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Students and Publications

Students 2017-2018

First Year Student

Sarah M. Worch, M.S., M.A. (
I am a Ph.D. transfer student, and beginning my first year at OSU in the CFT program. I am grateful to be working with Dr. Suzanne Bartle-Haring (my advisor), who I will be collaborating with on projects testing Bowen’s family systems theory. I am interested in the role of differentiation of self in the devel-opment of chronic illness in the family, and how it influences health behaviors and decisions. My hope is that Bowen’s framework will eventually be applied to preventative medicine. At present, I am finalizing several co-authored manuscripts from research projects across a variety of disciplines: nursing science, psychology, couples and family therapy, and complementary medicine. Thank you for taking the time to read about my research interests, aspirations, and current publishing efforts.

Second Year Students

Alexandra VanBergen, M.S. (
Alex is starting her second year of the couple and family therapy program. She received her B.S. in Psy-chology and minors in statistics and public health from SUNY Fredonia in Spring 2013, and her M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from SUNY New Paltz in Summer 2016. Alex works with Dr. Suzanne Bartle-Haring on research projects examining how betrayal trauma is mediated by other factors related to a couple’s communication and relationship satisfaction. Alex is also finishing up her first year project on the reflection of romantic first love relationships and a paper on the single stereotype. She spent the summer working on the Mother’s Project under Dr. Natasha Slesnick and interviewed participants with disorders of sexual development in a study conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital under Dr. Kee-ley Pratt. She looks forward to continue to work with children and adolescents at the Schoenbaum Fami-ly Center. Alex is excited to submit for publication this year and participate in the AAMFT Minority Fellowship program. Alex’s clinical interests include working with people from traumatic backgrounds, the LGBTQ+ community, intercultural couples, and adolescents. Her research interests include the role of trauma in couple and family therapy, presenting problems and stressors in LGB+ and intercultural couples, as well as treatment outcomes of these groups.

Patrick R. Bortz, M.S., MFT (
Patrick, now in his second year in the OSU CFT Program, earned a B.S. with Research Distinction in Psychology summa cum laude in 2013 at The Ohio State University and a M.S. in Couple and Family Therapy at University of Kentucky. Over the summer, he passed the national MFT exam and is now licensed as an MFT. He will be presenting at AAMFT about his current and previous work regarding the efficacy of a self-designed smartphone app targeting couple satisfaction, which is a project he and his advisor Dr. Bartle-Haring recently received IRB approval to continue. He and Dr. Bartle-Haring are also working on a paper addressing a trauma screening instrument, and how its scoring procedure might be improved in light of findings in our clinical data and the DSM-5 PTSD criteria. He is also beginning his fourth semester of teaching an undergraduate course about adolescence and emerging adulthood. He has also taken on the responsibility of being the Clinic Coordinator at the OSU Couple and Family Therapy Clinic.

Third Year Students

Codina Kawar, M.A. (
Codina Kawar is in her 3rd year in the PhD program in Couple and family track and she is a licensed therapist in the State of Ohio. She graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in Psychology in 2013, followed by a M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2015. Codina does research work under the guidance and mentorship of her advisor Dr. Bartle-Haring and she is a member of AAMFT. Some of the research foci include associations among experiences of trauma, differentiation, emotional regulation, therapeutic alliance, and relationship satisfaction in dyadic data in a clinical sample. Similarly, she continues to work with Dr. Rashmi Gangamma, her former advisor, on exploring relational ethics and interpersonal relationships dynamics, infidelity and intergenerational transmission of patterns seeing through Contextual Theory lens. Some of her past research work included data collection under the guidance of Dr. Natasha Slesnick for research projects involving homeless youth and suicide prevention. In the last academic year, Codina Kawar was the Service Chair for the Graduate Student Organization (GSO). This position allowed her, trough collaborative efforts among the graduate students of HDFS program, to be able to give back to the community.

Codina is currently the teaching instructor for HDFS 2420 Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood course, and in the past she was the teaching assistant for HDFS 3440 Human Sexuality course and HDFS 2400 Life Span Human Development courses. Parallel to research and teaching, she is seeing clients at the Couple and Family clinic at OSU, and taking classes to fulfil the rest of the program curriculum. Codina is participating in biweekly meetings, conducted by Dr. David Keith, to continuously explore the dynamics of symbolic experiential therapy and its application in therapy sessions. This year she was accepted to present at the annual International Family Therapy Association conference in Malaga, Spain. Likewise, this year, she will be presenting some of her work at the AAMFT annual conference and, she already submitted to JMFT one of the manuscripts that she is been working on for publishing.

