Christopher Defossez, Psy.D., is a 2022 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Roger Peterson, PhD, Committee Chair
  • Gina Pasquale, PsyD, Committee Member
  • Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Member


psychotherapy, performance, psychology, phenomenology

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Publication Date



The following is a literature review and research project aimed at examining the performative choices psychologists make when interacting with their patients. The goal for this research is to begin to understand the “essence” of a psychologist‘s experience as they present themselves in their work. Drawing from published literature on the therapeutic alliance, social constructionism, postmodern feminism, art, and aesthetics, the author argues that the therapeutic frame taken by a particular therapist can be understood as a performative act. This author examines the implications of this idea and what can be learned from conceptualizing the therapeutic alliance through a performative lens. Following this argument and review of relevant literature, the author reviews a qualitative study he conducted aimed at exploring this idea in greater depth. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) this writer interviewed various clinical psychologists in order to more completely understand their goals, thoughts, and performative choices as they work. In doing this, the active ingredients of psychotherapy can be better understood, psychological interventions can be improved, and our understanding of both the art and science of psychotherapy is increased.


Christopher Defossez

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-7227-8664