Our students present their research and projects at the Graduate School Research Symposium, Georgia Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (GAMFT) Conference, and National Conferences, such as AAMFT, AFTA, and NCFR. 

Table of Contents
Graduate School Research Symposium
GAMFT Presentations
National Conferences

Graduate School Research Symposium

Shea Walker, Debbie Vizcarrondo, and Nelson Graves presented their research, "COVID-19 Remote Work: Families Adapting to the New Normal" at the 2023 Symposium. Their literature review examined research on how family dynamics and functioning have shifted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. grad-research-symp-2023-1.jpg
Also at the 2023 Symposium, Terri Funk and Sara Hathaway presented their research, "You Want to Talk About What? Sexual Communication with Couples." Their research revealed how better sexual communication often enhances both sexual and relational satusfaction in couples. grad-research-symp-2023-2.jpg
vsu graduate symposium 2022 Kali Hendricks and Drew Gutierrez presented their research "A Clinical Undergraduate Internship; Moving from Novice to Professinal" at the 2022 Graduate School Research Symposium. Their research aimed to explore how the Marriage and Family Therapy undergraduate internship shaped students' professional development.
Beverley Joseph and Eveny Griffin presented their research, "How Are Perceptions of Intimate Relationships Created and Reified by Social Media," at the Graduate School Research Symposium this year.  Their research aimed to explore the influence social media has on relationships.  Not pictured here are Abriel Blake Farrow and Redonno Carmon, who were also part of this research project.

Bev and Eveny at GSRS

Kristen, Courtney, Sam GSRS

Kristen Carney, Courtney Chaney, and Sam Holly, presented their research at the 2017 Graduate School Research Symposium. Their poster, titled, "Who Pays for What: A Qualitative Study of Recently Married Couples' Experiences with Finances." Their research found that conversations about finances are much more common today, and that finances are often discussed as couples discuss their own values and family expectations
GraduateSymposium_2018.jpeg Emma Becker, Priscilla Thomas and Anna Elyse Yarbrough presented at the 2018 Graduate School Research Symposium, titled "Polyamorous Relationships and the Perceived Self-Worth of Female Partners." Their research found that with thorough communication, partnership and commitment, it supported the self-worth and well-being of female partners

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Passing the Torch: Exploring Differing Approaches in the Navigation of Relationships between Adult Children and Aging Parents

- Khushbu Patel & Howard Taylor Jackson

 These students researched how adult children may worry about where their parents will live or who they will live with. Furthermore, they may or may not have help from other family members in taking care of their parents. In the literature thus far, there are a few things missing which include cultural differences, intergenerational gaps, and discovering more strategies for coping with the transitional period. Most of the literature focuses on the American culture and Caucasian individuals, which cannot be applied to other cultures because each culture has their own way of interacting with others. Furthermore, the current literature focuses on researching two generations (adult children and aging parents) but there is a gap in research on multiple generations.

You Are What You (Decide) to Eat: A Literature Review on Food Choices

- Miriam Burton & Elizabeth C. Griffis (not pictured)

These students presented on how it is our natural human desire to conform and perform with one another is a factor that permeates our lives, right down to the food we eat.  While factors such as personal preference or availability may play a role in the selection of daily meals, we found the societal messages surrounding food to be influential in the decision-making process and that those decisions carry emotional weight that can influence the individual.  This understanding is clinically relevant as it provides context for the choices people make surrounding food and highlights the emotional impact of those decisions.


Hooking Up: The Experience of Casual Sex from Post-Collegiate Women

- Alyssa Hedrick, Megan Willard, Kayla Waters (not pictured)

These students discovered hooking up, or casual sex without commitment, has become quite popular among collegiate men and women. Although there is a plethora of data addressing women and men currently in college, the data of post-collegiate women is quite lacking. This semistructured interview process was focused on gathering the narratives of post-collegiate women, between the ages of twenty-four and twenty-seven, who self-identified as actively participating in the hook-up culture through their collegiate years. The themes discovered among the women's stories from participating in hook-up culture were that the women were single by choice, realizing with growing older that they have gained experience about what they desire in a relationship, there are multiple subconscious pressures from friends in their peer group, and focusing on their own accomplishments instead of a relationship is a common goal.

Masculinity and Men: A Systemic Overview

- Michael Serrano-Jones & Kalyn Bowser

These students discovered that current research is concerned with how masculinity is viewed and displayed. The idea conveyed is that masculinity is fluid and viewed on a spectrum, rather than a divisive masculine or feminine dichotomy. Despite the inclusive leaps current research is trending towards, gaps within the research include the lack of in-depth information regarding toxicity and toxic masculinity. More research is needed regarding the process of how men view their own ideas of masculinity considering the new messages they receive from their cultural and societal influences surrounding the evolving definitions of masculinity.


