Expanding the Therapy Paradigm with Queer Couples: A Relational Intersectional Lens

Fam Process. 2015 Sep;54(3):435-53. doi: 10.1111/famp.12171.


North American and global cultures in general-and the field of Couple and Family Therapy in particular-have made significant strides toward recognizing and validating LGBTQ identities and relationships. However, clinical assessment and conceptualization of queer couples still lack the complexity needed to encompass the issues involved in treatment. Existing literature provides clinicians a basic understanding of queer couples and the dynamics that make them unique from nonqueer couples. However, much of this knowledge has been normed on White middle-class couples and has rarely included couples with transgender or bisexual members. This article invites clinicians and researchers to apply a feminist model of intersectionality to understand queer couples. Our proposed intersectional lens considers multiple axes of identity and power and their interrelationships (Crenshaw, 1989, 1991). We argue that intersectionality is important for understanding all identities, whether privileged or marginalized (Falicov, 2003). This application of the concept of intersectionality is unique in its relational focus, emphasizing how partners' complex individual identities overlap with and intersect with one another. Additionally, this lens considers how the therapists' and clients' multidimensional identities intersect. Three case studies are presented to illustrate application of the intersectional lens. In each case, exploring the partners' multiple social locations, their influences on one another, and the therapist's intersections of identity all proved critical to the direction of therapy.

Keywords: Gay affirmative therapy; Gay couples; LGBT affirmative therapy; Lesbian couples; Queer couples; Same-sex couples.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Couples Therapy / methods*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Female / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Isolation
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Young Adult