Lab Director

Karen Tao-1 (1)

Karen Tao is an Associate Professor in the Counseling and Counseling Psychology in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Utah. She also directs the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program. Karen’s clinical and research interests are guided by an overarching goal to reduce disparities in the access, service, and quality of mental health and education for historically marginalized groups. She is interested in the questions, “How do people negotiate conversations about difference and culture?” and “Why does multicultural competence matter?”  Karen conducts research in counseling and school settings, utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods to identify cultural factors related to client improvement and student academic persistence.

Graduate Students


Halleh Hashtpari is a doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology program. Halleh is interested in research related to the intersectionality of identities. Particularly, they are interested in the intersectionality of multiple minoritized identities and how they impact people’s well-being. Furthermore, Halleh is truly passionate about increasing counselor’s understanding of these dynamics, therefore, enhancing cultural competency by the understanding of such marginalized identities. (See Halleh’s recent APA Division 35 sponsored webinar)

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Camara Chea is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Utah. She attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she majored in Intensive Psychology with a minor in Sociology. As the daughter of Cambodian genocide refugees, Camara is especially interested in addressing mental health disparities in various communities. Her research interests include Asian American mental health and well-being. In her free time, Camara enjoys spending time with her family and friends, finding good discounts, and watching films and funny videos.

fullsizerenderKritzia Merced is a doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology Program at the U of U. Kritzia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Puerto Rico. Broadly speaking, Kritzia is interested in research related to mental health disparities, psychotherapy outcomes, and racial/ethnic identity development. Currently, she is working in a project examining educational outcomes and factors associated with positive identity development among a diverse group of fourth and fifth graders. In her spare time, she likes to watch Netflix, listen to audio books, try new restaurants, and sleep!

patty3.jpgPatty Kuo is a a doctoral candidate in the counseling psychology program at the University of Utah. Patty’s preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. Patty received her B.S. and B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park and her M.Ed from the University of Louisville. Patty’s research interests center on psychotherapy processes and outcomes, with a focus on cultural processes in therapy sessions; she is currently working on projects related to therapist cultural insensitivity.  In her free time, Patty enjoys reading fantasy novels, baking, and hiking.

Lab_Bio Pic_Trevino Fall 2018Amira Trevino is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. She’s interested in methods to reduce disparities in access to quality mental health care and education among underserved populations, defining and measuring “quality” care, as well as methods to improve services. Additional research interests include trauma-informed care, evidence-based treatments, impact of traumatic stress on professionals, and inclusive practices. In her free time, Amira enjoys binge watching Netflix/Amazon Prime, singing in the car, going to the movies, reading comics, crocheting and being in nature with her partner and dog.

IMG_0377Yifat Levenstein is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Program. She attained her BA in Psychology with a minor in Gender Studies at Lawrence University. Yifat is enthusiastic about research that promotes social justice and well-being especially for members from underserved communities. Her research interests include: community based research, intersectionality, multiculturalism, positive psychology and eating pathology. Specifically, Yifat is studying risk and protective factors for disordered eating with the intersection of ethnic/cultural/gender/racial identity using an ecological model framework for her investigation. Moreover, Yifat is interested in how factors such as gender identity, immigration status, ethnicity, race, etc. interact with the accessibility and services quality to members from marginalized communities.

Headshot AWing Ng is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Utah. Wing uses he/him/his pronouns. Wing attended the University of Oregon for his bachelor’s degree and University of Wisconsin – Madison for his master’s degree in counseling. Wing’s research interests include training in multicultural counseling, supervision in counseling, and psychotherapy processes. Outside of the lab, Wing likes to watch movies, learn about the financial market, and play games online with his friends.

profile pic_AvaAva Anjom. I am a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran but have lived in Colorado long enough to call it my second home. I got my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder and spent two years after graduation working in both clinical and research settings until I started grad school. As a first-generation immigrant, I feel passionate about promoting social justice, and improving access and quality of mental health care for marginalized individuals, and empowering youth as agents of change. My general research interests include clinical and non-clinical applications of mindfulness interventions, multicultural counseling, implicit bias in therapy, youth guided Participatory Action Research (PAR), and racial and ethnic identity development and wellness. I have two energetic dogs (Meechee & Koolak) that keep me grounded and playful every day. I enjoy reading books, listening to podcasts, and traveling as often as I possibly can.

KingBrendalisse King (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Utah. Brendalisse was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Boston, MA. She received her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Business Management from Brigham Young University. Her research interests include psychotherapy processes and outcomes with a multicultural emphasis and focus on racial mental health disparities. Brendalisse is also interested in sports psychology.  Outside of school, she loves spending time with her family (spouse and two young kiddos) and friends, being in nature, binge-watching tv shows, and playing boardgames.

Alumni and Recent Graduates


Amber Whiteley is a graduate of the Ph.D. program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Utah. Her research interests include multicultural counseling, social justice and women’s issues. Amber became interested in multicultural research after serving low-income families in St. Louis, Missouri. She is particularly interested in learning how to express cultural humility in meaningful ways in the counseling setting. Amber is currently a therapist at Encircle, a mental health agency that provide programs, services, and reduced cost therapy to LGBTQ+ individuals, parents, families, and the community.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc siteJade Ozawa-Kirk is a graduate of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at the University of Utah. She is interested in positive psychology research, multiculturalism and the intersection between the two. Currently, Jade is a licensed therapist who is practicing in Arizona. She utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to create an inviting, supportive, and non-judgmental atmosphere.


