Conference Speakers

Keynote: Terry Real

Terry Real is a nationally recognized family therapist, author, and teacher.  He is particularly known for his groundbreaking work on men and male psychology as well as his work on gender and couples; he has been in private practice for over twenty-five years. Terry has appeared often as the relationship expert for Good Morning America and ABC News. His work has been featured in numerous academic articles as well as media venues such as Oprah, 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today and many others.


In 1997 he published the national bestseller: I Don't Want To Talk About It, the first book ever written on the topic of male depression. That was followed by How Can I Get Through To You? an exploration of the role of patriarchy in relationships and most recently, The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work, a practical guide for couples and couples therapists.

Terry founded The Relational Life Institute, in Arlington, Massachusetts, dedicated to working with the general population to help women reclaim their voices and men open their hearts. The Institute offers a training program for therapists as well as workshops and trainings throughout the US and Canada. For more information about Terry and his work, go to

Sue Marriott, LCSW, CGP

Austin, Texas

Sue is a social worker and certified group psychotherapist that has been in private practice over 25 years. She enjoys providing training for other therapists and her study groups and workshops demonstrate her on-going passion for linking research to real-world application. She is co-founder and former President of Austin IN (interpersonal neurobiology) Connection and served on the Board of GAINS, the Global Association of Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies.  She is also a current emeritus Board member of the nationally- based, Family Equality Council. Along with her wife (Ann Kelley) Sue hosts the top-ranked podcast, Therapist Uncensored. With well over a half a million downloads, the show brings the relational sciences to their audiences in short understandable tidbits. Sue is also the very proud mom of three incredible teenagers (well actually, one just turned 20 so she is in denial about him aging out of the teen years).

Caleb Matthews, LPC, LMFT

Austin, Texas

Caleb is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in Cedar Park, Texas. He is also the current Board President of The Human Empathy Project (, a nonprofit in Austin, Texas dedicated to fostering empathetic connection around matters of Christian faith, gender, and sexual diversity through confidential consultations and resources. Caleb earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Texas A&M University and his Master of Arts in Counseling at St. Edward’s University. He specializes in counseling work related to the LGBTQIA community, trauma (EMDR trained), and couples/families.

Rahim Thawer, MSW, RSW

Toronto, Ontario

Rahim Thawer is a clinical social worker, consultant, post-secondary instructor, and psychotherapist. He has worked at multiple HIV/AIDS service organizations and continues to work in direct practice settings with newcomer, racialized, and LGBTQ communities. Rahim is an active community organizer with Salaam Canada, a national LGBTQ Muslim organization, and a co-editor of Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Toronto Book Awards.

William Lyons, LCSW

Houston, Texas

William is an advanced social work professional with experience across fields; including case management, clinical mental health services, community organizing, financial coaching, and non-profit management. His expertise includes trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing, and critical time intervention. William is also the co-founder of The Mahogany Project based in Austin, Texas. In this role, he acts as an advocate for the acknowledgment of and safe spaces for queer people of color and their ally communities.  He continues to push boundaries and benchmarks as the needs of the communities shift with the current cultural climate.

Ali Johnson, MSW, LCSW

Austin, Texas

Ali is a licensed psychotherapist based out of Austin, Texas. Her approach to therapy is grounded in relational, interpersonal, and psychodynamic thinking with an emphasis on practicality, suggested options, emotion focused techniques and communication style understanding. She also integrates techniques and approaches that draw from mindfulness practice, motivational interviewing, attachment theory, mindfulness, polyvagel theroy, existential/humanist thinking, and cognitive behavioral therapy while specializing in couples therapy with a majority of her clientele living in a non traditional partnership. Feminist and social justice oriented perspectives are also integral to her work. Ali holds a bachelors’ degree in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and a masters’ degree from the University of Texas in Arlington. She is licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in the State of Texas and has been working in the therapeutic space for over 10 years.

