Karin Hovey, Psy.D., is a 2019 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Chair

Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member

Barbara Belcher-Timme, PsyD, Committee Member


microaggressions, women, sexual objectification, mental health, IPA, coping, clinical psychology, psychotherapy

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This dissertation presents research involving women’s subjective experiences of gender microaggressions. The introduction includes a review of the literature on microaggressions: (a) the types of microaggressions, (b) the emotional and psychological cost to those who experience microaggressions, and (c) how gender microaggressions against women work to maintain oppression and sexual objectification of women in American society. This current research addresses the knowledge gap created by little research on women’s lived experiences of gender microaggressions they encounter in their everyday lives, particularly in the workplace. The population studied was dental hygienists. This population is unique because of the disproportionate number of women dental hygienists and male dentists for whom they work. Additionally, results seemed to support the concept of gender microaggressions as an imbedded part of the profession of dental hygiene. Phenomenological studies of lived experiences can be of particular relevance for the ideographic practice of clinical psychologists and psychotherapists. The transferability of themes distilled from the language of individual experience to therapeutic understanding is a strength of phenomenological research methods, particularly when integrated with a hermeneutic model of interpretive dialogue. The research applied Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to aid in the understanding of women’s expressions of their experiences of and how they coped with microaggressions, in order to inform psychotherapeutic practice. Results from the study revealed nine superordinate themes including: (a) experiences of gender microaggressions, (b) reactions and emotional responses, (c) perceived intentions of the aggressor, (d) consequences for taking a stand against microaggressions, (e) coping mechanisms, (f) implicit effects of gender microaggressions, (g) ambiguity about gender microaggressions, (h) thoughts on gender microaggressions, and (i) microaggressions against others. Further interpretations are provided including findings that suggest participants’ feelings that women need to strategize and legitimize to get what they need, that gender microaggressions are maintained within the field of dental hygiene, the interpretation that perceived support and validation from others who witness gender microaggressions serves to maintain the problem, and that participants demonstrated an evolution of their reactions and thoughts of gender microaggressions over time. A discussion of the findings is provided with support from the literature, implications and limitations of the study are presented, and future research is suggested.


Karin Hovey

ORCID Scholar ID#0000-0002-3791-053x