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Minority Fellowship Program 2013-14 Fellows

This page outlines pictures and brief biographical information on all AAMFT MFP Fellows for the listed MFP Cohort. To find out more information on other MFP Fellows including their service/research areas of interest, award years, search the MFP Fellow Directory located at the bottom of this page.

Additional Fellow and Applicant Data can be found on the MFP Program Data page. If you are interested in applying for the MFP, visit the MFP Application Information page.


Abel Arvizú, Loma Linda University

Abel Arvizú Whittemore is currently a PhD student in the Martial and Family Sciences program at Loma Linda University. His research focuses on the implications of the self-identity of queer Latinos on their couple and family relationships, including the influence of the extended family and community on this identity as well as on their couple and family lives.  With such preparation, he ultimately plans to reorient his community service, applied research, and university teaching focus to the marital and family therapy field. He plans to also continue his clinical and research efforts working with Latino and queer families – particularly those with substance abuse issues.


Erika Smith, Kansas State University

Erika Smith is a doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Kansas State University. She has a decade of experience providing therapy to victim/survivors of crime-related traumatic events and their families. She is a Clinical Member of AAMFT. She is trained in EMDR and is a Certified Trauma Specialist through the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists. She also holds a Master's degree in Exercise Science. Her clinical and research interests converge around the use of novel exercise interventions for the treatment and prevention of traumatic stress reactions and co-occurring substance use.

Hernán Barenboim, St. Louis University

Hernán Barenboim is currently a doctoral student at Saint Louis University. He holds an M.A. in Psychology from Kennedy University in Argentina. Hernán has developed a special interest in systemic-relational therapy since 2004 when working with Hispanic and bi-cultural families in their adaptation to living in America. This experience gave him a more defined focus on research about dysfunctional attachments in multicultural families. He believes that this study could help to increase understanding of cultural adaptation, international adoptions, substance abuse and parenting. Hernan received training in psychoanalysis during his masters studies, with focus on the theories of Jaques Lacan and Melanie Klein. However, since relocating to America, he expanded those theories with the study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Family Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.


Bertranna Abrams, University of Georgia

Bertranna Abrams is currently a Ph.D. student in the Child and Family Development program at University of Georgia. Her research focuses on informing interventions for Immigrant Families of African decent. These families sometimes have difficulty as they try to adjust to U.S. norms while trying to maintain their cultural traditions. Her current projects explore the stresses and strains related to acculturation and how mothers and daughters cope through the process- often times dealing with risky behaviors including drug abuse and gang activity. Her experience with clients who abused substances began when I worked as a Crisis Intervention Specialist at the Rape Crisis and Abuse Center of Hamilton County in Cincinnati Ohio. In her masters program she worked with the Child Abuse Neglect Substance Abuse Focus and Expansion Project (CANSAFE). As part of the CANSAFE evaluation, she worked with local children’s services caseworkers and went to various substance abuse treatment centers and the homes of participants.

Hoa Nguyen, Virginia Tech University

Hoa Nguyen is a doctoral student at Virginia Tech University in the Marriage and Family Therapy program within the Department of Human Development. Her research interests focus on cultural competence in training and therapy, protective factors against substance use in immigrant communities, trauma in post-war veterans, and cultural and sexual identity. Her clinical experience with adolescents, sexual minorities, and immigrants has inspired her to study underrepresented and marginalized groups. Immigrants encounter multiple levels of stressors, within a context of displacement and the tremendous lack of access to resources. Her goal is to inform family therapy training and supervision by increasing the field’s knowledge of mental health in minority populations. As mental health professionals, Hoa believes that our part is vital in promoting minority mental health and developing effective treatment for substance abuse and other mental health issues.

Irina Kolobova, East Carolina University

Irina Kolobova is doctoral student in the Medical Family Therapy (MedFT) Doctoral Program at East Carolina University, in Greenville, NC. Her current interests in couples and family therapy are on how psychosocial factors impact health outcomes in underserved communities. Specifically, she is interested in how young people and their families experience the psychosocial impact of cancer, particularly how culture, family dynamics, socioeconomic position and ethnicity are intersected. As a family therapist, Irina is intrigued by the lack of family participation in the current literature and plans to prioritize families in her research. Irina believes that without knowledge about patients’ and their families’ experiences and their needs, there are limitations to reaching the patients that are typically marginalized and underserved. In her career, she hopes to implement systemic changes in oncology settings so that adolescents and young adults are receiving care that is tailored to their unique needs. Irina is passionate about providing support to underserved communities through her research, teaching and clinical work.


