Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Second Advisor

Cristy Beemer

Third Advisor

Alecia Magnifico


In this dissertation project, I interview four therapists and four writing teachers to learn if there were any significant similarities in differences in their approaches to dyadic relationships with students and clients. By dyadic, I mean what happens between individuals in a 1-on-1 setting when subjectivities collide. I was guided in my investigation by the core concepts of person-centered theory, which have heavily influenced the work of clinical therapists for the past half-century or more. These concepts are congruence, or whether one’s behaviors and speech match what one is feeling; empathy, the process of entering and becoming familiar with another’s private, perceptual world; and positive regard, or demonstrating that one accepts and values others, including their feelings, opinions, and selves.

I found that teachers and therapists both faced challenges in developing, managing, and repairing relationships, and espoused similar values about relating to others. However, therapists were able to draw on clinical theories and tools for relating for which no parallels exist in writing pedagogy. For example, in the many teaching manuals I surveyed, I found hardly any page space devoted to the challenge of teacher-student relationships. Results from my study include conceptualizations of how person-centered intellectual tools might be synthesized with current writing pedagogy both in theory and in training. Furthermore, I hope to draw more attention to the nuances of dyadic relationships, and the unfortunate scarcity of tools that writing pedagogy currently has for working in them.