Katie VanFossen (
Katie is entering her fourth year in the doctoral program. She completed her undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Human Sciences at OSU. Katie is advised by Dr. Keeley Pratt. This past year, Dr. Pratt’s students have been working within the behavioral health area of OSU’s Comprehensive Weight Management Program to provide psychoeducation and brief therapy to individuals in the program. Katie has also begun work at Schoenbaum Family Center as Couple and Family Therapy Intern. This year, Katie and Dr. Pratt conducted a study examining family functioning in pediatric health care settings. The results of this study are being presented at the AAMFT conference 2017. Katie looks forward to participating in the AAMFT Minority Fellowship for a second year.

Fourth Year Students

Qiong Wu, M.S. (
Qiong (Joanna) is beginning her fourth year in the CFT program. She has continued to work with Dr. Xin Feng on research projects concerning maternal depression and child emotion regulation. She has also been working with Dr. Natasha Slesnick on research projects concerning substance using mothers and their children. She has been counseling individual, couple and family clients as a family therapist at OSU’s Couple and Family Therapy Clinic, and also started her internship at the Star House. In the meantime, she published a research paper on maternal emotion socialization and child emotion regulation in the Journal of Infant and Child Development. Her research interests concern maternal mental health and child development in the family context. She is a student member of NCFR, SRCD, ISSBD, and AAMFT.

Megan Ferriby (
Megan Ferriby is starting her third year in the Ph.D. program, and is currently completing her Candidacy Exam. She has continued to work with both of her advisors, Drs. Suzanne Bartle Haring and Keeley Pratt, to develop and hone her research skills on several different projects. Dr. Bartle Haring and Megan have continued to utilize a secondary data set to test differentiation as a mediator and a moderator of marital satisfaction and depression within a community sample. This project has led to a replication of the study within a clinical sample. Dr. Pratt and Megan have started another data collection with the bariatric unit of the Ohio State University Hospital system in partnership with Wake Forest. This mixed methods study will examine the impact of weight loss at the family and household level within families of adult weight management participants. From their previous data collection, Megan has published a manuscript examining the congruence between calculated and perceived weight status within a sample of bariatrics patients. She presented the poster version of this manuscript at Obesity Week in New Orleans Fall of 2016. Two more manuscripts are currently being written from the previous data collection, one that focuses on the parental relationship and one that focuses on the romantic relationships of bariatric patients. Megan will be presenting preliminary results from the romantic relationship manuscript at AAMFT Annual Conference in Atlanta and at Obesity Week in Washington DC in Fall 2017. Megan also conducts therapy within the Comprehensive Weight Management Center and at the OSU Couples and Family Therapy Clinic.

Aaron Murnan, M.S. (
Aaron is starting his fifth year of the couple and family therapy program. He received his B.A. from The Ohio State University in May 2011, with a major in psychology and his M.S. in Human Development and Family Science in December 2015. Aaron works with Dr. Natasha Slesnick on a research project providing therapeutic services and case management to young homeless mothers. He also works as a therapist at the OSU Couple and Family Therapy Clinic. His main research interests center around intervention development for high-risk populations of women, specifically with women seeking to exit prostitution. Last year he published research articles in the Journal of Family Therapy and the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy as well as an encyclopedia chapter about effective intervention with homeless mothers. Aaron also presented his research evaluating the efficacy of family systems therapy with prostituting mothers at the 2017 IFTA congress in Malaga, Spain.

ABD Students

David Bowers, M.A. (
David graduated with an MA MFT from Alliant International University in San Diego in 2013 and recently completed his fourth year as a Doctoral student in Couple and Family Therapy. He is on track to defend his dissertation Spring 2018. In May he completed his second term as president of the Council of Graduate Students, the body which officially represents Ohio State’s more than 10,000 grad students. In service to the profession, this year he served as an ad hoc reviewer for JMFT, and as a reviewer for conference proposals for AAMFT and NCFR. This year he continues teaching the online version of HDFS 2350 Parenting Class, a course he designed and one of a growing number of online General Education courses available in the University. In 2017 he will present findings from his phenomenological study of members of the transgender community at both AAMFT in Atlanta and NCFR in Orlando. Currently he has one manuscript under review.

Brittany Brakenhoff , M.S. (
Brittany is starting her sixth year of the couple and family therapy program at OSU. She received her B.S. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May 2011, with a major in family science and minors in psychology and sociology and her M.S. from the Ohio State University in December 2012. She is finishing up her dissertation research. The project focuses on collecting qualitative data from homeless youth to develop a better understanding of their high risk sexual behaviors.

