Paula M. Smith, Ph.D., is a 2023 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Kevin Lyness, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Monique Willis, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Wade Luquet, Ph.D., Committee Member


Black marriage, attachment, racism, Imago relationship therapy, communication, marital satisfaction, multi-method analysis, GTLYW, Black couples

Document Type


Publication Date



The focus of this dissertation is examining the impact of Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT), more specifically the “Getting the Love You Want” workshop (GTLYW), on five Black/African American couples’ attachment, interactions, marital satisfaction and communication. This study examines Black couples’ lived experiences through a modified version of a quantitative measure, called the Patient Attachment Client System (PACS), the Marital Satisfaction Questionnaire-Revised (MSQ-R), semi-structured questionnaires to measure qualitative data as well as direct observation of participants’ interactions. PACS analyzes how patients’ in-session discourse enables them to share present experiences and link these processes with their attachment structure. In this view, attachment was assessed by delineating distinctive acts regarding how participants communicated their internal moment- to-moment experiences. Qualitative findings reveal a majority of study participants reported an improvement in their overall ability to communicate with their partner, an increase in their ability to communicate about race and racial distress, and an increase in their understanding and ability to deal with conflict and frustrations as a result of participating in the GTLYW workshop. Qualitative findings also showed that the structure of the Imago couples dialogue itself provided the conditions necessary for secure attachment, as measured utilizing PACS discursive markers, to occur between partners who are attachment figures to each other. Quantitative results in this study revealed that frequency of participants’ secure attachment discursive markers (PACS) increased over the length of the GTLYW workshop, and that the secure attachment discursive markers were highest in the racial distress dialogue. While participation in the GTLYW increased Black couples’ perception of their own marital satisfaction, it provided less strong support for an increase in their perception of their partner’s marital satisfaction. The underestimation of the partner’s view of marital satisfaction might be due to the differences in a subjective post-analysis self/other measure and an in-the-moment dialogic combined view measure. Educational workshops such as GTLYW may be a valuable prevention tool for couples and an efficient adjunct to therapy for clinicians who are trying to help couples struggling to remain in their marital relationship. Implications of the aforementioned findings, study limitations, recommendations and future directions are also discussed.


Paula M. Smith

ORCID Scholar ID# 0009-0004-5972-5329