Gordon Couples Research Lab

University of Tennessee Department of Psychology

Current Lab Members

Darren Garcia, M.S.
Graduate Student, 5th year

I have lived in various parts of New Mexico and Arizona. I’ve presented and published research on various topics from infant/child development to community-based psychotherapy outcomes, and even personality measurement. However, my passion lies in understanding and improving couple romantic relationships. I use both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how cultural or otherwise contextual variables impact how couples respond to relationship interventions. Coming from a large Hispanic family, and having spent 2 years in Venezuela, my research has focused largely on Latino couple relationships. However, identifying as bi-ethnic and bi-cultural myself, I am interested in how couples’ intercultural/multilingual intersections affect romantic relationships. Additionally, with advanced digital software, my dissertation research examines the extent to which couples’ synchronous body-movement is associated with relational health.

Whenever I’m not doing research, practicing therapy and writing you will find me hiking, fishing, playing racquetball, snowboarding, or simply enjoying the Great Smokey Mountains with my beautiful companion, Brenda, and our 4 children, ages 9, 8, 5 and 2.


Katie Lenger, M.A.
Graduate Student, 4th year

I earned my Bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington where I worked in Dr. Cameron Gordon’s Marital Studies Lab.  It is there that I discovered my love for research, particularly in the context of relationship health and flourishing. Currently, my research involves identifying constructs (e.g., mindfulness, gratitude, humility, etc.) related to achieving and maintaining individual and relationship health, particularly among aging and underserved populations. To date, my research has largely identified specific aspects of mindfulness most relevant to one’s own, and his or her partner’s, relationship satisfaction. To extend this work, I am currently in the process of developing and disseminating a brief, couple-based, mindfulness intervention, that will be delivered in homes of low-income couples. This project is supported by the Francisco J. Varela Award from the Mind and Life Institute. The intervention seeks to make this portable, low-cost, strategy more accessible to this population to help improve and maintain their individual and relationship health. I also enjoy clinical work, both assessment and therapy, as well as working with undergraduates in their pursuit of research career goals.

If you’d like to learn more about the program, lab, or my research, please don’t hesitate to reach out – I’d love to speak with you. I can be reached at klenger@vols.utk.edu.


Zahra Amer, B.A.
Graduate Student, 1st Year

I was born and raised here in Knoxville, Tennessee. I received my Bachelor’s degree from UTK in the spring of 2018. Broadly, my research interests focus on infidelity and the dissemination of relationship education to couples in the Knoxville community. In the future, my goal is to conduct research that can better aid communities that have traditionally been underserved.

When I’m not on campus, my favorite hobbies include spending time with my family and friends, as well as my dog Lyla. I love to watch movies and go out to new food spots in town. And of course, in the fall, my favorite weekend activity is supporting the Vols in Neyland Stadium.


 Amer Photo





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