Rachel Sachs Riverwood, Ph.D., is a 2021 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Denzel Jones, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Kevin Lyness, PhD, Committee Member
  • Dana Riger, PhD, Committee Member


Autoethnography, Arts Based Research, Attachment, Childfree, Emotionally Focused Therapy, Ethical Non-Monogamy, Feminism, Identity, Middle-age, Objectification Theory, Polyamory, Sexual Intimacy, Spirituality, Trauma

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Utilizing an arts-based feminist autoethnographic stance and method, this dissertation is an evocative exploration of the process and experience of attempting to develop a cohesive identity and build a secure attachment to the self. The author uses countercultural methods—prioritizing and centralizing her experience and uncovering and acting in defiance of oppressive norms—to identify and experience their impact on her identity and intra- and inter- personal relationships. Various tensions are explored, including the suppression of self and desire, self-objectification, fearful-avoidant attachment, and shame; and their influence on engaging in emotional and sexual intimacy is examined. Critique on the role of female socialization—especially caretaking and objectification—and research on undermining women’s power, identity, and self-advocacy are presented. The effects of culture, feminism, monogamy, and ethical non-monogamy on the experience of a middle-aged woman is highlighted. The use and experience of creativity, nature, shamanic practices, interpersonal experimentation, and autoethnography in accepting and moving through fear is also presented. Implications and tools to develop a more empowered and cohesive identity, attachment to the self, exploring intimacy, and conscious relationships; and guidance on overcoming self-objectification, dysfunctional relationship patterns, projection, and denial are included for therapists as well as individuals and their partners, family, and friends.


Rachel Sachs Riverwood

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0001-5108-5540