Amy Zavada, Ph.D. Chicago Campus

"The relationships that I build with my students are an  
essential part of our learning process."  
-Amy Zavada, Ph.D.

"The relationships that I build with my students are an
essential part of our learning process."
-Amy Zavada, Ph.D.

Amy Zavada, Ph.D., LMFT
Core Faculty,
Couple and Family Therapy Department

One of my underlying goals as a professor is the growth and transformation of developing Couple and Family Therapists. As an educator, I engage students with course materials in a way that expands the totality of what is seen and aims to transform students’ relationships with their own selves, others, and culture. As a therapist influenced by experiential family therapy, and person who believes in the power of reflecting on and integrating insights gained both through existing knowledge and new experiences, my lectures and course dialogues often focus on experiential elements that provide students with alternative ways to process and understand essential course material. My pedagogy of teaching emphasizes helping students build a strong theoretical foundation of core Couple and Family Therapy concepts while at the same time creating experiences that expand the totally of what is seen by enhancing self-discovery, critical reflection, and relational connection. 

Inspired and influenced by Bell Hooks and Parker J. Palmer’s work on social justice, teaching, pedagogy, and communities of learning, I work to foster environments where students can be both cared for and challenged. I value and nurture critical analysis of course material, relational connection, and transformative dialogues. I encourage students to clarify and voice their own beliefs, while at the same time continually increasing personal awareness regarding cultural and personal factors influencing the formation their beliefs and maintaining what Hooks refers to “radical openness”.

This openness is characterized as both listening to and working to understand the beliefs of others with a willingness to be impacted and transformed by information shared. These dialogues are aimed not only to increase knowledge regarding course material but are essential moments of relational engagement and learning that prepare students to be more effective with their use of self in the therapy room.   

The relationships that I build with my students are an essential part of our learning process. While I am often expressive with my respect and commitment to the growth of my students and create context of caring to sustain this growth, I am clear and consistent with both my expectations regarding student conduct and academic progress in the course. Reading materials, course assignments, and activities as well as a grading rubric are discussed on the first day of class and clearly outlined in my syllabi. I provide written and verbal feedback that accentuates their strengths, and highlights areas of growth with constructive critiques delineating steps that they can take to improve. Additionally I provide students chances throughout the semester to provide both me and their fellow classmates with feedback in order to improve the course and their learning experience. While I provide students with clear and timely evaluations, I also encourage students to reflect on their own process of growth throughout the semester, explore how material is impacting them and will impact them after the end of our course, and identify for themselves areas of needed growth.       

Please email or call me (312.662.4313) if you have questions or would like more information about me. 


  • Ph.D., Marriage and Family Therapy, Syracuse University
  • M.A., Marriage and Family Therapy, Syracuse University
  • B.A., Psychology, Hood College

Select Publications

  • Wang, M., Sandberg, J.G., Zavada, A., Mittal, M., Gosling, A., Rosenberg, T., Jeffrey, A., & McPheters, J. (2006). “Almost There”: Why Clients Fail to Engage in Family Therapy; An Exploratory Study. Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy. Volume 28, Number 2.

Select Presentations

  • Zavada, A. (2014). More Than a Figure: Complexities Around Weight and Relationships. Presentation at Illinois Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Annual Conference, Naperville, Illinois.
  • Zavada, A., Ungureanu, I., & Hall, C. (2013). Engaging Minds & Hearts: Using Experiential Teaching to Build Clinical Effectiveness. Presentation at 21st World Family Therapy Congress, Orlando, Florida.
  • Hall, C. & Zavada, A. (2012). Challenging Therapist Comfort and Complacency: Engaging in Difficult Dialogues. Presentation at The Illinois Association for Multicultural Counseling and the Illinois Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling Promoting Social Justice through Counseling Conference, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Zavada, A. (2009). Exploring Overweight Adolescent Girls’ Relationships. Poster session at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s 67th Annual Conference, Sacramento, CA.
  • Sandberg, J.G., Zavada, A., & Wang, M. (2005).  “Almost There”: Why Clients Fail to Engage in Family Therapy; An Exploratory Study. Presentation at Central New York’s Association of Marriage and Family Therapy’s Spring Conference, Syracuse, N.Y.