Groups enhancing positive workplace climate
In institutions everywhere, there are adults known to be generous in extending support to others. Their contributions to a positive workplace climate are invaluable – yet typically g o unacknowledged.
With major stresses of the last couple of years, such people are more sought out than ever, and AC Groups benefit them in two ways. One, they get support themselves as they continue to give, and two, the effectiveness of their giving is increased as they incorporate new relational and coping skills learned during the program.
AC Groups then have positive ripple effects in their workplaces. Program graduates foster authentic connections and resilience in their daily interactions with others in their communities. With additional training, some graduates even run groups for others, benefitting additional adults in their workplaces.
Groups for individuals seeking to build authentic connections
After registering and a one-on-one consultation (free of charge), people are placed in virtual groups with others like them. Examples include people in the same professional role such as administrators and counselors in schools and women in consulting; people experiencing relationship difficulties such as divorce; and members of minority groups including LGBT+ individuals as well as those with ethnic minority backgrounds.
On completing the AC Groups, participants have well-established, caring networks of their own. Even years later, group members continue to support each other during times of need, and share, with love, celebration of positive life events. This dependable support network enhances their well-being, which in turn has spillover benefits for relationships family members, friends, and colleagues.
One-on-one consultations & presentations
Dr. Suniya Luthar offers one-on-one consultations and presentations with those who care for others in their work settings.
Presentations include talks for parents, employees (e.g., school faculty/staff, Grand Rounds in hospitals), and leadership including school administrators and Board members.
Dr. Luthar is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience working with educators and clinicians. Find out more at www.SuniyaLuthar.org.
Message Dr. Luthar directly today!
FEES FOR GROUP PARTICIPATION
WHAT MAKES AC GROUPS DIFFERENT?
Here are some more questions that commonly come up about AC Groups:
Who are these groups for? Are they right for me?
How are groups formed? What happens after I submit an application form?
What happens during group sessions? What does the facilitator do?
What are some of the AC Group session topics?
Will I have to share deep, personal information on all topics?
How do AC Groups differ from coaching or general professional development?
How do AC Groups differ from psychotherapy?
What about confidentiality?
How do institutions organize and use AC Groups?
Can I be in a group with other people who are strangers to me, from different parts of the country?
What if I don't have the time to do this?
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & PRIORITIZING WELLNESS
Last year, I participated in an Authentic Connections group for independent school counselors. We met regularly and developed an easy rapport and trust that we had each other's support in the trenches. In a time when everything seemed a little bit harder, that self-care was so helpful and I've maintained authentic connections with those colleagues this year.
As we live into this second year of covid, I experience a little pandemic fatigue and I am guessing you might as well. If you are interested in joining colleagues from across the country in support of each other, Authentic Connections has opened up an opportunity to participate in virtual AC Groups. The attached flyer provides information and there are professional development funds available to cover the costs. If you have questions about what it's like to participate in a virtual group, please reach out to me and we can find a time to connect. If you are ready to jump in, please complete the PD request form for your division director."
---- Bridget Gwinnett, Counseling Dept. Chair, Greensboro Day School, NC
"I have heard nothing but wonderful reports about AC Groups (from participants). I know people appreciated the time and your guidance. As we are sifting through the plans for the new year, I’ve been mulling in the back of my head a way for us to expand and build in this kind of experience for everyone. It’s a culture shift for us to simply allow ourselves time to reflect, but such a wonderful reminder – and advertisement as folks share the power of that time. Thank you again for your work, support, care… thank you!"
Melanie Bauman, Director of Counseling and Health Education, The Webb Schools, CA
"In a large school of almost 2,000 students, it’s very important to me that faculty and staff see a calm, centered, strong leadership at the helm. While I am generally able to hold space for the worry, emotion, and pain of others during this pandemic, these groups have allowed me incredibly valuable space to receive support of my own. They have brought me personal comfort and strength while also allowing a lens into what’s working particularly well at other schools, via insights shared by other leaders. I have been extremely grateful for this opportunity and will continue to draw upon authentic connections that I’ve forged."
