Research Assistants

Zhaoyi Chen

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Zhaoyi is a third-year student in the Clinical Psychology program at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. She grew up in Changsha, China, and received her B.A. in Psychology from Grinnell College in 2014, and M.A. in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness from New York University in 2017. Zhaoyi’s research broadly pertains to psychotherapy process, telemental health, and cultural adaptation of psychotherapy. Her clinical experiences include providing individual and group therapy in person and via videoconferencing in English and Chinese. In her free time Zhaoyi enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and watching Chinese reality shows.

Rachel Baitch

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Rachel is a senior at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women where she is pursuing a BA in psychology. Her work includes coding defense mechanisms in patient speech, recruiting survey participants, and assisting with patient and therapist language style research. Prior to joining the team, she helped research the development of social cognition at Stern College's Developing Minds Lab. In her free time, she volunteers as a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line.

Shayna Herszage

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Shayna Herszage is a student at Yeshiva University studying Psychology (Neuroscience track) and English (Creative Writing track). She is transcribing interviews and preparing psychotherapy transcriptions for analysis.

Dan Spina

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Dan is a first-year student in the Clinical Psychology program at Penn State University in the Laboratory for Personality, Psychopathology & Psychotherapy Research, and is an external research assistant in our lab. He grew up in Fresno, CA and received his B.A. in Philosophy and French from UC Berkeley. He then studied at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology in New York in the Psychodynamic Process Research Lab, where he will receive his master's degree in
Clinical Psychology. He is broadly interested in psychotherapy process research and Transference-Focused Psychotherapy. He hopes to better understand therapeutic processes
that lead to greater attachment security and improved defensive functioning in patients with personality disorders. He is also interested in LGBTQ+ mental health and how clinicians might
better support patients struggling with BPD and sexual identity uncertainty. He loves fermenting foods, reading, jogging and listening to music.

Céline Kamsteeg

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Céline has worked with us as an external Research Assistant. She has completed her B.A. in Social Sciences at University College Utrecht (the Netherlands) and her M.Phil. in Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge. She has co-authored several papers in the field of psychotherapy, for example in psychotherapy integration, a pilot study on dialectical behavior therapy, mediation of cognitive factors in the relation between adverse childhood experiences and adult psychopathology, and psychotherapy for personal growth. Her research interests include mediators of psychotherapy effectiveness as well as psychotherapy in the context of severe psychopathology.

Amanda Balakirsky

Amanda Balakirsky is a fifth year student in Ferkauf's Adult Clinical PsyD program and an intern at the NJ VA.

She is interested in psycho-oncology and geropsychology, with a particular focus on meaning-making, grief, and loss. She has been involved in cleaning and editing text analyses of Referential Process & Language Style Matching.

Kathy Portier 

Kathy is working at the lab as an external research assistant. She received her bachelor’s degree from University College Utrecht with a major in Psychology and Law. This year, she graduated from Utrecht University with a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. During her Master’s she has been able to work with different patient populations, including psychotic disorders, complex psychotrauma and bipolar disorder.


Kathy’s research so far focuses on the client-therapist interaction and attachment. Specifically, she is trained in the Patient Attachment Coding System (PACS) and she has coded a variety of transcripts to assess patients attachment based on in-session verbal interactions. 

Kathy has also co-authored a paper on dialectical behavior therapy in a psychoanalytic community clinic. 
Her research interests include transference-focused psychotherapy, psychotrauma, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. 

Tzippora Topp

My name is Tzippora, and I’m from Los Angeles, California. I am a senior at Stern College for Women studying Neuroscience, and I hope to pursue a career as a Clinical Psychologist. I am excited to be part of the lab and am currently assisFng by ediFng therapy transcripts to prepare them for Language Style Matching as well as transcribing interviews of therapists’ experiences during the pandemic. In my free Fme, I love to draw, do yoga, and spend Fme with friends.

Yuval Surpin

Yuval Surpin moved to New York from Israel. After graduating high school, she served in the Israel Defense forces for two years and she became a certified health and fitness trainer after studying at Wingate Institute. She is a psychology major at Stern college. After the completion of her undergraduate degree, she plans to continue to grad school and become a clinical psychologist. Healthy mind and body are a big part of her life and she wants to transfer her knowledge to as many people as she can.