Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Rhonda Goldman, PhD

Second Advisor

Kristen Newberry, PsyD


The focus in the present study was to develop a refined model of tenderness events in emotion-focused couples therapy. The model was created in the discovery phase of a task analytic research study through a rational-empirical method. The study was designed to combine empirical and rational data on the expression of tenderness and the display of a tenderness expression within the context of therapy. The rational model was derived from a review of the literature on emotions, couples therapy, and tenderness as an emotion. Empirical data were observed and recorded through reviews of videotapes and transcripts obtained during the York Emotional Injury Project (Greenberg, Warwar, & Malcolm, 2010). Following the gathering of empirical and rational data, a synthesized rational-empirical model was created that outlined the varying components of a tenderness expression in emotion-focused couples therapy. The components of the tender partner, vulnerable partner, and therapist were all outlined to create a comprehensive refined model that illustrates the flow of the tenderness expression as it unfolds in sessions. The model shows that tenderness is an emotional response to a partner’s vulnerability expression. Tenderness comprises multiple nonverbal expressions and positive verbal expressions toward the vulnerable partner that are acknowledged and processed between the couple and therapist. The vulnerable partner views and receives the tender partner positively following the expression of tenderness. This leads to the therapist processing the expression of tenderness as a change in the couple’s negative interactional cycle, integrating the new positive interactional pattern, and helping the couple to build stronger attachment bonds and move toward resolve.