Meet the Harris Faculty

Decades of Combined Early Childhood Expertise


The Harris Institute faculty is recognized for its expertise in infant and early childhood mental health, bringing a wealth of academic, training and direct practice experience to the Institute.

Alison Steier, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and vice president of mental health services at Southwest Human Development. She is director of Southwest’s Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute, the statewide toll-free Birth to Five Helpline and its “Fussy Baby” home visiting service as well as Arizona’s system of early childhood mental health consultation, known as Smart Support. Dr. Steier earned her doctoral degree from George Mason University. She received advanced training in psychotherapy from Georgetown University, completed a pre-doctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital and was a visiting fellow at Boston’s Children’s Hospital. She holds a fellowship in infant mental health from Louisiana State University Medical Center and a postdoctoral degree in infant mental health from Tulane University Medical Center. Dr. Steier is the founder and co-chair of The RAINE Group, a think tank comprised of national experts which works to advance practice, policy and research in the specialty of early childhood mental health consultation. She is a national trainer for the FAN Approach (Facilitating Attuned Interactions) and the Diversity-Informed Tenets for Work with Infants, Children and Families. She is a frequent presenter on topics related to infant mental health, both nationally and internationally, and has published in the areas of early childhood mental health consultation and young children’s attachments to special inanimate objects (“transitional objects”).

A. Cristina Fernandez, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and a faculty member for the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute. Dr. Fernandez began working at Southwest Human Development for the Good Fit Counseling Center in 2007 after she completed her doctorate degree at Arizona State University. Prior to working at Southwest Human Development, Dr. Fernandez focused her research and clinical work on adolescence and cultural influences in development and family relationships. Following her graduation, Dr. Fernandez switched her clinical focus to the birth to five population in order to focus on intervention in the early years to prevent mental health problems. At the Good Fit Counseling Center, where she worked until 2020, Dr. Fernandez provided in-home, relationship-based, bilingual counseling services to children birth to five and their families whose challenges included sleeping and eating difficulties, developmental delays, tantrums, and trauma. Services also focused on comprehensive support of families through case management and coordination of care with a child’s other providers. From 2010-2016, Dr. Fernandez provided mental health consultation to the City of Phoenix home-based Early Head Start program. Currently, Dr. Fernandez is a supervisor in the Birth to Five Center of Excellence at Southwest Human Development. Dr. Fernandez completed the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute in 2008-2010 and obtained the Clinical Practice Certificate.

Laura Jesmer, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice and serves as faculty for the Harris program. She works with adults with a focus on trauma healing. She is an EMDR Certified Therapist (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is an evidence based therapy technique that helps people reprocess recent or past events in order to alleviate current symptoms, triggers, and distress from troubling memories. She works with clients to address intergenerational and developmental trauma that impacts their current relationships with their children, families, and experiences in the community. Ms. Jesmer also has extensive experience in Attachment based, Psychodynamic, Mindfulness and Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapies that support client growth and goals for therapy. Prior to moving into full time private practice, Ms. Jesmer worked at Arizona State University’s Counseling Services department from 2000-2012. She served as the Practicum Coordinator for the center’s counselor training program followed by serving in the Clinical Director role. Ms. Jesmer supervised Master’s and Doctorate level interns and a staff of counselors and psychologists who provided services to the university’s diverse student population. She coordinated mental health crisis response on campus in partnership with university police and administration. Ms. Jesmer completed her graduate work with an MSW from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, after which she worked in community mental health with children and families in Illinois and in Arizona.

Andrew Medina, MSW, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who currently serves as the Crisis Administrator within the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid & State Mental Health Authority and serves as faculty for the Harris program.  As the Integrated Care Manager, he oversees the Adult and Children’s System of Care.  Mr. Medina assumes full responsibility for crisis-related initiatives, projects, and service provisions that extend throughout the entire state of Arizona and has contributed a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Prior to his tenure at AHCCCS, Andrew cultivated a robust clinical background, catering to diverse populations, including treatment-resistant individuals, highly acute cases, actively suicidal individuals, self-harming individuals, those identifying as gender diverse, and those exposed to trauma.

Andrew holds a Master of Social Work degree from Arizona State University, is independently licensed, and is certified as a clinical supervisor by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (AZBBHE). His professional journey includes the completion of a Post-Graduate Residency Program in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), along with specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) through the Humanitarian Assistance Program. He also completed the two-year Infant/Family Clinical Practice program with the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute. Andrew also has expertise as a Registered Yoga Teacher (R-TY) and certification with the Yoga Teacher Alliance.

Molly Strothkamp, MSW, LCSW, IMH-E®, is a child therapist and the training coordinator at Southwest Human Development’s Good Fit Counseling Center and she is a faculty member for the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute. Molly specializes in providing relationship-based counseling to young children and their caregivers. Molly started her career at Southwest Human Development in 1999 as a family support specialist in the Healthy Families program and as a developmental specialist in SWHD’s Early Intervention program. Molly earned her MSW from Arizona State University in 2006 and she has been a therapist at the Good Fit Counseling Center since 2006. Molly completed the two-year Infant/Family Clinical Practice program with the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Training Institute in 2007 and she joined the Harris faculty in 2012. In addition to her work at the Good Fit Counseling Center and her work with the Harris Institute, Molly provides mental health consultation to home visiting programs within SWHD and other community organizations. She also teaches and provides trainings on infant mental health, attachment, trauma and trauma-informed care, child development, home visitation, expulsion prevention, and other related topics to parents, professionals, and community organizations statewide. Molly is endorsed by the Infant Toddler Mental Health Coalition of Arizona as an Infant Mental Health Specialist (Level 3 Clinical). In 2016, she completed training to become rostered in Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP). Molly served on the board of the Infant Toddler Mental Health Coalition of Arizona from 2017-2018.

Helping Arizona Children & Families

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