Associate Professor of Marriage and Family TherapyJoined USJ: 2010
Tolerance for Tension
Her academic pursuits began with the study of criminology, which evolved into a keen interest in family dynamics as predictors of behavior. Earning advanced degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy and Child & Family Development, she continues to be drawn to helping those facing challenging circumstances. Her academic roots are reflected in her work with a client base that is buffeted by a “large degree of chaos,” such as individuals referred by state agencies or the courts.
As a clinician with Stafford Family Services she is on the frontlines working with teenagers and their parents. “I have a high tolerance for conflict and anxiety,” Parker explains. To realize progress with clients, she must gain their respect and trust which can be especially difficult because she’s often working with family members who have aggressively competing or conflicting interests. “Sometimes you have to just sit with that tension, not be overwhelmed, and use the strong emotion as a cue for where progress can be made. There will be disagreements — often heated — it’s part of the therapy process.”
Her classes encourage students to use their personal experiences to enhance their clinical skills, and to keep an open mind in approaching career paths in marriage and family therapy. The graduate program requires 500 client contact hours, substantial exposure to working directly with clients. The situations students encounter in the field, coupled with Parker’s practical knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm, serve to inform and animate classroom discussions and make for “a very rich exchange. I critique their work, and they critique mine. We each share our struggles, and we explore and understand together.”
Compassion and Science
The USJ student population is diverse, some seeking a new career path and others entering directly from an undergraduate program. While an intense desire to help others is often what attracts students, Parker emphasizes that therapy is characterized by both compassion for others and empirical support. Research is an expectation in her classes, a precursor to the increasingly evidence-based approach in today’s data-driven, managed care world. She aims to ensure that graduating students will have “increased their tolerance for anxiety,” developed an “empirically-based approach,” and be “open to new approaches they can critically evaluate.” Involved in professional associations, she has collaborated with students in research, and also provided opportunities for some to share their own research projects. In doing so, her motivation is to “see students become active scholars in the field and to gain their own passion for clinical practice.”
- Parker, M. L., Campbell, K., & Kirol, L. (2013). Infidelity & attachment: The moderating role of race/ethnicity. Poster accepted for presentation at American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference. Portland, OR.
- Parker, M. L. & Johnson, L. N. (2011). Attachment-informed interventions with couples in therapy. Poster accepted for presentation at American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference. Fort Worth, TX.
- Saraceno, M. & Parker, M. L. (April, 2013). Sex addiction: Attachment-informed treatment. Poster accepted for presentation at Connecticut Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. Mystic, Connecticut.
- Wold, K., Filloramo, L., & Parker, M. L. (April, 2013). Paternal attachment and women’s romantic Relationships. Poster accepted for presentation at Connecticut Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. Mystic, Connecticut.
- Parker, M. L., Tambling, R. B., & Campbell, K. (2013). Dyadic Adjustment and Depressive Symptoms: The Role of Attachment. The Family Journal, 21(1). 28 – 34.
- Parker, M. L., Johnson, L., & Ketring, S. (2012). Adult attachment and symptom distress: A dyadic model of couples in therapy. Special Issue: New Developments in Evidence-based Couple Therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 34(3). 321-344.
- Parker, M. L., Johnson, L., & Ketring, S. (2011). Assessing attachment of couples in therapy: A factor analysis of the Experiences in Close Relationships scale. Contemporary Family Therapy, 33(1). 37-48.
Ph.D., University of Georgia
M.S., Oklahoma Baptist University
B.A., University of Oklahoma