"Let's Have a Sex Talk": How Conversations About Sex Impact The Experiences of Black Women

- Asia Dukes, Chyna Doughty & Kinsey Baughman

Within the African American community, the shame and silence around sex can influence women’s sexual experiences.  Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore the conversations black women have with their friends, family, and community about sex, and how these experiences shape their current and future relationships.  We paid particular attention to how racereligion, and gender shaped black women’s experiences of talking about sex and their sexual decision-making process.  We found three themes: Sexual narratives, Religious influences, and Privilege.  These themes create a continuous cycle, which reinforces the language and behaviors around the topic of sex within the black community.

 "Love and Drugs: MDMA and Couples Therapy"

- Ethan Williams, Lexie Beady, and Terri Funk

Once again, ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is being used as an intervention in psychotherapy since being granted breakthrough therapy status by the US FDA. These students took a look at existing MDMA research as it relates to couplehood and couples therapy. They found that there are many gaps in research around the topic and that more research is needed to see if the MDMA-Assisted Couples Therapy through an MFT lens is helpful, but also that the existing research shows promising results for improving couplehood through feelings of closeness, better sexual experiences, and better communication. 
Virtually Presented by Ethan Williams and Lexie Beady


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International Association for Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC)



The Talk or Talking? A Qualitative Study Exploring Conversations Between Parents and Children About Sex

Presented by: JaNiya Gibson, Nolan King, Shea Walker, & Dr. Jennifer Lambert-Shute

Given the limited number of studies which have examined how region have played a role in the type of conversations parents have with their children about sex, the researchers conducted a qualitative study to better understand how being from the South has influenced the conversations between parents and children about sex. Specifically, who has these conversations, how frequently do these talks occur, what do these conversations entail, what are parents’ perceptions of these conversations.


Encountering Difference: From Othering to Compassionate Curiosity

Presented by: Gabrielle Perez, MA & Dr. Jennifer Lambert-Shute

The goal of this presentation is to demonstrate how an experiential activity, the Encountering Difference Project, can provide opportunities for Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling students and supervisees to practice moving from a place of otherness to compassionate curiosity. The presenters will discuss students’ experiences and how they shifted their perception of the identified other.

American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Conference



Congratulations on being part of the AFTA’s 44th annual meeting and conference! Presented by Bianca Simmons, Jennifer Lambert-Shute, and Laurelle Davis

The purpose of this study is to explore the conversations black women have with their friends, family, and community about sex, and how these experiences shape their current and future relationships. We paid particular attention to how race, religion, and gender shaped black women’s experiences of talking about sex and their sexual decision-making process. We found three themes: Sexual narratives religious nfluences, and privilege. These themes create a continuous cycle, which reinforces the language and behaviors around the topic of sex within the black community.




Two MFT students, Dyson Davies and Sara Reed, were honored to co-present a poster at the 2016 American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Conference in Denver, CO. The poster, titled "Attuning to the Epistemic Complexity of Trans- Clients," offers critical considerations for therapists working with trans- or gender nonconforming (TGNC) clients. Dyson and Sara want to thank Dr. Lana Kim for her exceptional mentorship on this project.


American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)


Katelyn Coburn and Ellory Bishop presented at the 2017 American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Their presentation, titled "Christian Women’s Revelations from the Church Closet," discussed how to better understand the experiences of Christian women in same-sex relationships who are not out in their church and what we, as therapists, need to know to assist our clients.


National Council on Family Relations (NCFR)

Tabitha McCoy, Cindy Urrutia, Alyssa Calderon

Two students, Cindy Urrutia and Alyssa Calderon are joined by Clinic Director, Tabitha McCoy, MS, LMFT. The poster, titled "Bridging the Gap: Transformative Service Learning Experiences in MFT Training," explored students who actively participated in community service engagements while enrolled in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Valdosta State University

Faculty and students collaborate on research examining family therapy journals. The purpose of the research was to provide an overview of the research being published from 2000-2015, assess who is publishing, and investigate the current state of clinical effectiveness research in marriage and family therapy. Two students, Paul Peterson, MS and Annisa Pireshteh, MS, LMFT, assisted in conducting this research with Jennifer Lambert-Shute, Ph.D., and Hoa Nguyen, Ph.D. Paul is a recent graduate from Valdosta State University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program and he is currently working in private practice in Arkansas. Annisa was a graduate in 2012 and currently works in private practice in Atlanta while pursuing her doctorate in MFT at the University of Louisiana Monroe

Paul Peterson


"Hearing the Story Beyond the Words: An Immersive Training Experience in Therapeutic Listening"

Lana Kim, Jennifer Lambert-Shute, Martha Laughlin, Tabitha McCoy, Katelyn Coburn, Ellory Bishop, and Kimberly Mulkey

This presentation discussed the experiences of trainees and supervisors in one MFT program, and their involvement in a mobile interprofessional healthcare clinic that provides medical and behavioral health services for migrant workers in South Georgia. This annual week long, outreach project provided family therapy trainees the opportunity to facilitate single session therapeutic encoutners with persons whom they do not share a common spoken language. We discussed what we have learned about how to connect and attend to another's experience and hear the story beyond the words.

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