James Hernandez is a graduate of the Education, Culture, and Society master’s program at the University of Utah. He works part-time as an Outreach Worker mentoring American Indian Students in Elementary School. His current interests include examining Religious Colonial Constructs and their influence on Gender Roles and Sexuality. His experiences in college include McNair Undergraduate Research program studying hostility in martial arts practitioners, Research Assistant in Educational Psychology examining racial and ethnic interaction in public elementary schools, as well as many presentation and teaching experience to youth of color.


Natalie Noel is a doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology In addition to her studies, she works as a graduate instructor, practicum counselor, and researcher. Her current research focuses on how certain attitudes and behaviors impact academic success and multicultural orientation in the therapy session. In her spare time, Natalie can be found reading fantasy novels, playing softball, or enjoying stimulating conversations with friends. She recently discovered a new passion: Krav Maga.

img_2166.jpgJess Shade is a master’s student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Jess earned her bachelor’s degree from Elon University in Religious Studies as well as a Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She has worked professionally over the past decade in the fields of vocational rehabilitation, wilderness therapy, and community mental health.  She is currently employed as a research assistant with both the Utah Criminal Justice Center and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah. Jess also serves on the board of the Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah.In her free time, Jess enjoys the masochistic pursuits of ski mountaineering and rock climbing.


Jesse Owen

Jesse Owen, PhD is the Director of Research for Celeste Health. He is a Professor at the University of Denver. Dr. Owen received his doctorate from the University of Denver.  He is a leading expert in adult psychotherapy process and outcome research with over 100 publications, including a co-authored book on research designs in counseling (Research in Counseling; Heppner, Wampold, Owen, Thompson, & Wang, 2016). He is currently the Editor of Psychotherapy and Associate Editor of Journal of Counseling Psychology. Dr. Owen also serves as a methodologist on several federally funded grants.


Joél Arvizo-Zavala is the Executive Director of Resilient Education,  a consulting firm focusing on educator mentorship, curriculum development, community-based programming, human talent training & development, educational research, and program evaluation. Projects focus on They are also a doctoral candidate in Education, Leadership & Policy at the University of Utah.


Uma Dorn, PhD
 received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology at the University of Georgia in 2011 Her postdoctoral fellowship was in Clinical Child Psychology and completed at Emory School of Medicine. Uma has been working with children and families for over 15 years. She works from a therapeutic framework that encompasses a multicultural, ecosystemic lens. She is currently a Sports Psychologist with the Department of Athletics at the University of Utah. She works in collaboration with her clients to facilitate an understanding of their needs in the context of their various social systems (i.e. work, school, home, cultural, society, etc.) in order to help meet their individual goals. Research interests mirror her clinical work in the areas of child/adolescent assessment, trauma, and multicultural issues.


Zac Imel, PhD is an Associate Professor with the Counseling Psychology Program in the Department of Educational Psychology and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah. His primary interests involve research, teaching, and service related to the promotion and understanding of quality mental health treatment.  Specific programs of research include methods for identifying and understanding the behaviors of effective (and less effective) therapists, the utilization of mental health services, emerging linguistic techniques for modeling psychotherapy process, and meta-analysis of treatment outcome studies.


Joanna Drinane, PhD maintains a program of study, which focuses on viewing psychotherapy process and outcome through a cultural lens. In particular, she seeks to capture how intersections of identity shape the therapeutic relationship and the impact cultural conversations have on the change clients make in therapy. Her research primarily employs quantitative methods to examine the interplay between factors associated with clients, therapists, and the systems in which they reside.


Susanna Cohen, DNP, CNM, CHSE, FAAN, FACNM is a doctoral prepared board Certified Nurse Midwife who joined the faculty at the University of Utah College of Nursing in 2007. She is the Principle Investigator for the LIFT Simulation Design Lab, which uses experiential learning to elevate conversations, team communication, and system change that promotes respectful maternity care. Susanna received her Masters’ of Science with a Minor in Nursing Education from the University of California, San Francisco and completed her clinical training at San Francisco General Hospital and UC San Diego Medical Center. She also holds a BS in Community and Regional Development from the University of California, Davis. Susanna completed her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at the University of Utah, where her scholarly work centered around sustainable simulation and team training in low-resource setting internationally. Susanna is a leader in the field of high-fidelity low-tech interprofessional simulation. She received the International Nursing Association of Clinical and Simulation’s Best Practice Innovator Excellence Award in 2016, the Hayden Vanguard Award in 2017, and in 2018 was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing for her work on global simulation. Susanna is the co-founder of PRONTO International, and designs curriculum, trains master facilitators and evaluates outcomes of an obstetric and neonatal simulation emergency training program in Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya and India.


  • Rose Park Elementary School
  • Escalante Elementary School
  • Asian American Student Association (AASA)
  • Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition (UPIHC)