Traci Pirri, LCSW-S

Austin, Texas

Traci is an Austin-based therapist in private practice who helps perfectionists and helper-types to overcome struggles from the past to embrace their best lives and relationships. She started her career working with sexual abuse survivors, non-offending caretakers, and adolescent sex offenders. She is passionate in helping those with sexual trauma in their past not just heal and move past the trauma, but to live vibrant, thriving lives. In addition to her practice, Traci opened a group practice in Round Rock called "Hope For The Journey" that focuses on addressing the wounds caused by sexual abuse and assault in children, adults, and their loved ones. For more information, go to

David Schlosz LPC-Intern (Supervised by Josh Krueger McAdams, LPC-S)

Round Rock, Texas

David is a second-year doctoral student and a graduate research assistant in the Department of Counseling at UTSA. He has worked as a community mental health clinic manager, case manager, and life coach. He has a background in pastoral counseling from his 10 years as a pastor in churches in Cape Town and South Africa. He currently sees clients as part of the staff of McAdam's Therapy in South Austin and serves mostly gay men.

Susan Kaye, PhD

Fischer, TX

Susan is a sexologist, sexuality educator, and Surrogate Partner Specialist. She received her Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Sexology and Sex Education from the Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality; and a B.A. Degree in Human Services from Villanova University. She has completed Esalen Massage Training in  Esalen, CA; training as a Surrogate Partner Practitioner at the Masters & Johnson Clinic in St. Louis, MO; Tantra Teacher Training at the Sedona Institute, in AZ and Charla Hathaway at the Body Joy Institute in TX. She has been a member of the American College of Sexologists since 2000. Her career path has taught her to support clients in removing years of emotional pain, trauma, secrecy, shame, guilt and ignorance surrounding their sensual/sexual self. Her goal is to enable them to reclaim their lost pleasure birthright of celebrating our physical being, exquisite sensuality and blissful sexuality.

Adam Maurer, LMFT, LPC

Austin, Texas

Adam is a genderqueer, sex positive therapist from Austin, Texas. When he is not in session helping folx have better relationships and sex he can be found creating memes for his Instagram: moontower_counseling. Adam enjoys reading and writing about sexual health, as well as performing in the Bedpost Confessions. You can catch Adam online at or in the streets, making the world a little more queer, kinky, and kind everywhere he goes.

Suzanne Bryant

Austin, Texas

Suzanne is an Austin attorney and activist who specializes in building secure families for LGBTQ people.    For over twenty years, her legal work has been focused on providing second-parent adoptions for families throughout Texas.  After graduating from Duke Law School in 1986, Suzanne was a founding board member and later co-chair of the National LGBT Bar Association.  She has received awards from various organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Texas Human Rights Foundation, and the State Bar of Texas. Suzanne and her wife Sarah Goodfriend were the first legally married couple in Texas – four months before the US Supreme Court decision. They have been together for 34 years and are raising two wonderful daughters, who were born in China and adopted as toddlers.


Denise Hyde

Austin, Texas

Denise is an attorney based in Austin who works throughout the state with a focus on the area of terminations and adoptions.  Denise graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas in 1988, and from the University of Texas School of Law in 1997.  Denise has one adult daughter, two other young adults who she loves as her own, and several nieces, three who were adopted.   She is proud that her family has at least three generations of adoptions, which is one of the reasons she is drawn to this area of the law.   Denise is the long-time chairman of the Austin Bar Adoption Committee, chair of Austin Adoption Day as well as many other Adoption Day celebrations in Central Texas, and has received many awards and honors for her work from various organizations, and has been honored as a Champion for Children, a Pathfinder, for her distinguished service, for her pro bono work, and is the recipient of a resolution from the State Bar of Texas for her "remarkable legal career and commitment to helping individuals in need."

Jeff Lutes, LPC

Austin, Texas

Jeff has been in private practice for 30 years and is the Founder of the Contemporary Relationships Conference, as well as Q Marriage Mentors - a podcast featuring candid conversations with remarkable LGBTQ couples. He is the co-author of two chapters in Affirmative Counseling with LGBTQI+ People (American Counseling Association, 2017), a chapter in the Handbook of LGBT-Affirmative Couple and Family Therapy (Routledge 2012), and author of Okin the Panda Bear Finds His Family - a children's book about family diversity (Creative House Press, 2011). His articles about LGBTQ relationships and families have appeared on The Bilerico Project and Therapy Matters. He has presented at the conferences of the American Family Therapy Academy, the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, the American Counseling Association, and the Texas Psychological Association. The former Executive Director of Soulforce; Jeff has spoken at universities, churches, and rallies around the country, and his social justice efforts have been covered by numerous media outlets, including NPR and CNN.

