This study will examine how marital experience and spirituality interact in the lives of physician couples. Physicians’ increasing openness to spiritual issues inherent in treating the ill and suffering (King, 2000; Thorsen, Harris & Oman, 2001), the growing number of women entering the medical profession and becoming physician and dual physician couples (Levinson & Lurie, 2004; Brotherton & Etzel, 2008), and physicians’ work-related stress (Transue, 2004; Wicks, 2006) and the resulting pressures and time constraints on medical marriages (Sotile & Sotile, 2000) make studying this population particularly relevant. Interviews with twenty two married, professional couples, in which at least one spouse is a physician, will investigate spousal experiences from a relational perspective informed by feminist theory (Fishbane, 2001 & 2007; Knudson-Martin & Mahoney, 2009). Relationality will be conceptualized as including attunement, authenticity, relational responsibility and mutual influence. This relational feminist theoretical perspective will be used in tandem with grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) in a qualitative analysis exploring the relationship between how physician couples experience relationality with God and with their spouse. Connections between spirituality and couple relationships will be examined through a contextual understanding of relational and power dynamics. Based on the findings, implications will be suggested for possible therapeutic interventions with physician couples. Suggestions will be made for future research in the area of further understanding the connection between spirituality and marriage among physician couples and other types of couples.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Marital and Family Therapy


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Knudson-Martin, Carmen

Second Advisor

Wilson, Colwick

Third Advisor

Hernandez, Barbara

Fourth Advisor

Lee, Cameron

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Marriage -- Psychological aspects; Physicians -- Psychology; Physicians' spouses -- Psychology; Dual-career families

Subject - Local

Physicians -- psychology; Marital Experience; Spirituality; Relational Feminist Theoretical Perspective



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives