Department of Counseling welcomes new faculty members

Dr. LaKaavia Taylor is joining the SMU full-time faculty as Clinical Associate Professor effective Fall 2023. Dr. Taylor earned her Ph.D. in counseling with a specialty in play therapy and psychoeducational assessment at the University of North Texas. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor, National Certified Counselor, Registered Play Therapist, Certified Child-Centered Play Therapy Supervisor, and Certified Child-Parent Relationship Therapy Supervisor.

For over a decade, Dr. Taylor has provided counseling services to children, adolescents, adults, and families in various settings including community agencies, public schools, private practice, and university clinics. Her specialty is multicultural counseling and trauma-informed practices.

Dr. Taylor’s lifelong commitment is to reduce mental health barriers for individuals and families from marginalized and underserved populations. She has delivered numerous presentations at professional conferences, published chapters and research on play therapy, and engaged in social justice advocacy in her leadership positions in national counseling organizations. She is a former 2020 American Counseling Association (ACA) anti-racist task force member. On the task force, she worked with social justice counseling leaders in the field to develop an anti-racist action plan for dissemination to ACA’s membership. Dr. Taylor is a Counselor Educator Trustee for the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC). She is the 2022 recipient of the Rho Kappa Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota Outstanding Research Award. She also received the College of Education Outstanding Lecturer Award in 2022 for her teaching excellence.

Dr. Denise M. Walker is joining the SMU full-time faculty as Clinical Assistant Professor effective Fall 2023. Dr. Walker is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas and Louisiana, and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Louisiana. Dr. Walker earned her B.S. and M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Dr. Walker completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision at Texas A&M University-Commerce with a specialization in Student Affairs.

Dr. Walker has clinical experience working with adolescents, adults, couples, and families with varying levels of psychological and relational concerns in numerous settings including higher education, community-based counseling centers, home-based services, juvenile detention centers, and private practice. Dr. Walker is also trained in EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Level 1 – Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Dr. Walker has published research on the delivery of clinical mental health services in home based settings and has provided professional presentations on numerous topics including narrative family counseling, stress management, domestic violence, and supporting Black students at predominately White institutions.


Schumann Shares Tips to Reduce Parents’ Stress During The Holidays

The Guidepost Parent Blog, published by the Montessori network, Higher Ground Education, interviewed Clinical Associate Professor Brandy Schumann for tips on how to avoid toxic holidays, when stress may be high. Schumann takes a look at a variety of roles in families and comments on ways to keep emotions in check.

Counseling Department’s Clinical Associate Professor Brandy Schumann

In the article, Schumann says, “Our family has certain developmental roles, and we are expected to fit into those roles. I’m a daughter still, even though in my everyday life I am no longer the daughter,” she explained. “It’s comparable to the stress we might feel towards a high school reunion, where we have changed, but everyone still expects you to be the same.”

For more on her suggestions, read the article here.

Zippia. com Asks Potter About Pandemic’s Impact on Graduates and Careers

John Potter, clinical associate professor in the Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling, joined a panel of experts to assess the pandemic’s impact on graduates starting their careers.

He sees positive outcomes from the pandemic that include adopting different ways of learning. Gaining these kinds of skills is important he says.

For him, the knowledge his students have acquired to resolve conflicts will benefit them any where they go.

To read the article, click here.



NBC5 Interviews Greta Davis about the Psychology of Disbelief during COVID-19


In an NBC5 interview about why people are not grasping the current number of pandemic deaths in Texas, which are at a peak of 10,000, Clinical Associate Professor Greta Davis discussed the psychology  involved.

She explained the concepts of confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and people’s stress response to COVID-19.

Dr. Davis chairs the Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling at SMU Simmons.

For more, see story below.


Faculty Promotions in Simmons

With the conclusion of the spring semester the Simmons School is happy to announce the following faculty promotions:

Congratulations to Michael Harris (Education Policy and Leadership) who was promoted to Full Professor, and to Sushmita Purkayastha (Applied Physiology and Wellness) and Meredith Richards (Education Policy and Leadership) who received tenure and were promoted to Associate Professors.