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Ann Kelley, PhD

Austin, Texas

Ann is a psychologist in private practice who is well regarded in the Austin community for her multi-disciplinary, team-oriented approach in her work with couples.  She integrates neurobiological, attachment-based and emotion-focused theories and techniques to provide individuals and couples with an approach that is “moment-to-moment” and highly dynamic.   In addition, she is a researcher at heart and loves to learn and teach to gain greater effectiveness as a human and as a therapist. Along with her wife (Sue Marriott) Ann hosts the top-ranked podcast, Therapist Uncensored. With well over a half a million downloads, the show brings the relational sciences to their audiences in short understandable tidbits. At home Ann enjoys running in Austin’s beautiful parks and swimming and hiking with Sue and their 3 teenage children.

Emily Stone, PhD, LMFT-S

Austin, Texas

Emily Stone, PhD, LMFT-S, was born in South Carolina on an Air Force base, where her father was a military Chaplain. She was raised in a small, conservative town in Tennessee and as an adolescent spent most of her time playing tennis, at church, and asking questions. After college, she went on to study theology, marriage and family therapy, and complete a PhD in Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee. She also spent time living in the Czech Republic and California. She recently moved to Austin from the Charlotte, North Carolina area with her four children where she was teaching full time for an MFT Program. Her core classes included Emerging Cross-Cultural Issues, Advanced Trauma, and Sex Therapy. She is currently the Program Manager for the Center for Innovation at Integral Care, a clinic devoted to serving families of Veterans and to individuals with affective disorders. Dr. Stone’s writing, presentations, and clinical work center around the topics of sexuality, spirituality, and trauma. She has presented at AAMFT, NCFR, and AFTA as well as local and state conferences. She has been in the behavioral health field for over 20 years as a psychiatric case manager, substance abuse counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and AAMFT supervisor. Her reputation as a colleague, clinician, supervisor and professor is one of being open, relatable, courageous in dialogue, curious, and respectful of each individual.

Karen Rayne, PhD

Austin, Texas

Karen is the Executive Director of UN|HUSHED, an organization with international reach that is dedicated to creating and implementing the highest quality sexuality education curricula possible. Dr. Rayne has worked in sexuality education for the past two decades with an expertise in parenting, comprehensive sexuality education, curriculum writing, and training. She is the author of book like GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You and Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten rules for talking with teenagers about sex as well as a wide range of curricula and other professional resources. Dr. Rayne has worked with the UNFPA, The Center for Sex Education, Girls Inc, and other organizations to bring them best practices approaches to sexuality education. She is frequently sought after out to share her expertise through training professionals, consulting with schools, writing articles, radio and print interviews, and speaking with parents, etc. Dr. Rayne lives in the hill country outside Austin, Texas with her wife, three daughters, and three dogs.

Ty David Lerman, MA, LPC-S, CHt

Houston, Texas

Ty began his clinical practice in 2009 after completing graduate work at the University of Houston Clear Lake. With experience in both private practice and agency work, he has a solid working practice spanning numerous treatment topics, with an emphasis on anxiety and work-life balance. He became a certified hypnotherapist (CHt) in 2007 and often includes trance work in his practice when appropriate. His public speaking engagements addressing psychological issues include multiple spots on the local broadcasting of CBS News and Good Day Houston with Deborah Duncan, The Fulbright Commission in Cairo, Egypt; The Jung Center (Houston, TX); various colleges, high schools and community centers; and several appearances on the KPFT 90.1 radio station. Ty is licensed as a supervisor for LPC-Interns in pursuit of terminal licensure and enjoys the mentoring process. He taught as an adjunct professor, and also consulted with academic counseling services to provide culturally competent holistic mental health care for students. Outside the clinical world, Ty is married and a father of two Australian Shepherds, holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, sings professionally, stage manages, and is currently enjoying dance lessons.