Jamie West, Virginia Tech University

Jamie West is a doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Virginia Tech University.  She is interested in researching the connection between trauma and substance abuse in various cultures. She hopes to gain insight through her research to help bring awareness about different cultures and some of the hardships faced in connection with their ethnicities and being part of a minority population. She is also interested in researching cultural issues and diversity in mental health. This research will be valuable to mental health professionals and assist them in providing quality services. Jamie hopes to investigate the risk factors and variables that make individuals more vulnerable to risk-taking behaviors, which have the potential to later lead to substance abuse. She hopes to use her future research to advance substance abuse treatment and prevention programs as well as spread awareness about general issues related to minority or underserved populations in mental health.


Christopher Mehus, University of Minnesota

Christopher J. Mehus, M.A. is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota in the Couples and Family Therapy program in the department of Family Social Science.    Chris’s current interests center around issues related to mass trauma in underserved and under-resourced populations. Domestically, he is developing projects related to work within refugee communities. Internationally, Chris spent 9-weeks during 2012 in northern Uganda working on a project with Dr. Wieling to pilot a parenting training intervention.   He believes that issues of family/social support, mental health, physical health, substance abuse, and others are all interconnected in a messy web of relationships situated within each cultural context. Through additional training related to substance abuse and minority populations, and research related to mass-trauma in these communities, Chris hopes to contribute to the field’s understanding of the ways in which these issues connect and the ways in which sustainable interventions can contribute to addressing the needs that arise following mass-traumatic events.

Joanna Méndez, Texas Tech University

Joanna Méndez is a doctoral student at Texas Tech University.  Currently, she is interested in investigating the experiences of Latinas growing up in the United States after their parents’ immigration.  She is specifically interested in Latina identity development and well-being amidst conflicting cultural expectations and how this affects family relationships.  Joanna is also interested in exploring how Latinas and their families respond to Latinas’ participation in interracial dating and marriage.  Her clinical experience with childhood sexual abuse survivors directed her attention to explore how Latino families respond to their daughters’ sexual abuse and how the trauma of childhood sexual abuse affects Latinas in their couple relationship later in life. Her experience with inadequate mental health support for Spanish-speaking families sparks a majority of Joanna’s research and clinical aspirations.

Jonathan Kimmes, Kansas State University

Jonathan Kimmes is a Ph.D. student at Kansas State University. He is most passionate about families that have a child with a developmental disability, the use of contextual therapy with ethnic minorities, common factors, and multidisciplinary research projects. Jonathan’s experience in working with individuals with developmental disabilities galvanized his interest in the transitional period when a child with a developmental disability enters into adulthood. This tenuous period is a time in which many parents have to make decisions regarding if and when residential services are appropriate for their child. Jonathan would like to explore the factors that influence the outcomes of the transition into a residential program, including family involvement and coping strategies. Ultimately, he would like to create a model for helping families overcome the multitude of challenges that are associated with transitioning a young adult with a developmental disability into a residential program.

Katie Rootes, St. Louis University

Katie Rootes is currently a doctoral student in the Family Therapy program at Saint Louis University. In anticipation of completing her doctoral degree, Katie is currently carrying out dissertation research on transracial adoptive parenting and the impact of cultural experiences on parental cultural socialization behaviors. Katie’s professional and research interests include contextual clinical judgment, training and education in MFT, particularly as they relate to self-of-the-therapist and competencies in multiculturalism, spirituality, sexuality. Intersectionality is a common theme in her research interests – where families and individuals are often negotiating a variety of identities due to the diverse nature of their relationships (e.g., transracial adoption and foster care). Within the large scope of sexuality, issues related to LGBT families and individuals are a special interest, particularly in the ways they survive and thrive in developing resilience. Katie’s early clinical experience included work with foster care children and trauma and she continues to be interested in mental health outcomes and efficacy of therapeutic services for foster care children. Preventative measures related to substance abuse and sexual risk-taking are of particular interest related to research with this underserved population.


Jeni Wahlig, Antioch University

Jeni Wahlig is currently a doctoral student at the Antioch University New England’s Marriage and Family Therapy doctoral program. Her current interests in MFT include: providing culturally aware therapy to diverse populations, specializing in working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning (LGBTQ or Queer, interchangeably) people and their families, developing a marital preparation and enrichment program for same-sex couples, exploring substance abuse prevention and treatment for the LGBTQ population, and exploring how cultural factors, institutionalized oppression, and discrimination impact both Queer foster children and Queer foster parents.