Clinical faculty promotions include four who moved from Clinical Assistant to Clinical Associate status:  Roxanne Burleson (Education Policy and Leadership), Greta Davis (Dispute Resolution and Counseling), Amy Ferrell (Teaching and Learning), and Diane Gifford (Teaching and Learning).  Three faculty were promoted from Clinical Associate to Clinical Full: Margaret Jacome (Dispute Resolution and Counseling), Misty Solt (Dispute Resolution and Counseling, and Ashley Tull (Education Policy and Leadership). Plaudits to them.

Center for Family Counseling in Simmons Provides Free Telehealth Services

SMU’s Center for Family Counseling in Simmons is now offering free telehealth counseling to anyone who needs it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What started as a work-around to help the community during this period of mandatory social distancing has proved to be so successful that the center will continue offering remote counseling even after the staff returns to seeing patients in-person.

The clinic, associated with SMU’s Master’s in Counseling program, provides a variety of counseling services to adults, adolescents and children who are dealing with anxiety, depression, behavior difficulties, grief and loss, stress and parenting. Like many other businesses and clinics in Dallas, SMU’s Center for Family Counseling has temporarily closed its offices to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Clinic staff recognized, however, that because they were forced to close the clinic’s doors, there might be more people in need of mental health services related to isolation and other stay-at-home issues, said Clinic Director Terra Wagner.

“So we moved to offering services via Zoom,” Wagner said. “However, we plan to continue offering telehealth services, even when we return to seeing clients in person,” she said, explaining that they discovered they can serve more clients using a combination of telehealth and in-person appointments.

The Center for Family Counseling normally operates on a sliding scale fee system to accommodate low-income clients, with charges ranging from $5 to a maximum of $45 per session. All services will be free until further notice, Wagner said.

In addition to the telehealth counseling, five new remote support groups are also open for registration, free of charge: Adult Mindfulness Group, Adolescent Support Group, LGBTQ+ Parenting/Caregiver Support Group, LGBTQ+ Adolescent Support Group and LGBTQ+ Adult Support Group. These support groups started will meet via Zoom. Registration for all groups will remain open until groups end on May 7.

Counselors at the center are graduate students in the Master’s in Counseling program offered by SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. They have completed most of their coursework as well as clinical skills classes to prepare to work with clients under faculty supervision. The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

The clinic helps address the national shortage of mental health professionals by training counselors and providing affordable services. According to a spring 2019 report by Mental Health Dallas, the state of Texas is home to the second highest number of areas in the United States with a mental health professional shortage.

Earlier this year, SMU relocated the Center for Family Counseling from Plano to a new Dallas location in Expressway Tower, 6116 N. Central Expressway, Suite 410. Services are offered Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. To schedule an appointment, please call 214-768-6789. If the Center for Family Counseling can’t meet your needs, you will be referred to another provider.


Tips for Leading and Managing Stay-at-Home Groups

The COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives. Educational institutions, companies, non-profit organizations, government agencies have implemented social distancing policies and mandated telecommuting. Schools have closed and children are engaging in at-home learning alongside parents who may be remotely working for the very first time. What can managers do to lead effectively?

 Embrace Technology: Get out of your comfort zone to lead in new ways using technology.

  • Take advantage of online trainings to learn how leverage existing and new technologies to connect virtually with employees.
  • Model effective online meeting behaviors by utilizing features such as polling and chats.

 Nurture Relationships: At this time of physical distancing, your people need to know you care about them.

  • Through existing or new technologies, take time to visit with them to find out about their situation and how they are handling the disruption.
  • Provide them with resources to support their emotional and physical well-being.
  • Encourage your people and praise them for their work efforts and flexibility.

Establish New Norms: Let your people know you will be reaching out to them more often and why.

  • Your people need to understand that increased communication and monitoring does not mean you are trying to micromanage their work. You no longer have the luxury of walking down the hall to check in.
  • Get comfortable with real life being part of your communication. Relax your expectations regarding formal communication via phone and other technologies. Children, pets, and partners may suddenly walk into the room in a video call.
  • Shifting to a 100% remote workforce means that social norms of communication and interaction have to evolve. Clarify with your team about how information will be shared and the best ways to communicate for urgent and non-urgent messaging.

Reassess Priorities: What was important two weeks ago may no longer be as urgent or relevant.