--- Anna Moore, Director of Student Support, The Westminster Schools, GA
"I don't know that I can recall a more stressful time in school leadership than our current global pandemic. Connecting with other leaders through our Authentic Connections Group is unique. We're there to support each other, to be a sympathetic ear for one another, and to share how we cope. Very quickly, I find myself engaging in the lives of others in the group, taking my focus away from a bad phone call or a difficult challenge as we dig into the larger issues we face both individually and collectively. I find myself looking forward to our meeting each week as an oasis of calm amidst the turbulence of our time."
Brad Philipson, Head of School, Jewish Community Day School of Greater New Orleans, LA
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"This group has been the most life-giving experience since becoming a mom … it has been a hard adjustment transitioning from a nurse leader to a nurse leader with young children … For the first time in the past few years I feel like I found a place that is safe to talk about the frustrations, ups, downs, challenges, vulnerabilities and real-life aspects of being a working mother."
“It is great to be able to relate to other working moms in healthcare. It is important to feel connected, supported, understood, and listened to. I think for some moms, including myself, it is easier to tell ourselves that living in stress is the ‘new norm' and just keep going without exploring the opportunity to connect with others. I almost wish this group intervention can be made mandatory to all as I was skeptical before signing up for it but having been a participant, I'm so glad I did.”
"You must make and take time to yourself and this group provides a safe, authentic space to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and other women. The AC Group is a true gift and I wish I could share it with other women."
"An online support group where a woman can be herself and still be accepted and loved for who she is at her core … these groups are a way to gain new insight from fellow women/mothers around the US with minimal time commitment."
"I’ve found the Authentic Connections men’s group to be a source of comfort & solace. Having a dedicated opportunity to connect, engage, empathize, and laugh is a true gift; I look forward each week to the groups. The principles of AC Groups are simple, but powerful – and I, for one, can attest to the fact that they are effective & meaningful."
- Steve Lee, Director of Clinical Training, UCLA Dept. of Psychology
MEET THE TEAM
Founder & Executive Director of AC Groups, Dr. Suniya S. Luthar is Professor Emerita at Columbia University's Teachers College and also Co-Founder of Authentic Connections, an organization committed to school-based prevention. Dr. Luthar completed her Ph.D. In clinical & developmental psychology at Yale University and an internship at the Yale Child Study Center. Her research involves vulnerability and resilience among various at-risk populations including families affected by mental illness, and those in high-stress work and community settings. A licensed clinical psychologist since 1990, Dr. Luthar has long been committed to ensuring "care for the caregivers" with published intervention studies serving mothers, health care providers, & educators. For more details, please see www.SuniyaLuthar.org.
Steve S. Lee, PhD
Dr. Steve Lee is Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology Training at UCLA’s Department of Psychology. He is also Associate Editor of the journal Clinical Psychological Science, and Past-President, Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP). Dr. Lee obtained his BA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UC Berkeley, and his post-doctoral fellowship in Psychiatric Genetics was done at the University of Chicago. Dr. Lee's ares of expertise include attention deficit and behavioral problems in children, with special attention to how these develop in families, and implications for treatment. Among Dr. Lee's honors is the American Psychological Association's Division 7 2021 Mavis Hetherington Award for Excellence in Applied Developmental Science.
President, Board of Directors
Thomas Benenson has demonstrated life-long support and commitment to promoting gender equality and the welfare of women and particularly mothers. For many years, he has served as an escort at a Planned Parenthood health clinic. Additionally, he served an eight-year term as a founding member of the board of a non-profit organization, SAFE, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, during which he was actively involved in fund-raising and other responsibilities of a "working" board. Mr. Benenson has followed and supported Dr. Luthar’s advocacy efforts for youth and families from 1985 onwards and is very pleased to have been on the Board of AC Groups since the nonprofit’s inception, in 2014. Since his retirement, Mr. Benenson lives in Oaxaca, Mexico and in New York City.
Sherry Chesak, PhD, RN
Sherry Chesak, Ph.D., R.N., is a Nurse Scientist in the Department of Nursing, Division of Nursing Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her program of research is centered on care for the caregiver, primarily focused on mindfulness-based interventions to enhance resilience among both professional and family caregivers of patients with complex health needs. She received a Master’s degree in Nursing Education from Winona State University and a PhD in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She has attended multiple trainings for teaching resilience principles and mindfulness practices and is certified by the Global Resilience and Inner Transformation Institute as a Resilience Trainer.