Kyle Zrenchik ,University of Minnesota

Kyle Zrenchik currently a doctoral student in Couple and Family Therapy at the University of Minnesota. He currently practices at a residential addictions treatment facility for incarcerated men and their families. There, he employs a feminist-informed, social justice lens toward therapeutic growth and healing. While he believes it impossible to separate marginalized communities into separate and distinct categories, he does have a particular interest in working with marginalized sexualities and the intersectional identities therein. Throughout his academic and professional journey he has published articles and presented on topics such as classism, sexism, sex-negativity, and homophobia/transphobia. Kyle believes passionately in the role that MFT has in serving the public good, not only in terms of mental and relational health, but also in creating systemic change and social justice. Kyle sees a real need to blend the worlds of mental health and substance abuse treatment, with social justice and community change and is working tirelessly to do so.


Karlin Tichenor, Michigan State University

Karlin Tichenor, M.A. is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Couple and Family Therapy Program at .   Karlin's research interests include African American couples with a focus on the development and maintenance of healthy, rewarding relationships in lieu of historically traumatic experiences.   In his current clinical work, he works with a primary clientele of couples, using Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) as a primary treatment modality, which he aims to culturally adapt to African American couples. He also works with international refugees in his community clinical work focusing on trauma histories and coping strategies for adjustment.   These programs would provide therapeutic support for couples and families, while creating opportunities for redefining realities through narratives and self-evaluation to mitigate against the use of substances and mental health issues.

Kristy Soloski, Kansas State University

Kristy Soloski is currently a doctoral student at Kansas State University in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. Her main area of interest is in the development and prevention of substance abuse behaviors, especially in the adolescent population.  Recently, she has begun an examination into the complex family patterns and societal influences related to the development of adolescent binge drinking behaviors. Once this research focus has solidified, she plans to incorporate comparisons of these influencing factors across minority groups in an effort to support diversity informed therapeutic practices. Her other main area of focus is in advanced research methodologies and statistical analyses.  Her current endeavors have incorporated advanced modeling methods and growth curve analyses that she hopes will help advance knowledge of the developmental substance abuse behaviors and inform current therapeutic practices

Sergio Pereyra, Brigham Young University

Sergio Benjamin Pereyra is currently attending the MFT doctoral program at Brigham Young University  In terms of research, he is very interested in research with Latino couples and parenting within Latino families.  He is also working on an English /Spanish mental health dictionary which will focus on vocabulary used in clinical settings in order to improve the quality of service for the Spanish speaking population. One of his career goals is to become an approved AAMFT supervisor for Spanish speaking therapy, and to become a full time professor at a university and teach courses on the treatment of substance abuse and cultural issues in mental health or at least introduce cultural issues in any course that he teaches.

María Dominguez, Kansas State University

María Mercedes Dominguez is a PhD student at Kansas State University. Mrs. Dominguez comes from a military family and is passionate about serving this population throughout her career.  She is currently a Graduate Research Assistant working with the Air Force on a quality assurance project for secondary prevention treatment of family maltreatment allegations.  She is also working on a meta-analysis project on intimate partner violence.  Mrs. Dominguez is currently doing clinical work at Fort Riley Army base working with couples, families, and individuals.  She also does clinical work at the Kansas State University Family Center. She is interested in having her clinical career informed by research and have a role in expanding clinical research in the field.  Mrs. Dominguez experiences have fueled her desire to serve underserved populations.  She is committed to making her services and work available to both English and Spanish speaking populations.

Allison Tomlinson, Texas Woman's University

 Allison Tomlinson is a doctoral marriage and family therapy student at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Ms. Tomlinson is a licensed clinical social worker. Ms. Tomlinson’s research interests include: disproportionate minority involvement in incarceration and the relationship of co-occurring disorders and the affects of lower rates of treatment seeking among minority populations with co-occurring disorders. Ms. Tomlinson is interested in the implications of this issue on the family and community. 

Mary Telisak, St. Mary's University

Mary Telisak is a doctoral student in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX.  As a therapist, Mary strives to empower families in their journey towards sobriety, safe parenting, the development of healthy coping skills, successful communication, and personal growth and wellness. Her research interests are geared towards enhancing knowledge of issues related to the mental health and wellness of minority populations, including a current project aimed at identifying factors correlating with adult wellness after childhood termination of parental rights. Mary’s training, research interests, and career goals are focused on trauma and justice, recovery, and public awareness. She advocates for community collaborations and understands the need for valid and reliable research to maintain the integrity of the field. She believes that public awareness is the key to effective prevention and intervention. She is committed to continuing to contribute to the availability of mental health and substance abuse treatment and services in minority and underprivileged groups.

