Board of Directors
Kara McDaniel – President
Over the past 19 years, Kara has worked in a variety of clinical, healthcare, and academic settings. In September 2014, Kara became founder/owner of her own private practice, Lifescapes Counseling Services, LLC, which is located in Alpharetta, Georgia. Additionally, Kara teaches clinical courses within the master’s level Marriage and Family Therapy Programs at both Mercer University and Northcentral University and provides post-graduate supervision for those seeking licensure as a MFT and/or LPC. Since 2016, Kara has been actively involved with GAMFT, serving as both Elections Committee member and currently, Elections Committee Chair. In her spare time, Kara enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and playing tennis.
Andrew Benesh – Vice President
Dr. Andrew Benesh is Visiting Assistant Professor and Macon Clinic Coordinator for the Master of Family Therapy Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM). Dr. Benesh received his Ph.D. from Florida State University, his M.A. from Mercer university, and his B.S. from Georgia College & State University. Dr. Benesh is Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Georgia, and is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. Dr. Benesh is a Clinical Fellow of AAMFT, Public Policy Liaison for the Southeastern Council on Family Relations, and Camp Director for Camp to Belong Georgia.
Dr. Jennifer Lambert-Shute, is a professor in the Master’s Marriage and Family Therapy program at Valdosta State University. She has been active in GAMFT since 2010, and has been an AAMFT Clinical Fellow and an AAMFT approved supervisor for over 10 years. As a therapist, she is committed to exploring clients’ perspectives and understanding their context and how this connects to the presenting issues. Her primary research interest focuses on issues in training marriage and family therapists, working with older adults, and assisting students in becoming researchers in their own right.
Ashley is a Marriage and Family Therapist in the Augusta, GA area. She has over 10 years of experience and presently maintains a private practice specializing in the treatment of couples. While Ashley works with all couples, her specialty is treating military couples and families and the unique issues that they experience. Along with being a therapist, Ashley is also a wife and mom of 2.
Sarah Cox – Secretary
Sarah Cox, LMFT, was born and raised in South Georgia. She received her Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University. After completion of her degree, Sarah worked as a school-based therapist for several years. Sarah is now employed at Serenity Counseling Group, a private practice in Valdosta. Her primary focus is working with military spouses, adolescents, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Sarah is licensed in both Georgia and Kentucky.
Abby Culin – Public Relations Chair
Abby Culin graduated from Atlanta’s Mercer University School of Medicine MFT program in 2019. She has been a GAMFT member since 2017 and joined the board in 2020 as PR Chair. With experience in both the medical and social services systems, Abby values and prioritizes collaborative care. She believes in providing accessible and supportive mental health care and currently works for inclusive and affirming mental health practice that welcomes clients from all walks of life.
Andrea Meyer-Stinson – Composite Board Liaison
Dr. Meyer is the Assistant Program Director of the Master of Family Therapy Program at Mercer University’s School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia. She is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the medical school. Dr. Meyer received her Ph.D. from Florida State University, M.S. from Purdue University, and her B.S./B.A. from the University of Georgia. Dr. Meyer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. She has worked therapeutically with children, couples, and families since 2001. Dr. Meyer is a Clinical Fellow of AAMFT and a member of the National Council on Family Relations and the Collaborative Family Health Association. Dr. Meyer has participated on marriage and family therapy boards in both Florida and Georgia.
Steve Livingston – Legislative and Governmental Affairs Chair
Steve Livingston, Ph.D., LMFT has 40 years of clinical, educational, and administrative experience in the fields of Marriage and Family Therapy, Mental Health, and Family Medicine. Dr. Livingston is currently serving as Chair of the GAMFT Legislative and Governmental Affairs Committee. He most recently served as Associate Professor/ Family Medicine Behavioral Scientist with the Family Medicine ResidencyProgram at Memorial University Hospital in Savannah, Ombudsman for the South Atlantic Region of HCA hospitals, and as Director of Behavioral Services for Mercer University School of Medicine’s Savannah Campus. Dr. Livingston also served on the Georgia Composite Board of Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists from 2013-2021, serving as Chair from 2014-2017. He was appointed to the AAMFT Ethics Committee from 2014-2016, serving as Chair in 2016. Dr. Livingston was Director of the graduate programs (Atlanta, Macon) in Marriage and Family Therapy for Mercer University School of Medicine from 2007-2013. He served as President of the Florida Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 2006-2007. Dr. Livingston’s clinical practice includes specialty work in medical family therapy, couples therapy, and suicidal adults/adolescents. Dr. Livingston has presented internationally, nationally, and locally on ethics, suicide, and other counseling topics.
David Blanchard – Legislative and Governmental Affairs Co-Chair
David Blanchard is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. He graduated from Atlanta’s Mercer University School of Medicine MFT program in 2018 and has been a GAMFT since 2016. He joined the Board in 2017 and then again in 2020 as Legislative Chair. He works in a private practice in the Atlanta area for Couples Counseling, ATL, specializes in working with couples.
Elizabeth Bizzell is a LMFT and AAMFT Approved Supervisor. She is Clinical Director and COO of Dynamic Interventions, Inc in Warner Robins, GA. Elizabeth graduated from Mercer University School of Medicine in 2005 with a Masters of Family Therapy. Elizabeth practices with an emphasis on children and adolescents and on parent-child attachment.