Faith Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN

San Antonio, Texas

Faith is a therapist in private practice, trainer, consultant, and best-selling author of multiple books. Her most recent titles are Unf*ck Your Intimacy: Sex, Dating, and Relationships and Coping Skills: Tools and Techniques For Every Stressful Situation. She can be reached through her website,

John Howard, LPC, LMFT

Austin, Texas

John is a leader in the integration of spirituality and relationship science. He has taught neuro-informed couples therapy to clinicians nationally, led a relationship wellness program at Google, Inc., and is the Founder of Ready Set Love®, a 12-week relationship-strengthening program with a stated mission of being inclusive of same-sex couples. John is a former founding core faculty member of the PACT Institute and presented 'Bringing Interpersonal Neuroscience into Couples Therapy' at the annual Attachment, Trauma & Intimacy Conference hosted by Dr. Diane Poole-Heller in 2016. He is a longtime spiritual teacher (not religious) with 20 years of experience teaching, who has studied many world traditions and focuses on common elements between mystical schools of personal growth. John spent years living with indigenous peoples in North, Central and South America learning their spiritual and healing traditions, and was even homeless for a stretch, practicing meditation and wandering in the forest for one year.

Erin Ebert, LMSW

Austin, Texas

Erin is a Licensed Master Social Worker in Austin, Texas. She received her Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work in May of 2016, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2007). Erin has experience working with adolescent and adult populations in a variety of mental health and educational settings as well as a variety of clinical levels of care. Throughout Erin’s varied career experience—from her time in Higher Education, to working at Austin’s first sober high school--one thing remains constant, an unwavering belief in the power people possess to create a life worth living. She has spent the last few years specializing in the field of eating disorder recovery and is grateful for the daily opportunity to watch the amazing growth and hope that is possible through recovery. 

Sterling Bittenbender RD, LD

Austin, Texas

Sterling is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where she received a BS in Nutrition and is a registered and licensed dietitian currently in private practice in Austin, Texas. Throughout her time at UT and across her professional career, she has worked in a variety of settings pertaining to nutrition, including non-profit organizations, athletic performance testing centers, weight management clinics and eating disorder treatment facilities. Sterling spent three years working as a full-time registered dietitian at a local eating disorder treatment facility in the partial hospitalization level of care. Working in this environment allowed her to understand not only the connection between nutrition and physical health, but also the connection between nutrition and mental health as well. She strongly believes food can heal both your body and your mind, and her skill set has expanded to focus on nutrition counseling and believes having a balanced relationship with nutrition and your body is more complicated than just learning about the food. Sterling believes in a freedom from dieting approach, and is excited to help people reignite their relationship with food and their bodies.

Jenny McFarlane

Austin, Texas

Jenny McFarlane has worked in public health and the HIV/STD field for over 30 years. She is the Prevention Director with the TB/HIV/STD Section at the Texas Department of State Health Services. Jenny spent the beginning of her career working in correctional and substance use facilities and with persons living with HIV. She is a specialist in HIV and STD prevention, program implementation and evaluation, perinatal HIV prevention, evidence based interventions, routine HIV screening in health care settings, the integration of HCV testing, and the administration of HIV services for people living with HIV.

The Therapy Sisters

Austin, Texas

Gail Lewis, Maurine McLean, and Lisa Rogers (The Therapy Sisters) came together in 1987 as a musical self-help effort that has since turned into an addiction. They’ve played in the U. S. coast to coast in clubs and coffeehouses. Their farthest gig from home was probably a peace festival in East Germany the year the wall came down. Vying for strangest gig are the performance at the El Paso bowling alley cafeteria and the cruise ship shows for the Journal of Nursing Jocularity. It’s all been wacky and wonderful, and after 9 recordings and 400,000 miles on 2 vans, they have settled into performing steadily in central Texas, with occasional forays to New England or south of the border. They’ve played garage sales, menopause parties, funerals and weddings, and the occasional parade. Playing makes them feel good and that feeling is contagious!

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Integrating cutting edge science and practical experience to explore dating, relationships, and parenting within the LGBTQ community. Open to the LGBTQ public (singles and those in a relationship) as well as allies, community leaders, and mental health professionals (CE credits available).

©  2020 by Contemporary Relationships Conference

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