Selected Publications (2016-17)

Bartle-Haring, S., Slesnick, N. & Murnan, A. (in press). Benefits to Children who Participate in Family Therapy with their Substance Using Mother. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Bartle-Haring, S., Shannon, S., Holowacz, H., Patton, R., & Younkin, F. (2017). Is there a “sweet spot” for age at marriage and positive marital outcomes? Journal of Family Issues.

Carmona, J., Slesnick, N., Guo, X., Murnan, A., & Brakenhoff, B. (2017). Predictors of outreach meetings among substance using homeless youth. Community Mental Health Journal, 53, 62–71. PMID: 26293750

Guo, X., & Slesnick, N. (In press). The mediating role of autonomy and relatedness on maternal and child outcomes. Journal of A bnormal Child Psychology.

Guo, X., & Slesnick, N. (2017). Reductions in hard drug use among homeless youth: Results of a strengths-based outreach intervention. Substance Use and Misuse, 7, 905-915. PMID: 28426359

Guo, X., Slesnick, N. & Feng, X. (2016). Changes in family relationships among substance abusing runaway adolescents: A comparison between family and individual therapies. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 42(2), 299–312. PMID: 25981755

Guo, X., Slesnick, N., & Feng, X. (2016). Housing and support services with homeless mothers: Benefits to the mother and her children. Community Mental Health Journal, 52(1), 73-83.

Murnan, A., Wu, Q., & Slesnick, N. (In press). Effects of family systems therapy with prostituting women. Journal of Family Therapy. DOI: 10.1111/1467-6427.12187

Ponappa, S., Bartle-Haring, S., Holowacz, E. & Ferriby, M.(2017). The family system and depressive symptoms during the college years: Triangulation, parental differential treatment, and sibling warmth as predictors. Journal of Marital and Family T herapy, 43, 145-158.

Rew, L., Thompson, S., Powell, T., Brown, A., Becker, H., & Slesnick, N. (2017). An intervention to enhance psychological capital and health outcomes in homeless female youths. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 39, 356-373.

Shannon, S. & Bartle-Haring, S. (2017). Unique characteristics of cohabiters seeking therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43, 115-130.

Slesnick. N., Feng, X., Brakenhoff, B., Guo, X., Carmona, J., Murnan, A., Cash, S., & McRee, A.L. (2016). A test of outreach and drop-in linkage versus shelter linkage for connecting homeless youth to services. Prevention S cience, 17, 450-460. PMID: 26759145

Slesnick, N., & Zhang, J. (2016). Family systems therapy for substance using mothers and their 8-16 year old children. Psychology of Addictive B ehavior, 30, 619-629. PMID: 27454370

Slesnick, N., Zhang, J. & Brakenhoff, B. (2016). Homeless youths’ caretakers: The mediating role of childhood abuse on street victimization and housing stability. Social Work, 61, 147-154. PMID: 27180525

Slesnick, N., Zhang, J., & Brakenhoff, B. (2017). Personal control and service connection as keys to improved outcomes among marginalized homeless youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 73, 121-127.

Wu, Q., Feng, X., Hooper, E.G, & Ku, S. (2017). Maternal Emotion Socialization, Depressive Symptoms and Child Emotion Regulation: Child Emotionality as a Moderator. Infant and Child Development, 26(1), e1979.

Zhang, J., & Slesnick, N. (2016). Cumulative contextual risk and behavior problems among children with substance using mothers: The mediating role of mothers’ and children’s coping strategies. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 86(4), 447-455. PMID: 27078051

Zhang, J., & Slesnick, N. (In press). The effects of a family systems intervention on co-occurring internalizing and externalizing behavior of children with substance using mothers: A latent transition analysis. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

Zhang, J., & Slesnick, N. (2017). Discrepancies in autonomy and relatedness promoting behaviors: The effects of a family systems intervention. Journal of Youth and A dolescence, 46, 668–681. PMID: 27480271

Zhang, J., Slesnick, N., & Feng, X. (In press). Concurrent trajectory of mothers’ substance use, psychological control and children’s behavior problems: A randomized clinical trial of a family systems intervention. Family Process.

Selected Presentations (2016-17)

Bartle-Haring, S. (2016). Therapist effects. Research paper presented at the 2016 Doctoral Educators’ Summit, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, September, Indianapolis, IN.

