Our diverse multi-disciplinary Research Team is a varied group of professionals, academics and passionate community members, many of whom represent the sexual and gender minorities our research supports.

Our members represent various fields of healthcare such as kink health researchers, physicians, statisticians, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, graduate students and interns.

We welcome high levels of curiosity, passion and all levels of research experience.

Courtney Pajden, PhD, LMFT

Dr. Courtney Padjen, PhD, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (MN License No. 4041) and provides individuals with safety and support as they embark on their counseling and healing journey.

“I’ve been described as honest, compassionate, approachable and trustworthy, and in the same breath I am blunt and direct. Often, I tell clients I’m “a mover and a shaker” – – Growing up I bounced around small towns in the Northwoods. There I learned that being direct is a kindness. I have wanted to be a therapist for as long as I can remember and have always had an interest in human sexuality and trauma. Having taken the ACES test and scoring an 8, I feel my trauma provides me with the ability to connect with clients with a deeper level of empathy and understanding. I am here to help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable to disrupt your own homeostasis and work as a catalyst to create the change you desire.”

Elecia M. Worley

Elecia Worley is a senior student at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. She will graduate in May of 2021 with her Bachelors Degree in Social Work and a Minor in Psychology with certificates in Case Management and Health and Mental Health Case Management. She intends to continue her education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Sexual Health and Education, so that in the future she can become a practicing sex and relationship therapist in the St. Louis area.

Elyssa Helfer, MA, LMFT

Elyssa Helfer received her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical Sexology from Modern Sex Therapy Institutes. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Los Angeles, CA working primarily with the kink community. In addition to her therapy practice, Elyssa creates and presents kink trainings for The Affirmative Couch, an organization aimed at training more affirmative psychotherapists. As a blogger for Psychology Today, Kink Weekly, and Psychotherapy 101, her writing focuses on shifting the toxic narratives that surround the kink community and encouraging those in the therapeutic community to pursue more thorough sex and kink education. Elyssa is an advocate for sexual freedom and empowerment and plans to use her Doctoral degree to continue teaching Master’s level students and licensed therapists how to better serve the kink population.



Dr. Wert (He/His/Him) received his Bachelors in Science from Union College, Schenectady NY with a majoring in biology, with a minor in chemistry. He then attended medical school at Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) graduating in 2000. He completed his medical internship and Internal Medicine Residency at Ingham Regional Medical Center/McLaren Greater Lansing in 2005. Dr. Wert is also Board Certified in Internal Medicine, and is a Fellow in the College of Internal Medicine. Once he graduated from his residency he has practice Internal Medicine in Lansing, MI since 2005. His focus has been preventive healthcare and sexual health care. He subsequently returned an obtained his Masters in Public Health from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in 2016. Dr. Wert speaks at both State and Local levels on Health Inequalities faced by diverse patient population. He provides primary care, HIV care and HIV prevention to a large BDSM/Kink community. He is a member of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, and is also a Kink Aware Professional though the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Dr. Wert lectures on multiple topics relative to healthcare and healthcare disparities at various state and local events. He has also served as a guest lecture on BDSM/Kink at various organizations. Dr. Wert serves an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at MSUCOM. Dr. Wert obtained his certification in HIV medicine from the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) in 2020. He is also assisting the AAHIVM in re-writing their modules on how to take a sexual history, and focusing on educating providers on BDSM/Kink. Dr. Wert also serves CARAS community-based IRB Committee.

Kaston Anderson-Carpenter, PhD, MPH, BCBA-D, LBA

Dr. Kaston D. Anderson-Carpenter is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Michigan State University. He is also a core faculty member in the MSU Consortium for Multicultural Psychology Research, the MSU Consortium for Sexual and Gender Minority Health, and the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context. Additionally, he is an affiliate faculty in the MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.

He earned his Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology from The University of Kansas and his Master of Public Health degree with honors from the KU School of Medicine. Additionally, he earned a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis from McNeese State University. Furthermore, he is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral and licensed as a behavior analyst in Michigan.