  • Adjust goals and expectations to determine where to focus time and attention. Communicate these changes to your team. Take time to help your people think through the rationale for the adjustments.
  • Monitoring of key performance indicators may need to be altered and new metrics may need to be developed.

Update Procedures: It’s no longer business as usual.

  • Determine how processes need to change and invite your employees to generate solutions that meet the demands of your environment.
  • Ensure people understand the critical junctures and decision-points of key procedures.

Greta Davis, Ph.D., specializes in career counseling and serves as department chair and clinical faculty member of SMU  Simmons’ Dispute Resolution and Counseling program.


Reassuring Children during COVID-19

As families shelter at home, many may experience a disruption of daily routines and feel challenged by a lack of predictability. During this time, children need to feel safe. Dr. Brandy Schumann, clinical associate professor of counseling at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, says kids will be seeking additional reassurance from their caregivers to soothe their perception of chaos. Here are some of Schumann’s tips to help.

  • Talk about what is going on. It is important for kids to have developmentally appropriate information about why life has changed so much. This story/ coloring book from LSU is a great bibliotherapy resource. Reading it aloud to your child will help explain things in a developmentally appropriate level.
  • Acknowledge feelings. Validating your child’s feelings about changes can enhance connection and ease worries and anxiety. Kids may also be experiencing sadness and disappointment about missing out on extracurricular activities, birthday parties, and playdates. You may experience your child as hypersensitive at this time, seeming to overreact to the small things. Try to respond with patience, understanding the reaction is less about the specific moment and more about a reaction to the state of our environment. Remember, when it seems like your child might need a time out, probably it is a need for a time in with you.
  • A 30 second burst of quality attention from you, assuring your child that you are available to them when they need you, is usually all that is needed to help them re-regulate.
  • Kids play–it is their natural mode of communication. As things change in their lives and they become more aware of why, you will find that it will emerge in their play. This will help them gain a sense of control over what feels so out of control. For example, at dinner, my 4-7- and 12-year old children were eating flour tortillas and shaping them into medical masks that they laid across their faces. My 7-year-old laughed hysterically and said, “Hey mom, if they do run out of masks, they can just use tortillas!” This is them “playing” out their world just as we adults talk out ours.
  • Schedule tech-free time. Tech-free family time can create opportunities for greater connection. Imagine one year from now, what memories to you want your child to have from this time. Use this opportunity together to build your relationship. Many of us are overscheduled. This may be the first time in a while that they and you have “free” time. Get creative. Have fun.
  • Allow your kids to use technology to connect with their friends. Social distancing does not have to mean that we can no longer connect with each other. Help your kids brainstorm creative ways to connect with their friends.
  • Take care of yourself. It can feel overwhelming as a parent to have to take on the role of teacher as well as continue full-time work. This time will be stressful. It is important for parents to engage in self-care.  For example, stick to child bedtime routines to ensure “adult time.”
  • Call a counselor. Many are available via telehealth for individual sessions or parent consultation.

Brandy Schumann, Ph.D., specializes in play therapy and serves as a clinical faculty member for SMU Simmon’s Counseling program and the Center for Family Counseling.  She co-wrote these tips with SMU counseling alumna, Vivian Murcia,’ 17, M.S.


Feuerbacher Helps Organize Prosper Town Hall to Help With Suicide Prevention

Dr. Sarah Feuerbacher, director of Simmons’ Center for Family Counseling, helped Prosper residents organize a town hall after two people killed themselves during a 24 hour period. Her concern hit close to home since of one of them was her neighbor.

According to comments she made to NBC5, she said, “We need to be able to learn, we need to be able to do something for the families who are hurting right now and to help those who are hurting out there.”

Feuerbacher asked student interns to participate and provide counseling services to attendees who requested assistance.





Feuerbacher Offers Insight into Safety at Psychiatric Hospitals

The Dallas Morning News recently published an investigative report on area psychiatric hospitals and their safety records.  Sarah Feuerbacher, director of the Center for Family Counseling at SMU Simmons, was quoted on how patients and families may assess these hospitals.

An earlier Morning News investigation ultimately led to the voluntary closing of Timberlawn Hospital in Dallas.