Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Edward L. Trembley

Second Advisor

Dr. Suzanne Hedstrom

Third Advisor

Dr. Ariel Anderson


The purpose of this research was to identify and describe common themes present in the constructions and functions of the God representation in women. In particular, this research explored the common themes and relationships between a woman’s internal representation of God and her use of that representation in the service of creating and recreating the self.

Although God representation has received some attention in the literature, most research has focused on God representation formation, not function. In addition, much literature examining God representation has focused on psychiatric cases; very little has been studied about God representation in the general population and the course of normal development. Several authors have noted the need in particular for research employing qualitative methodology (Horowitz, 1970; MacDargh, 1986; Marcellino, 1996; Richards & Bergin, 1997; Tisdale, Key, Edwards, Brokaw, & Kemperman, 1997).

In the current research, phenomenologicaily-based qualitative methodology (Moustakas, 1994) was used. Two semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 women who reported an awareness of their God representation and who could engage in conversation about their lives in relation to self, others, and relationships as identified by the women in responding to a written announcement and screening interview conducted by the researcher. Interviews were tape-recorded and lasted approximately one and one-half hours each.

The results of the current research revealed that all participants’ God representations seem to relate to their early relational experiences. The quality of the participants’ experiences with significant others early in their lives was seen in direct relationship to the quality and dynamics of their God representation. Secondly, the participants’ God representations seem to relate to providing meanings that support the participants’ sense of self. The God representation was seen as supporting and reinforcing the experience of the self as it evolves and develops. Thirdly, the participants’ God representations seem to change as changes were experienced in self and other representations. It is hoped that the results of this research can provide a source of information to helping professionals and other interested parties regarding what appears to be a most important object relation: that o f a woman and her private God.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access