Bartle-Haring, S. & Ferriby, M. (2017). Differentiation of Self: moderator for satisfaction and depression. Poster presented at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy annual conference, October, Atlanta, GA.

Bartle-Haring, S. (2017). Therapeutic Alliance: After session feedback. Poster presented at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy annual conference, October, Atlanta, GA.

Bowers, D. Orlando, FL (November 2017) National Council on Family Relations Annual Meeting. A phenomenological analysis of transgender volunteers’ experience

Bowers, D. Atlanta, Ga. (Oct 2017). American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists: Phenomenology of Transgender volunteers’ experiences on a crisisline

Bowers, D. Malaga, Spain (Mar. 2017) International Family Therapy Association Congress: Helping through Memories and Family: Lived Experience of Transgender crisisline volunteers

Brakenhoff, B., Wu, Q., & Slesnick, N. (2017, June). Substance Using Mothers Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts: Impact of Parenting Behaviors on Child Behavior Problems. Poster presented at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence 2017 Symposium.

Brakenhoff, B., Wu, Q., & Slesnick, N. (June 2017). Substance using mothers experiencing suicidal thoughts: Impact of parenting behaviors on child behavior problems. Poster presented at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence Meeting: Montreal, Quebec.

Gerhardt, M., Feng, X., Wu, Q., Hooper, E., &Ku, S. (2017, April). A naturalistic study of fathers and mothers emotion socialization practices. Poster presented at the 2017 Biennial Meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Hatsu, I., Hade, E., & Slesnick, N. (June, 2016). Mental health symptoms among homeless youth: R elationship to nutrients intake. Poster presented at the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: Cape Town, South Africa.

Hooper, E., Wu, Q., Ku, S., Bridgeman, C., & Feng, X. (2016, November). Mother and Child Emotion Expressions and Emotion Responses. Poster presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MIHooper, E., Feng, X., Wu, Q., Ku, S., & Gerhardt, G. (2017, November). Mother and Child Emotional Responses: Relations With Child Problem B ehavior. Poster accepted at the 2017 National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, Orlando, FL.

Murnan, A., Wu, Q., Cully, L., & Slesnick, N. (2017, March). Effects of family systems therapy with prostituting women. Poster presented at the International Family Therapy Association: Malaga, Spain.

Slesnick, N. (May, 2016). Human trafficking among homeless youth. Invited paper presented at the Ohio Psychological Association: Columbus, OH.

Slesnick, N. (November, 2016). Victimization among homeless youth in Ohio. Paper presented at the Family and Youth Services Bureau Grantee meeting: Tampa, Fl.

Slesnick, N. & Zhang, J. (March, 2017). A test of family systems therapy for substance using mothers and their children. Poster presented at the International Family Therapy Association: Malaga, Spain.

Wolph, O., Wu, Q., Gerhardt, M., Feng, X. (2017, April). Mothers and Fathers Sociodemographic Characteristics: Prospective Associations With Preschoolers’ Problem Behaviors. Poster presented at the 2017 Biennial Meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Wu, Q., Slesnick, N., & Murnan, A. (2017, November). Homeless Mothers’ Parenting Stress and Child Behavioral Problems. Poster accepted at the 2017 National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, Orlando, FL.

Wu, Q., Feng, X., Hooper, E., Ku, S., & Gerhardt, M. (2017, April). The relation between early behavioral inhibition and loneliness in late childhood: the role of emotion expression. Poster presented at the 2017 Biennial Meeting of Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Zhang, J., & Slesnick, N. (May, 2017). Co-Occurring trajectory of mothers’ substance use and psychological control and children’s behavior problems: The effects of a family systems intervention. Paper presented at the Society for Prevention Research 25th Annual Meeting: Washington, DC.

Grants and Funding (2016-17)

Brakenhoff, B. Understanding HIV risk behaviors of homeless youth. NIDA, #R36DA041530, $54,000. Role: Primary Mentor

Rew, L., Slesnick, N., & Johnson, K. Intervention to promote healthy behaviors in homeless youth. NICHD, R01 HD083576, 4/1/16-3/30/20, $2,123,698. Role: Co-I/Subcontract PI

Slesnick, N., Brigham, G., Feng, X., & Granello, D. Suicide prevention among substance abusing homeless youth. NIDA, R34DA037845, 4/1/15-3/30/18, $629,141. Role: PI

Slesnick, N., & Feng, X. Evaluation of EBT with young, substance abusing homeless mothers. NIDA, 2R01DA036589-01A1, 2/1/15-11/30/19, $3,056,663. Role: PI