In his research, he investigates the determinants of addictive behaviors and health in underserved communities. Dr. Anderson-Carpenter’s work has been published in a number of journals, including the American Journal of Community Psychology, the Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, and Academic Pediatrics. He is the 2015 recipient of the G. Alan Marlatt Award for distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions by the Society of Addiction Psychology (American Psychological Association Division 50).

Since 2010, Dr. Anderson-Carpenter has worked with community organizations and policy makers to address socially important issues affecting communities, including underage drinking, substance use, and HIV/STI prevention, and health care access and retention. His community contributions to the community have been featured on WLNS TV in Lansing, MI, and he is the 2018 recipient of the Lansing City Pulse LGBTQ Inclusion Award. He is also the President of the Lansing Area AIDS Network Board of Directors and an Advisory Member for the ACCESS National Research Initiative. Moreover, he is the 2019 recipient of the Michigan State University College of Social Science Outstanding Teacher Award.

Kendall Barton

Kendall recently completed her MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She received her B.S. in Kinesiology from Southwestern University in 2020. Kendall joined the research team as an intern in 2021. Her research interests include sexual health education, stigma surrounding sex, and sexuality and mental health.

Kevin Smith

Kevin is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked on a number of biobehavioral HIV research studies in Zambia, Kenya, South Africa with female sex workers, adolescent girls and young women. He has also worked on HIV treatment and adherence studies for LGBTQ+ youth of color in the United States. He has been working with TASHRA for about 2 years and is writing his doctoral dissertation on best practices to encourage kink identified people to disclose their identities to their healthcare providers.


Landi Cranstoun, MD

Landi (she/her) is a family physician providing primary care to rural and underserved populations. She has a special interest in regionality and rurality as it impacts access to and quality of medical care for already marginalized people. She teaches other primary care physicians how to provide welcoming care to sexually diverse patients who fall outside the LGBTQ+ umbrella (poly, kink, sex work). She completed her undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was granted membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society, won the Pinkus Award for best clinical medical student, and the Clyde F. Barker Prize for surgical research. She then completed residency in family medicine at the Mountain Area Health and Education Center rural track program in Hendersonville, North Carolina before starting practice in rural Madison County, Kentucky. Prior to becoming interested in the primary care of rural dwelling sexually diverse people, her research focused on heart failure and the mitral valve. She has presented at national and international conferences and coauthored 18 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

Mojgan Hariri

Mojgan completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at San Jose State University with a minor in Women’s Studies. After obtaining her master’s and becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, she practiced at Planned Parenthood where she provided service to teenagers assisting them navigate safely through their sexual interests. Mojgan’s dissertation for her PhD in sexology was a qualitative research focusing on a minority group of women’s sexual satisfaction and freedom of expression. Mojgan has completed sexual somatic training and has kin interest in providing safe space for unfiltered conversation about sex, gender identification and sexual expression. In 2018, Mojgan began participating with the international Kink Health Survey research team lead by Dr. Sprott and Dr. Randall with the goal of contributing in expansion of knowledge in the field of sexuality.

Tess Filipowicz, MPH

Tess is a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked on a variety of HIV research studies in Malawi, Vietnam, and the US with focuses on HIV care engagement and its intersection with mental health. Additionally, she has worked on HIV prevention and PrEP uptake studies in Zambia and the US, respectively. Across these locations, her research focuses on stigma and how it can impact HIV care engagement. She has worked with TASHRA for one year and is exploring different aspects of mental health within the kink community.

Wilson Captein

Wilson Captein (he/him) is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Vermont. He received his M.A. in Psychology from the University of Vermont in 2020, and received his B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies from Kenyon College in 2018. He sees clients under supervision as a pre-licensed student clinician at Vermont Psychological Services in Burlington, VT. Wilson joined the IKHS research team in March 2019. His research primarily concerns the application of Minority Stress Theory to conceptualizing mental and sexual health for sexual minorities, including kink-identified populations.