Jeff Bickers, LMFT, has been in private practice in Valdosta, Ga, since 2000. Previously, he worked at Greenleaf Center, Valdosta and Charter Augusta working with children and adolescents. He has been licensed since 1996. Jeff has served on the GAMFT Board in different capacities since 2007.
Ryan Schwarzmann – Ethics Committee Chair
Ryan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a master’s degree from Loyola University in Maryland and a Certificate in Marriage and Family therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. Ryan has over 15 years of experience treating children, couples and families using an integrated approach focused on helping clients develop an understanding of their relationship patterns and use this awareness to adapt to their present circumstances. Ryan is currently the owner of Adaptive Therapy Counseling Group in Alpharetta and Lilburn. He served as the Student and Associate Chair of the GAMFT from 2009 -2012 and is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.
Melissa Bauman – Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair
Michael Williamson — Personnel Committee Chair
After working in the corporate world for GEICO for a number of years, Michael recognized that he was not fulfilling his potential. He graduated from Mercer University in Macon GA in 2018 and began working in an integrative healthcare setting with a diverse range of clients. He currently works in private practice in Warner Robins at Southern Bridge Counseling with a great team of colleagues. Michael works with families, and couples, but hopes to specialize in working with the LGBT+ community and eco-minded therapeutic approaches.
DeKeisha Teasley is an associate licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She received her Master’s degree from Mercer University School of Medicine after completing her Bachelor’s at the University of Georgia. DeKeisha works for Chris 180 at The Spot Drop-In Center. Here she provides therapy to youth that are experiencing homelessness from a Solution-Focused and trauma informed approach.
Tabitha is a licensed marriage and family therapist and AAMFT approved supervisor. Tabitha received her Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University and is currently working toward her doctorate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University. Tabitha has worked as an MFT for over five years and in addition to being the Clinical Coordinator for the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Valdosta State University, she also owns a small private practice located in South Georgia.
Tommy Hampton – Elections Committee
Ronda Shirley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She secured her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine and completed her Master of Business Administration degree from Wesleyan College. She spent 17+ years in corporate where she served in multiple positions of management which included customer service and litigation. Ronda has a group practice that focuses on developing safe environments while reducing fear responses rooted in fight, flight, freezing and fawning. Additionally, she is a Prepare/Enrich Facilitator. Ronda is an AAMFT Supervisor candidate who is reveling in being an empty nester with her husband of 21 years.
Shirley Shani Ben-Zvi – Mentor Program Chair
Before moving from Israel to Georgia, Shirley was an NLP master practitioner for ten years. She also served at a suicide prevention hotline as a volunteer and as the volunteers’ training manager. She has been involved with GAMFT North Metro Chapter since 2016. Shirley holds a Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University. She can be reached by phone at 770.846.2595.
Anni Skurja received her Master of Family Therapy from Mercer University and attended Gordon University and Fort Valley State University for her undergraduate years. She has experience working within a community agency and in private practice. She has recently begun building her own practice in Senoia, GA and is working towards Play Therapy certification in Peachtree City. Within her own practice, she specializes in working with adolescents and with trauma, grief and loss. Additionally, she has presented on the ethics of telehealth and on treatment methods for adolescent substance use. Anni is excited about being able to be a part of the change for MFT’s in Georgia.
Dan Upshaw — Metro Chapter Chair
Ashley Thwaites — Middle GA Chapter Chair
Rev. Ken Cross, M. Div., LMFT, is the Pastoral Therapist and Director for Christian Counseling Services. He graduated from Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, GA and then went on to get his Bachelor’s degree in education from Georgia Southern University. In 2002, he graduated with his Masters of Divinity from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and is an Ordained Elder of the United Methodist Church. Ken has worked in church ministry for over 20 years. He has served on staff with churches in the Atlanta Marietta District including Bethany UMC in Smyrna and Marietta First UMC in Marietta. He began his work with Christian Counseling Services in January 2009. Ken is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and has finished his post graduate work in Marriage and Family Therapy with Mercer University. He is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Georgia.
Leah McMillan, DPA, LMFT, EMDR Trained is a native of Miller County, Georgia. Dr. McMillan moved to Valdosta to attend Valdosta State University where she obtained her B.A. in Criminal Justice (2000), her M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy (2004) and her Doctorate in Public Administration with a concentration in Higher Education (2011). While enrolled in the master’s program she completed an internship and practicum at the Moore Street Clinic, a community mental health center through Valdosta State University’s MFT program and an internship and practicum at The Haven Rape Crisis Center in Valdosta, GA. After completing her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, Leah worked as a full-time Child and Adolescent therapist at Behavioral Health Services, a local community mental health service board, facilitating an intensive Day Treatment program for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children and adolescents. Previously, she worked for over 9 years at the Valdosta State University Counseling Center; the university’s mental health clinic as a Senior Staff Counselor, then as an Assistant Director, and last the Interim Director. Currently, Dr. McMillan works full-time in private practice at EnSpire Counseling & Wellness, LLC (founder/owner) in Valdosta, Georgia. She has worked in private practice for over 5 years.
Ashley Moore — Coastal Georgia Chapter Chair
Jennifer Gonyea — Northeast Georgia Chapter Chair
Brandon Coussens — East Georgia Chapter Chair
- West Georgia Chapter Chair
- Southwest Georgia Chapter Chair
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining the board.