? 129

22. Discussing/resolving issues of discord 131

23. Cultural issues most effective in premarital counseling 132

24. Cultural issues least effective 133

25. Did they foresee any cultural issues when they were dating? 133

26. What has been their experience of pre-marital counseling? 134

27. Reasons for choosing premarital counseling 135

28. Why is premarital counseling helpful? 136

29. Aspects of premarital counseling that were most helpful 138

30. Aspects of premarital therapy that were least helpful 138

31. Did premarital counseling give you sufficient tools to enter into marriage? Do you think you will need marital counseling? 139

32. Reasons for choosing that particular therapist 140

33. What helpful characteristics did they find in their therapist? 141

34. Would they recommend their therapist to another couple and why? 143

35. Themes in premarital counseling 143

36. Process of therapy 145

37. Duration of premarital counseling 145

38. How do they deal with matters of finance? 146

39. Support from family of origin 146

40. Can in-laws cause some hardships in intercultural marriages? 147

41. How do they negotiate different faith practices? 148

42. What suggestions will you give to future intercultural couples? 150

43. Other suggestions 152

Summary 152

Chapter VI

Interpreting the Findings of the Research for Intercultural Premarital Couple Counseling

Introduction 154

Section A

1. Participants' understanding of culture and the ways culture has shaped their value system 157

2. Participants' understanding of the racial/ethnic divide in our society and negotiating cultural divide/racism 162

3. Participants' experience of openness to diversity and being culturally sensitive 166

4. Participants' exposure to other interracial couples and learning experiences from their intercultural exposure 167

5. Participants' cultural expectations of themselves and that of their partner that are culturally conditioned 169

6. Cultural aspects that participants appreciate and or do not appreciate in their own culture 170

7. Participants' experience of their identity as an intercultural couple 172

Section B

1. Cultural attitudes that attracted participants to their partner, contribution of partner in acceptance and understanding and their identity as an intercultural couple 172

2. Participants' experience of being an intercultural couple - a help or hindrance 175

3. Participants' experience of cultural issues that arise in their intercultural relationship 177

4. Participants' experience of discussing/resolving issues of discord in intercultural relationship 182

5. Participants' view of raising bi-racial child (ren) in future 184

6. Participants' experience of negotiating different faith practices in interfaith couples' relationship 187

7. Participants' view of the significance of support from family of origin 190

Section C

1. Awareness of participants' cultural differences while in intercultural premarital couples counseling and their experience of intercultural pre-marital couples counseling 193

2. Participants' reasons for choosing intercultural premarital couples counseling 194

3. Participants' view of helpfulness of intercultural premarital couples counseling 196

4. Participants' view of aspects of counseling most and least helpful in intercultural premarital couples counseling 199

5. Participants' view of cultural issues most and least effective in intercultural premarital couples counseling 202

6. Participants' view of reasons for choosing their intercultural premarital counseling therapist 202

7. Participants' view of helpful characteristics they found in their intercultural therapist and would they recommend their therapist to another intercultural premarital couple and why 204

Section D

1. Participants' suggestions for future intercultural premarital couples 207

2. Participants' suggestions for therapists engaged in intercultural premarital couple counseling 208

3. Participants' suggestions for themes to be used in intercultural premarital couple counseling 209

4. Participants' suggestions for the process of intercultural premarital couple therapy 210

5. Participants' suggestions for the duration of intercultural premarital couple counseling 211

Chapter VII

Conclusion and Recommendations for Intercultural Premarital Couple Counseling

A. Conclusion 213

B. My Reflection on the Contributions of this Research 224

C. Recommendations for intercultural couples in premarital therapy 226

D. Recommendations for therapist' engaged in intercultural couples counseling 227

E. Recommendations for future research 230

Bibliography 233

Appendix A Participant Recruitment: Letter to Therapists 249

Appendix B Emory University Advertisement 250


Appendix D Interview Packet : Tentative Interview Questions 252

Appendix E Emory University Description of Research and Consent to be a Research Subject 254

Appendix F Emory University: Institutional Review Board 261

Appendix G Demographic Questionnaire 265

Appendix H Cultural Diversity Screening Questions 268

Appendix I Research Questions to the Single Partner Participants 270

Appendix J Research Questions to the Couple Participants 272

Appendix K Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative 274

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