Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Eva Feindler, PhD

Abstract

For centuries, colonization has been told as a story of triumph, of success, of modernization. The telling of this particular story is predicated on the belief that only white colonizers were capable of possessing, and thus deserving of, humanity. Indigenous peoples, in turn, were classified as primitive, as savages. Contemporaneous to the aforementioned brutality were successive intellectual movements in which white thinkers across the European continent gave intellectual meaning to their dominance. The epistemological standard set by these movements, and inherited by psychology and psychotherapy, was wrapped in standards of morality and humanity that excluded the knowledges of nonwhite people. Utilizing a Black feminist lens, this dissertation sought to expand epistemology as it has been understood and recognized in academia. This dissertation examined the academic discourse of contemporary psychotherapy and investigated the relationship between language, love, and power. This dissertation explores where the academic discourse of psychotherapeutic journals is complicit in white Western epistemological understanding and where it explodes and undermines it by being loving, as understood by a Black feminist ontoepistemology. Twenty-six texts were collected from a five-year period, spanning 2015 to 2020, a period which captures the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the span of Donald Trump’s presidency. A Black feminist ontoepistemology was utilized to interpret the data and answer the following research questions: How is the concept of love represented in Western psychotherapeutic journals? What does a critical discourse analysis of these texts reveal about sociohistorical and interpersonal level power dynamics, particularly in relation to white supremacy? The following are among the findings of the analysis: The discourse encourages engagement with linguistic shortcuts, wherein concepts like oppression and bigotry are conduits to discuss intrapsychic experiences. The discourse frames whiteness as the center of experience and marginalizes Blackness, Indigenousness, and other nonwhite perspectives. The discourse is vague about what constitutes love and inconsistent about its appropriateness in the work. Ultimately, the discourse of the texts in this analysis suggests there is more work to do, more areas in the discipline to disrupt, and more love to give.

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