Pam Roy is a philanthropist, investor, businesswoman, and community leader with a mission to provide transformational community-based mental health support for families and youth. She is co-founder of Straight Up Impact, a company at the intersection of film and social impact. As part of their Meaning in Madness film series, she collaborated with Big Picture Learning, to create B-Unbound, a community platform that connects 14-24-year-olds to supportive adults and peers around shared interests. It runs parallel to school systems and is free to all youth. Recognizing the key role meaning plays in wellness, Pam is the co-founder of the Viktor Frankl Institute of America and co-author of “The Inspiring Wisdom of Viktor E. Frankl.” She writes a blog that inspires parents to look at systemic issues affecting youth mental health and wellbeing.
Helen Burke completed her academic and clinical mental health training at Antioch University in Seattle. She is currently a mental health counselor doing individual and group work with youth and parents through a non profit organization (Bainbridge Youth Services) dedicated since 1962 to promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of adolescents and young adults. Helen also does community outreach and education about youth wellness and the importance of supporting caregivers in the hard work of parenting. Counseling is a mid-life career change for Helen who practiced law before having kids. She has facilitated in person and online support groups in and around Seattle for several years and is regularly inspired by the power of group work.
Amelia Walker (she/her) is a clinical social worker based out of southeast Michigan. She completed her social work training at the University of Michigan, focusing on integrated health and interdisciplinary treatment. Amelia works with clients of all ages with a focus on supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community. She approaches her work with radical acceptance and centers clients’ needs and goals in her therapeutic approach; meeting clients where they are at is her priority. She has experience using DBT informed practice, mindfulness, motivational interviewing, CBT, and Trauma Focused CBT. Creating and fostering community relationships that are supportive, beneficial, and healing remains at the center of her practice.
Dr. Alexandra M. Ingram completed her education and training in clinical psychology at Arizona State University, as well as clinical internship in health service and postdoctoral fellowship in couples and family psychology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Jackson, MS and Charleston, SC. Her research and clinical focus include children and families affected by adversity (e.g., divorce, bereavement, severe mental illness) and interventions to promote resilience and recovery from developmental, interpersonal, and systems-based approaches. She looks forward to continuing dissemination of published research and access to clinical interventions for at-risk groups in her current role as project director of AC Groups.
Vice President, Board of Directors
Kimber Bogard, PhD, is the Senior Officer of Planning and Advancement and Director of the Innovation to Incubation Program at the National Academy of Medicine. In these roles, she leads planning efforts and catalyzes internal and external partnerships and collaborations to bridge Academies’ consensus recommendations with implementation, to have a greater impact on health. She was formerly directed the Board on Children, Youth and Families at the Academies and before that, was Associate Director of the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at New York University. Kimber received her PhD in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University, and she holds a master’s degree from Columbia University-Teachers College.
Elise Geithner is a pediatric acute care nurse with a background in pediatric palliative care, home hospice, and children with chronic illness. She is currently studying to be a pediatric nurse practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include compassion fatigue in pediatric medical professionals, supporting the needs of children with chronic critical illness in the hospital and at home, and early integration of palliative care in treatment plans for children with life-limiting conditions. She completed her BA in Human Biology at Stanford University/ She earned her BS in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a Graduate Certificate in Pediatric Palliative Care from the University of Washington's Palliative Care Training Center.
Janae Peters completed her clinical social work training at the Smith College School for Social Work. She is an educator who actively integrates clinical social work into all aspects of the educational environment. She spends most of her time working with high school students at the Mastery School of Hawken, and with graduate students at Smith College School for Social Work. Additionally, she is actively engaged in the pilot stages of founding Prolific Shifts, a cohort space for Black educators and leaders to engage in personal and professional development. In every realm, she has engaged a relational and process oriented approach to learning with and supporting others, and has a highest goal of understanding how different social, political, historical, and environmental contexts influence our capacities for learning, growth, and transformation.
