Iris Miao, Lab Manager


Iris is a second year doctoral student who is currently managing the Culture and Mental Health Research lab. Originally from the south of China, she has always been fascinated by the interplay between cultural orientation and mental health. She has been involved with the Taoist Cognitive Therapy Project since 2013 and is currently working on studies exploring the relationship between Taoism orientation and psychological well-being. She also works with Chinese immigrants with history of breast cancer and learns about their struggles with acculturation process. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, and sometimes experimenting vegetarian recipes.

Ariane Ling Ph.D.

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Ariana received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology at New York University in 2017. Her research interests include Asian and Asian American mental health and community based research. Ariane is committed to work with underserved communities and cultural competence in multicultural counseling. With additional interest in expanding her knowledge of integrative treatment approaches, Ariane joined the Taoist Cognitive Therapy Project in 2013. Since then, she has been involved in connecting her community-based work with various TCT Projects.  Ariane serves as Treasurer for the Division on Students under the Asian American Psychological Association and member of the New York Coalition for Asian American Mental Health.



Nancy Ng, M.A.

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Nancy is a 4th year PhD student involved in the Cross-Racial Therapy Project and the Taoist Cognitive Therapy Project. Her research interests center on the roles of race, ethnicity, and culture in therapeutic processes involving Asian Americans.  As an Asian American growing up in Hong Kong and coming to the U.S. at a young age, Nancy understands the struggle families go through during the acculturation process.  She was a member of AmeriCorps and is an active member of the Asian American Mental Health Coalition and Brooklyn Chinese American Association, where she continues to provide mental health services and outreach to the Asian American community.




Lia Okun, Ph.D..

Dr. Okun received her Ph.D. from the New School in 2016, where she played an active role in the Cross-Racial Therapy Project:  I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and did not give much thought to her racial and ethnic background.  It was not until I moved to New York that I began to think about my own ethnic identity.  Through a position as a teaching assistant for Dr. Chang’s undergraduate course, Culture, Ethnicity, and Mental Health I began to realize how important issues of race, ethnicity, and culture were to my own identity.  Moreover, it became very clear to me that my research in the field would need to encompass these topics.  I am interested in the impact of racial/ethnic mismatch on the development of the alliance and therapeutic outcomes when a patient and therapist are of different races or ethnicities.  My dissertation examined how these differences are negotiated in initial sessions involving therapists of color and their White patients.

Lory Reyes, M.A.

Lory is a third year PhD student who has been involved with the Cross-Racial Therapy Project since 2010.  As a Filipino having grown up in Wollongong, Australia, she understands the significance of the acculturation process on immigrants and first generation individuals, and is very interested in learning and researching interventions for improving the therapeutic alliance between ethnically mismatched patient-therapist dyads, and how race ethnicity and culture shape mental heath and psychotherapy relationships.

William (Billy) Somerville, Ph.D.

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Dr. Okun received her Ph.D. from the New School in 2016.  I was born in rural West Virginia, the last of six children in my family. My parents were involved in social justice activism, and I was taught to try to see the world through others' eyes.  When I began graduate study in 2009, I believed that mental illness looked pretty much the same everywhere—that "people are people." Through my coursework and research I have come to understand that race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other aspects of identity play a significant role in the ways mental health & illness are experienced by patients, and conceptualized, diagnosed, and treated by clinicians. For my master's thesis I examined ways to measure clinician-perpetrated racial microaggressions in mental health settings. My dissertation research will likely continue in this same vein. In 2012 I was awarded the Statue Foundation Fellowship for my social justice and diversity-related work in clinical psychology. Other interests include scientific reporting in the 21st century, the "file drawer problem," the history and philosophy of science, and teaching. In my free time I pursue a variety of creative outlets, such as singing in an electro pop band and acting in friends' independent films.

Sara Waters, M.S., LMHC

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Sara has been an RA the Culture & Mental Health Lab since 2011, and is leading a project exploring first sessions in cross-racial therapy. She is also collaborating on a qualitative project examining how intersecting cultural identities emerge and are negotiated in the therapeutic relationship. She recently presented the findings at the 2013 Diversity Challenge.  Sara also is leading a third project on sexual orientation as a dimension of patient identity in racially mismatched therapy dyads. Sara is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with extensive experience working with diverse communities and a long history of social justice advocacy, including serving as mental health expert witness for asylum seekers due to persecution or torture.  She is committed to psychological research that recognizes the centrality of culture and the function of privilege in intercultural interactions, and that advances culturally-grounded   therapeutic interventions.  See Sara's CV here.

Tehani Benjamin

I am a first year master's student in the clinical psychology program. I am interested in helping individuals, families, and communities who have endured interpersonal or collective trauma. I currently volunteer as an interpreter for the NY/ Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture. There, I work mostly with asylum seekers from West Africa, who have suffered massive trauma and loss as a result of (political) violence, torture, and persecution. It has been very enriching to work with patients from such diverse backgrounds, and to observe how ethnicity and culture shape and impact the therapeutical process. I am committed to psychological research that will strengthen the delivery of cross-racial and culturally-grounded psychotherapy, as well as  other health related services. 


Jordan Dunn, M.A.

Jordan is a master's student in the Chang lab, conducting a study on therapy process and outcome for White patients working with therapists of color.  Jordan's scholarly, professional and activist pursuits since moving to NYC from Iowa ten years ago have led to an abiding interest in cultural diversity.  Previously, Jordan conducted ethnographic fieldwork on LGBT Latina/os' experiences of belonging in Spain.  He has also been involved in projects on ruptures to the working alliance between Latina/o patients and their mental health providers, Black and Latino gay men's decision-making regarding substance use and safer sex, and first sessions between therapists of color and White patients.  Jordan is a member of the New School DREAM Team, a student organization which works to make the university more accessible to undocumented students.



Rachel Floyd

Rachel is a first year master's student in Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. She joined the Taoist Cognitive Therapy Lab's research team in June 2014. Having studied philosophy and eastern spirituality for the majority of her life, she hopes to continue exploring the impact systems of thought and contemplative practice have on people and their overall well-being.



Evan Valdes

I am working on a project coding and transcribing sessions involving white therapists working with clients who are African American.  I also worked with Billy Somerville transcribing for his dissertation study on therapist peer supervision. I am a 2nd year MA student who also works full time teaching tennis at a few different clubs in the city. I am originally from Arlington, MA.


Sophia Williams, M.A.

I am a proud Harlem resident originally from the California Bay Area. I relocated to New York in 2011 to attend graduate school at NSSR and graduated in 2013 with a Master’s in Psychology. As an M.A. student, I found comfort in Black identity research as it helped me understand my experience as a Black woman in America and provided evidence that racial and cultural identity for Black people can be complicated. As a student in Dr. Chang’s lab, I worked on the Cross Racial Therapy Project coding therapy session between ethnically mismatched patient therapist dyads using the Multicultural Therapy Process Measure. I currently work in the health and wellness field exploring the psychology of health behaviors, disease perceptions, and treatment seeking behaviors. I am in the process continuing some of the research I began during my Master’s program and am currently conceptualizing a research project about black identity and black consciousness.