College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

Bill Doherty


PDF icon Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., Family Studies, University of Connecticut
M.A., Child Development and Family Relations, University of Connecticut
M.A., Theology, St. Paul’s College
B.A., Philosophy, St. Paul’s College


Areas of Interest

Democratic Community Building with Families
Citizen Health Care
Families Dealing with Chronic Illnesses
Marriage and Couples Therapy

I am not accepting new advisees for fall 2022.

Research & Discovery

Marital First Responders - The goal of this project is to develop assessment tools and evaluate the effectiveness of Marital First Responders training. The purpose of Marital First Responders is to increase the confidence and effectiveness of “natural confidants” (people whom others open up to) in supporting the relationships of people in their social network. The project comes from two sources: 1) research on confiding relationships about problems in marriages and other long-term, committed relationships, which shows that people turn first to friends, family members, and coworkers with relationship problems, long before they turn to professionals, and 2) the Australian Mental Health First Aid Program which has scaled at a national level the training of lay people to recognize and intervene supportively when someone in their life has a mental health crisis. In addition to evaluating the basic, one-day Marital First Responders training, collaborators on the project are developing and evaluating adaptions of the program for the African American and LGBT communities.

Discernment Counseling - The goal of this project is to evaluate the process and effectiveness of discernment counseling, a clinical approach to working with “mixed agenda” couples where one partner is leaning out of the relationship (considering divorce and ambivalent about couples therapy) and the other is leaning in (wants to preserve the relationship and try couples therapy). With Professor Steven Harris, I am evaluating the training of therapists to use the discernment counseling protocol along with the outcomes of discernment counseling and predictors of those outcomes.

Effects of Family Meals - I have a long standing interest in the role of family rituals in the well-being of children and adults. I have conducted national survey research on the how the frequency and quality of family dinners is associated with a range of outcomes. Several studies have been published, and there is additional data that could be mined by a graduate student interested in this area for doctoral research.


Recent News

"Abortion rights, gun control debates exacerbate American polarization: How you can help bridge the divide," KARE-11

"3 Rituals Alll the Best Spouses Do For Each Other Every Single Day,"

"A second chance for divorcing couples," For Your Marriage website

"How to have tough conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine," WCNC, Charlotte

"How to talk about the COVID vaccine with friends and family," KARE-11

"Two congressmen find common ground at Minnesota State Fair," ABC Good Morning America

"Reaching out to people who are still unvaccinated for Covid-19," MPR News with Kerri Miller.

"A Republican and a Democrat Walk into a Town Hall. Can they help fix Congress?" (originally published in USA Today.

"Everyday Heroes: Bill Doherty," The Fulcrum.

"The Future of Political Healing," 12 Geniuses podcast

"Political Depolarization: How to navigate political discussions with friends and families," Thinking Clearly podcast

"University of Minnesota therapist offers advice for how to be our better selves while waiting for COVID vaccine," Star Tribune

"The pandemic has shown the flaws of American individualism," Minnesota Reformer

The Political Divide is threatening relationships among family, friends and co-workers,”Star Tribune

"Trump's presidency divided families. What happens to them now?", Time magazine

"Minnesota Expert: How to navigate political conversations in a pandemic," KARE-11

Once a Nurse, Always a Nurse program, VoiceAmerica

Applying couples therapy techniques to help heal America’s political divide,” CBS This Morning

Expert Roundtable: the psychological benefits of Thanksgiving rituals,” The Greeneville Sun (TN)

Coming together after a polarizing election,” KARE-11 Sunrise

Depolarizing America,” The Point, Atlantic Public Radio

"November 2020 will be a time of testing. Is America ready? Are you?" Star Tribune Opinion

"Navigating holidays during the pandemic," TODAY show blog

"Setting up a COVID bubble," Star Tribune

'Overcoming family disputes on social distancing," MPR News (segment starts at approximately 25 minutes)

"Tips to navigate divisive online conversations," KARE-11

"My Journey as a Citizen Therapist," Journal of Humanistic Psychology

"Tips for Effective Conversations around George Floyd's death," KARE-11

"The Pandemic and the Political Divide," KAAL-TV

"Preserving Healthy Relationships," Coronavirus: An Almanac Special, TPT

"The Right Way to Talk across Divides," Scientific American

"Cocooning during COVID-19," U of M Alumni Association

"Some cities in China are reporting high rates of divorce after stay at home orders have been lifted," Breaking the News, KARE-11

"Help your marriage through stress of quarantine," Star Tribune

"Almanac special on the coronavirus," TPT 

Outreach & Engagement



  1. Doherty, W. J. & Harris, S. M. (2017).  Helping couples on the brink of divorce: Discernment counseling for troubled relationships. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

  2. Doherty, W. J., Harris, S. M., & Didericksen, K. W. (2016). A typology of attitudes toward proceeding with divorce among parents in the divorce process. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 56, 1–11.

  3. Doherty, W. J., Harris, S. M., & Wilde, J. L. (2016). Discernment counseling for “mixed-agenda” couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 42, 246-255.

  4. Lind Seal, K., Doherty, W. J., & Harris, S. M. (2016). Confiding about problems in marriage and long-term committed relationships: A national study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 42, 438-450.

  5. Zrenchik, K. & Doherty, W. J. (2017). Confiding in the GLBT community about problems in marriage and long-term committed relationships: A comparative analysis, Journal of GLBT Family Studies, DOI 10.1080/1550428X.2017.1302381

  6. McDaniel, S.H., Doherty, W.J., & Hepworth, J. (2014). Medical family therapy and integrated care. Second edition. Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association.

  7. Mendenhall, T., Berge, J. & Doherty, W. (2014). Engaging communities as partners in research: Advancing integrated care through purposeful partnerships. In J. Hodgson, A. Lamson, T. Mendenhall, & D.R. Crane (2014).  Medical family therapy: Advanced applications. (pp. 259-282). New York: Springer.

  8. Wilde, J.L., & Doherty, W.J. (2013). Outcomes of an intensive couple relationship education program with fragile families. Family Process, 52, 455-464.

  9. Doherty, W.J. (2013). The citizen professional: Working with families and communities on problems people care about. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 5, 111-126.

  10. Doherty, W.J. (2013). When therapy is going nowhere. Psychotherapy Networker, May/June, pp. 25-30, 62.