Tayrn Nasis, St. Mary's University

Taryn Nasis is currently a student at St. Mary's University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program.   Currently, Ms. Nasis is interested in postmodern therapies and social constructionist, and the potential of furthering empirical studies examining the relationships between family members where one member has identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. In particular, she is curious about how families language their relationship, as well as help-seeking behavior and social support development.   Ms. Nasis hopes to focus her research interests on gender identity and the mediation of language to convey these identities in ways that contribute to the body of empirical data on marginalized gender groups. In addition, Ms. Nasis hopes to increase available knowledge on the efficacy of language-based interventions of social constructionist therapeutic techniques with marginalized gender groups, such as those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Regina Bordieri, Alliant International University

Regina Bordieri is a doctoral student at Alliant International University in the Couple and Family Therapy Program.  She received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy in her home state of New York from Hofstra University.  Her clinical experience has included work in two New York City agencies providing foster care prevention services as well as individual and relational therapy, primarily to low-income, minority populations.  She currently holds a clinical placement as an MFT Intern with Mental Health Services’ North Inland Mental Health Center serving clients with persistent moderate to severe mental illness, often with co-occurring substance abuse.  Her academic and research interests include the development and implementation of preventive interventions, aiding families to cope with and support family members experiencing mental illness and substance abuse, trauma and attachment, and MFT education and professional development.

Nikita Casanova, Amridge University

Nikita Casanova is a doctoral student in the MFT doctoral program at Amridge University. Nikita’s clinical and research interests include: the spectrum of issues affecting active duty soldiers, veterans, and their families; comorbid mental health and substance abuse disorders; trauma-related systemic issues; multidisciplinary, collaborative patient-centered care; blending services for service members and military families facing comorbid disorders; and adapting federally approved programs for military families. Nikita believes that (1) the number of active duty and veteran service members requiring healthcare for comorbid disorders will continue to rise and (2) the pool of competent professionals may be overwhelmed by those numbers. Nikita’s experiences as a child of active duty soldiers, a veteran, and military spouse influence her interest in improving access to culturally competent mental health and substance abuse treatment for military families. Nikita’s career goal is to help military families navigate through changes associated with military lifestyles, such as, physical injuries of varying degrees, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, adjustment issues, and being a veteran.


Peter Rivera , Florida State University

Peter Mathew Rivera is currently a doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at Florida State University. His interests in marriage and family therapy include understanding the intergenerational transmission of violence from a Bowen family systems perspective. Further, and more specifically, he is interested in studying intergenerational transmission of violence within the Latino population from a culturally sensitive systemic lens. He aims to eventually move forward with prevention and intervention research that contribute to the development of an evidence-based, culturally adapted, relational intervention for families who have experienced interparental violence. He is committed to improving the lives of Hispanic families who suffer through trauma and will make a contribution to the field of marriage and family therapy through his research and clinical efforts.

Una Henry, Kansas State University

Una Henry is currently enrolled as a doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Kansas State University. Her main area of interest is in working with adolescents from diverse backgrounds. She also enjoys working with couples. She is currently working on publications examining the dynamic nature of racial identity among multiracial adolescents and its impact on delinquency. She is also creating a racial identity measure specifically for multiracial adolescents. In future, Ms. Henry plans to obtain employment in a marriage and family therapy program and train future therapists in understanding diversity and racial identity and its place in adolescent outcomes. She would also like to increase the knowledge of research and statistics in the field of marriage and family therapy.

Wendella Wray, Loma Linda University

Wendella Wray is currently enrolled as a doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Loma Linda University. Her goal is to have an evidence-based practice in MFT focusing on helping families in poverty to become “Healthy Families.” Her vision is to specialize in parent/child and couples relationships doing multi-family groups, couple’s therapy and psycho-educational groups. Wendy plans to look at the relationship between family resilience and secure attachment and how poverty creates more barriers for families (i.e., health disparities, mental and physical health, learning disabilities, neurobiological decline and insecure attachments). She will promote prevention with a focus on systemic family therapy to help families embrace second order change. Her hope is that families will build resilience and form secure attachments to overcome childhood or relational trauma, substance abuse, addiction and unexpected adversities with the appropriate therapeutic interventions.

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