Amber Cunnings has been a Marriage and Family Therapist and art therapist for over 10 years. She provides AC groups because she believes that this approach creates more resilient and resourced people in the world which can only lead to good things! Amber has worked in various settings from inpatient hospitals to private practice and has a lot of humor, truth telling, story telling, and space holding that she can use to create the best possible group experience for anyone signing up. She attended Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California where she received her Master's degree. She currently owns her own practice based in the metro Detroit area of Michigan.
Dr. Juliao is a fully licensed health psychologist who owns an integrative mental healthcare practice with multiple locations in southeast Michigan. Professionally, Dr. Juliao has spent over 20 years working as a clinician, a business owner/leader, and an instructor at several universities, including Columbia University, Oakland University, and the University of Michigan. Dr. Juliao's early research interests included women's multiple roles via a lens of health and wellbeing. Growing out of her research, all aspects of her clinical work and teaching have continued to focus on integrative health, trauma, vulnerability, shame, energy psychology, and a whole person perspective, which has resulted in a lifetime of advanced education and certification in healing modalities inclusive of those speciality areas.
Member, Board of Directors
Susan Budinger is a developmental scientist dedicated to fostering the well-being of women and children through science-based interventions, and as such, she supported the formation of the science-based AC Groups. Budinger is a founder of Rodel, a group of non-profits dedicated to improving public education and the quality of elected leadership in the U.S. Before their formation, she was a director of Rodel, Inc., manufacturers of products used in semiconductor production. Budinger is vice chair of Rodel Delaware and the Rodel Leadership Institute. She is also a board member of the Hoffman Institute Foundation and a past member of the boards of the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Early Education Funds, and Phoenix Country Day School. Budinger has a M.A. in developmental psychology from Arizona State University and a B.A. in mathematics and economics from Hamilton College.
With a graduate training in Child Development, Rina Gill is an independent consultant on social development and communication issues. Her career spanned more than 40 years with the United Nations children's Fund (UNICEF). She was Associate Director, Policy & Planning, at UNICEF New York where she provided strategic leadership to ensure the integration of human rights principles, gender equality, and disability inclusiveness across UNICEF's global initiatives. Rina also served as Chief of Communication for Development at UNICEF headquarters. Before joining UNICEF, she worked for the National Planning Commission of India overseeing programs for working class mothers' children, and as an internationally awarded documentary filmmaker. Since retiring, Rina Gill has provided pro-bono support to several nonprofit groups to strengthen their advocacy and institutional management skills.
Dr. Jenny Reese is the Section Head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, and Associate Vice Chair for Faculty Well-being, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine. In addition to her clinical work as a hospitalist, she is also the Medical Director for Provider Well-being, Children's Hospital Colorado, leading work promoting well-being for health care providers at Children's Hospital Colorado, and Department of Pediatrics. This work focuses on understanding and mitigating burnout and promoting resilience for health care providers, including research interests in quality improvement. She enjoys facilitating workshops and public speaking on these topics.
Dr. Megan Smith’s areas of expertise include maternal mental health, postpartum depression, childhood poverty, and community-based interventions. Megan received her MPH degree at the Yale University School of Public Health, and her doctoral degree in Maternal and Child Health at Boston University School of Public Health. While an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and in the Child Study Center in the Yale School of Medicine, she created an innovative community-based program: the Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership. She remains involved with the MOMS program as Founder and Director, and is currently working to transform systems of mental health care for low-income women at the state level, with a focus on reducing mental health inequities related to race, ethnicity and poverty. Megan serves as Principal Investigator on studies ranging from the epidemiology of depressive and anxiety disorders in the perinatal period to the use of mobile health technology to reduce depression in mothers.
Dr. Erika A. Thomas-Collins is a Doctoral Limited License Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor. She received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Psychology and her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix. She is also a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and Approved Clinical Supervisor. Dr. Erika has been working in mental health since 2008, obtaining experience in case management, home-based therapy, individual, couples, family, and group therapy, psychiatric hospital intake, and supervision/ management. In 2013 Dr. Erika established her own private practice in New Haven, Michigan. Dr. Erika’s area of interest and dissertation research was focused on racial identity development for Multiracial individuals. Her areas of clinical specialty include mood disorders, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD/trauma.