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Marriage and Family Therapy Core Faculty

The marriage and family therapy (MFT) core faculty are faculty within the Department of Human Development and Family Science, and are experienced researchers, clinicians, supervisors, and teachers who have made significant contributions to the field of marriage and family therapy, and other closely related fields and disciplines.  As a faculty, we value mentorship and work closely with our doctoral students to provide a personalized learning experience that helps them achieve their professional goals.

Dr. Kristen Benson

MFT Program Director
Associate Professor


  • LGBTQ+ Inclusive Practices
  • LGBTQ+ Families
  • Sexuality
  • Family Therapy Ethics
  • Qualitative Research Methods
Dr. Jenene Case Pease

Clinical Director
Clinical Associate Professor


  • Relationship Education for Low-Income and Ethnic Minority Individuals and Families
  • Mental Health Assessment Protocols
  • Integration of Clinical Services and Research
Dr. Megan Dolbin-MacNab



  • Grandfamilies/Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  • Grandparenting
  • Family Therapy with Older Adults and their Families
  • Community-Based Interventions
  • Research Methods
Dr. Jody Russon

Assistant Professor


  • Suicide Prevention and Intervention through Relationship Enrichment
  • Adaptation, Dissemination and Implementation Science
  • LGBTQ+ Adolescents and Young Adults
  • Attachment-Based Family Therapy
  • Person-of-the-Therapist Training
  • Mixed Methods Research
Dr. Paul Springer

HDFS Department Head



  • Community Based Participatory Research
  • Telemental Health
  • Global Mental Health
  • Qualitative Research Methods
Dr. Erika Grafsky

Associate Professor


  • Psychosocial Health and Well-Being of Sexual and Gender Minority Individuals and their Families
  • LGBTQ Affirmative Therapy Practices
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Intervention Development

Human Development and Family Science Faculty

The MFT program area is housed in the Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS). All HDFS faculty, including the MFT core faculty, are actively involved in the mentoring and training of doctoral students specializing in MFT, and frequently serve as their advisors and/or members of their advisory committees.  HDFS faculty are award-winning teachers and mentors and world-class researchers who specialize in child and adolescent development, family studies, and adult development and aging.  Click here to learn more about the HDFS faculty and their areas of expertise.

Marriage and Family Therapy Students

Students in the MFT program area of the Department of Human Development and Human Science hold master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy and other mental health disciplines. They have ranged from new master’s graduates to licensed practitioners with decades of experience, and have also included people embarking on new careers.  The program’s cohort model means that our students have the opportunity to work collaboratively while they are in the program and develop strong personal and professional connections that extend well beyond their time in Blacksburg.

Our Students…

  • Represent the world. They have come to the program from Bolivia, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, United States, and Zimbabwe, among other countries.
  • Conduct cutting-edge marriage and family therapy research. Eight of our students have received American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Dissertation Awards.
  • Disseminate new knowledge. Each year, our students are authors on numerous professional publications and regularly present their work at national and regional conferences.
  • Promote culturally competent practice. Fourteen current and former students are American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Minority Fellows.
  • Serve the profession and community. Our students provide over 1000 hours of clinical services to the community each year and are actively engaged in professional organizations.

Interested in learning more about our students?

  • View our Graduate Achievement Data for information about the program’s graduation rates, job placement rates, and the Marriage and Family Therapy National Exam pass rates.
  • For more information about the diversity of our students and the program’s approach to diversity and inclusion, click here.

Interested in joining us?  Click here for information about program’s admissions requirements and instructions for applying.

Marriage and Family Therapy Alumni

Since 1979, over 170 students have graduated with a specialization in MFT from Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Development and Family Science.

Alumni have careers all over the United States and around the world that span the range of research, teaching, supervision, and clinical work. Approximately half of the program’s graduates are working in academic positions, either in private or public colleges and universities. The next largest group are working clinically in agency or private practice settings. Within these varied career settings, our alumni often hold leadership positions, such as directors, administrators, and supervisors. Most alumni are fully licensed as MFTs and are AAMFT Approved Supervisors.

Our alumni have made significant contributions to MFT research, training, and practice.  We are proud to spotlight the accomplishments of several of our recent alumni.  Check back regularly for updates and to meet more of our MFT program area graduates.

Dr. Tony Issenmann is the Family Programs Director at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness. Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness combines traditional, evidence-based therapies with a unique wilderness experience to provide adolescents, young adults and their families a powerful setting for hope, change, and healing. Dr. Issenmann oversees the systemic integration of family programming so that the focus of change is not solely on the student who is enrolled in the program. He also works directly with families, facilitates parent workshops, supervises a team of family therapists and has the opportunity to develop new, innovative family programming. Dr. Issenmann’s aim is to partner with others in ways that help them thrive – be they the therapists he is supervising, or the students and families who are enrolled in the program.

Dr. Kendra O’Hora is a licensed MFT and supervisor in the State of Maryland. She specializes in helping couples heal from infidelity. She owns a group practice, Wellness & Co., with her providers serving clients locally, nationally, and internationally. Dr. K is passionate about relationship health and check-ins, helping couples be proactive and intentional in their bond. She has written two e-books and created an e-course for those interested in the couples therapy process. She also provides consultation to women launching a self-pay private practice. Most recently, she has become a board member for The Narrative Enneagram, an educational non profit using the Enneagram to create a more compassionate world.

Dr. Manjushree Palit is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling (JSPC) at OP Jindal Global University (OP JGU), India. Her research interests include family and couple relationships, family therapy, mental health, the intersectionality of our social identities and gender-based violence. She has been actively involved in teaching, training, and educating professionals in the community on gender and social justice issues; family systems framework in working with couple and family; and the impact of relationship challenges on the mental health of children, couples, and families. She is passionate about educating and empowering young Indian therapists in systemic training and clinical practice.

Dr. Dana Stone is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a small private practice and an Associate Professor and Fieldwork Coordinator in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at California State University Northridge. She serves as a clinical supervisor and faculty liaison to the Mitchell Family Counseling Clinic where trainees serve clients in the surrounding San Fernando Valley. Dr. Stone teaches the foundational courses of Family Systems Theories through a sociocultural lens and Diversity in Therapy as well as fieldwork supervision classes and chairing culminating experiences. Her research is centered in the experiences of multiracial individuals and families as well as supporting early career therapists with marginalized aspects of identity in bringing their whole selves into their clinical development and training. She is the co-author of the recently published (2020) book Finding Your Voice as a Beginning Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Jamie West has served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University and Interim Clinical Director and adjunct faculty for the Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s Program at Virginia Tech, Northern Virginia Center. She has taught courses on ethical, professional, and legal issues in marriage and family therapy, systems theory, substance misuse and addictions, and trauma informed care. As an AAMFT Approved Supervisor, she supervises graduate students in practicum and mentors doctoral students completing their supervision practicum. She is licensed as an LMFT in Virginia and Florida and works with clients in her private practice, J. West Therapy LLC. Her research and clinical interests include resilience and protective factors among at-risk youth, strengthening parent-teen relationships, intersectionality of identities, and navigating major life transitions. She is also interested in being a mental health first responder for mass trauma. Dr. West completed training and is registered as a volunteer through the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology and Vibrant Emotional Health Crisis Team to deploy for future natural and man-made disasters that occur nationally and internationally. 

Alumni: Stay Connected to MFT@VT

Are you an MFT program area alum? If so, graduating is not the end of your journey with Virginia Tech. It’s a milestone. Stay connected with us.

Do you have an accomplishment to share? Need to update your contact information? Contact us.

For more information about resources for Virginia Tech alumni, click here.