Gordon Couples Research Lab

University of Tennessee Department of Psychology

Current Lab Members

Patricia Roberson, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Fellow

Jessica Hughes, M.A.
Graduate Student, 5th year

I was born and raised in Argentina, and received my Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Miami. During my undergraduate years, I worked on several projects that examined how cognitive processes and individual differences in emotion regulation increase the risk for the onset and recurrence of depression and anxiety disorders. Following my undergraduate career, I worked at Brown University on treatment outcome studies targeting bipolar disorder, depression, and suicide risk reduction in psychiatric inpatients. While working at Brown, I developed an interest in how distress in romantic relationships affects mental health and mechanisms of change in treatment. My current and ongoing research and clinical interests include romantic relationship functioning and the bidirectional relationship between mental health and relationship satisfaction in Caucasian and Latino couples. I am also interested in the effect that differing cultural values and acculturation have on relationship functioning. I am currently working on my dissertation, which examines the role of alliance on couples’ outcomes in the Relationship Rx. Additionally, I conduct individual, group, and couple therapy in both English and Spanish at Cherokee Health Systems and at the University of Tennessee Psychological Clinic.

When I am not working on research projects or doing clinical work, I love spending time with my sweet dog, Maggie. Some of my other hobbies include traveling, eating out (brunch is my favorite), watching some entertaining tv shows, and exploring what Tennessee has to offer.

Alexander Khaddouma, M.A.
Graduate Student, 4th year

I am originally from Tennessee and received my undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Broadly, my research examines factors and processes that contribute to healthy romantic relationships, ideally to inform the development and improvement of couple and family therapies. I am particularly interested in what factors contribute to the quality and longevity of dating relationships and how this research may be used in the context of relationship education programs and services for dating partners. My current and ongoing research program focus on the role of mindfulness in the romantic relationship health and sexual behaviors of dating partners. In addition, I conduct individual, couple and family therapy at the University of Tennessee Psychological Clinic as well as teach undergraduate psychology courses at the University of Tennessee.

In my personal time, I love being outside. I am lucky to be so close to the Great Smoky Mountains and try to spend as much time enjoying them as possible. I also like to spend time with my friends and family, read, and broaden my knowledge of world cultures.

Jerika Norona, M.A.
Graduate Student, 4th year

I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Broadly, my research focuses on the developmental course of romantic experiences in adolescence and emerging adulthood.  My research with my primary advisor, Dr. Deborah Welsh, has focused on conflict, rejection, relationship dissolution, and betrayal from a normative developmental perspective. Dr. Welsh and I have recently begun collaborating with Dr. Gordon and her students on my dissertation, which focuses on the developmental significance of breaking up with a romantic partner and participating in infidelity during emerging adulthood.  Additionally, I conduct individual and couple therapy at the University of Tennessee Psychological Clinic, as well as teach undergraduate psychology courses at the University of Tennessee and Tusculum College.

Outside the lab, rock climbing has become a passion of mine. I also enjoy spending time with my partner and our pets, Riley and Harper.

Darren Garcia, M.S.
Graduate Student, 2nd year

I have lived in various parts of New Mexico and Arizona. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degree from Brigham Young University. My previous research focused primarily on emotion recognition in infants and toddlers. I also examined psychotherapy processes and outcomes in community-based mental health clinics. I am still very much interested in psychotherapy processes and identifying mechanisms of change in psychotherapy but I have transitioned to studying how couples experience the change process. Through my research, I hope to gain a better understanding of how cultural or otherwise contextual variables may impact how couples respond to various treatments and interventions. For example, I plan to examine whether certain Latino populations are more, or less, responsive to specific interventions because of the values associated with their culture. Coming from a large Hispanic family and having spent 2 years in Venezuela, I have penchant for improving services for Latino couples and other under-served populations. I am actively engaged in Relationship Rx and aim to pursue some of my research interests using data from this inspired program.

Whenever I’m not doing research and writing you can find me playing with my 3 beautiful children at a local park, watching a movie with my amazing companion, fishing, hiking, playing racquetball, snowboarding, or in the Smokies enjoying nature with my family. Knoxville is absolutely beautiful and the Smokey Mountains take the grandeur to another level.

Katie Lenger, B.A.
Graduate Student, 1st year


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