Meet the 2023 AAMFT Foundation and AAMFT Award Winners


The 2023 Awards Committee received many thoughtful and inspiring nominations that highlight the important work being done by AAMFT members to advance the profession of marriage and family therapy. We thank the Committee, chaired by Sarah Lyon, PhD and comprised of members Erica E. Hartwell, PhD, Heather Laird, PsyD and Silvia Kaminsky, MSEd for reviewing these nominees and selecting our winners.

AAMFT Foundation Awards

The following awards are made possible by donors to the AAMFT Research & Education Foundation. Awards help raise the visibility and awareness of diverse therapists making a difference in our profession. To support future awards, consider a charitable gift (

Dissertation Award

Amber Kelley, PhD

Dr. Amber Kelley is an assistant professor and co-program director at Lipscomb University’s master’s of marriage and family therapy program. Her clinical work and research focus on the treatment of trauma, including posttraumatic stress disorder, and the experience and impact of trauma disclosure on marriage and family therapists.

Chi-Fang Tseng, PhD, LLMFT

I am a clinical researcher dedicated to improving mental health outcomes among marginalized populations through culturally adapted evidence-based couple interventions, with a particular focus on Asian couples in Asia and Asian immigrant couples in the United States. My ultimate goal is to provide tailored and effective interventions to reduce mental health disparities in these populations.

Tom “YiLe” Su, PhD, LMFT

My name is Tom “YiLe” Su and I moved from China to the U.S. in 2012 for higher education and discovered my passion for Marriage and Family Therapy. I obtained my master’s degree from Kansas State University and my doctorate degree from Florida State University.

Minority Stipend

Crystal Smith-Morgan, LMFT

Crystal Smith-Morgan, LMFT, works at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, owns a private practice, is an adjunct instructor in a graduate mental health counseling and leadership program, and a doctoral student at Kean University. She recently completed the AAMFT supervision credential and is enrolled in the AAMFT Leadership Program.

Outstanding Research Publication Award

Michael G. Curtis, PhD, LMFT

Dr. Michael Curtis is a Black Queer family therapist and translational science scholar. His research focuses on investigating the traumatic stress processes linking intersectional stigma to Black sexual minority men’s increased risk of intersectional health disparities His long-term goal is to translate his findings into the development of ecologically and culturally responsive, multisystemic interventions aimed at improving Black American sexual minority men’s biopsychosocial health and development.

Graduate Student Research Award

Kayla Doyle

Kayla Doyle is currently a second-year master’s student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. She currently holds over 500 hours of clinical experience and believes her work with all people and families to be a true privilege. Her original research concept, Food and Families: Two Systems for Change originates from her belief and passion for true systems reform for the comprehensive health and prosperity of all people. Upon graduation this August 2023, she has plans to begin working in community mental health with families and children in the state of New Hampshire. Kayla currently lives in Portsmouth, NH and holds a BA in Communication. She is honored to receive this award and is inspired by the great MFT professionals and researchers in the field including her supervisors, Dr. Trent Call, Dr. Marissa Mosley, Dr. Barbara Frankel and Jennifer Golia, MS, LMFT.

Morgan Hamilton

Morgan Joyce Hamilton is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University’s Master’s in Couple and Family Therapy Program. Throughout conducting her thesis project, Morgan collaborated with research advisor, Dr. Ashley Landers, and American Indian elder, Sandy White Hawk to examine the experiences of fostered and adopted American Indian relatives as they reunify with their tribe in adulthood.

Diversity Scholarship for Emerging Leaders

John-Arash Adams

John-Arash Adams, from Campbellsville University, is passionate about systemic therapy and the need for third order change. John-Arash is committed to continue exploring how sociocultural determinants of health reinforce systemic oppression. As a clinician, researcher, and scholar, John-Arash remains dedicated to culturally competent care at the intersections of politics, policy, and praxis.

Jae Avilez

Jae Isla Avilez [they/them] is a passionate leader from Hartford, CT. With a background in anti-racist and equity facilitation and education, Jae is a second-year student in Adler University’s COAMFTE-accredited Master of Arts in Couple and Family Therapy program.

AAMFT Awards


Tommy Smith, PhD, LMFT

Tommy Smith began his AAMFT affiliation as an undergraduate student member in 1977; continued it as a graduate of two COAMFTE-accredited programs; and spent 34 years as a faculty member (including 15 years as the Program/MFT Center Director of a COAMFTE MS, accredited program. His contributions to the field include: Serving the Alabama MFT division continuously from 1987 – 2014 in Board positions (President twice) and/or Licensure/Legislative Chair/Member except when he served in elected AAMFT positions (twice on the AAMFT Board); numerous AAMFT task forces, committees, and as JMFT Editor Search Chair; COAMFTE Standards Review Committee and 52 (and counting) COAMFTE accreditation site visits, 42 as the Chair; and scores of refereed research publications/professional presentations and invited presentations.

Thorana S. Nelson, PhD

Thorana S. Nelson has served AAMFT in many capacities, including legislative work, leading the Indiana division to secure certification for MFTs. She served on AAMFT’s Membership Committee and the Board of Directors, and spearheaded the development of the AAMFT Core Competencies as well as changes in the Approved Supervisor designation. She also developed and taught the online AAMFT Approved Supervisor Fundamentals of Supervision and Supervision Refresher courses. She co-developed and directed the Utah State University master’s program in marriage and family therapy and, in 2009, she received the AAMFT Training Award. She is the author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of numerous books, book chapters, and articles and has presented on topics related to marriage and family therapy and MFT training and education, as well as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy.

Cumulative Contribution to Marriage and Family Therapy Research Award

Suzanne Bartle-Haring, PhD

Suzanne Bartle-Haring, PhD received her PhD from the University of Connecticut in 1990, and began her tenure at The Ohio State University in 1992 as a faculty member in the Couple and Family Therapy PhD Program. Throughout her career, she has focused on training Couple and Family Therapy research clinicians. Her research areas include Bowen Family Systems Theory and the construct of differentiation, what contributes to successful outcomes in CFT, and structural racism and health outcomes using statistical techniques that allow for the nonindependence of data and that approximate a systemic perspective.

Other articles

Gray Divorce: Splitting Up Later in Life
A Message from the President

Necessary Losses

I first read Judith Viorst’s book, Necessary Losses, when it came out in 1998, towards the early phase of my career. The idea that loss was necessary, not just an inevitable part of life, was somehow radical for me as a child of refugees, growing up with multiple losses of family, home, and history.
Silvia Kaminsky, MSEd

Meaning of Aging in a Time of Crisis

Common Misconceptions About Portability

Easy licensure portability—it is something everyone in a licensed profession wants, but it is not always easily understood. And as AAMFT embarks on a strategic effort to expand licensure portability for the MFT profession, it has never been more important to understand this process and to correct misconceptions that often circulate about it.

Gray Divorce: Splitting Up Later in Life
Systemic World

An Unstoppable Teenage Life Force: Face to Face with a Class of Syrian 7th Graders

Several years ago, while I was working on a project in Lebanon, I came face to face with a class of Syrian 7th graders. The 7th graders had been displaced to Lebanon by the war taking place across the border. I had been brought to the school, and the nearby refugee camp where the Syrian children lived with their families, as a consultant family therapy “SME” – a “subject matter expert.”

Laurie L. Charlés, PhD