About Us

The Option Institute® International Learning and Training Center, is a nonprofit, educational organization that has helped thousands of people live their very best lives – heightening day-to-day happiness, deepening their closest relationships, increasing inner strength and personal effectiveness, and overcoming life’s biggest challenges. Since 1983, our unique training courses and individual support services have helped people from over 140 countries to master issues they have felt plagued with for years. Our new E-Learning Training Courses provide an opportunity to learn and grow without you ever having to leave the comfort of your own home.


The Option Institute® International Learning and Training Center was founded in 1983 by Barry (“Bears”) Neil Kaufman and his wife Samahria Lyte Kaufman who actively teach in many of the programs offered by the institute. Barry Neil Kaufman is the best-selling author of 12 books (one written jointly with his wife) on The Option Process® and The Son-Rise Program®, including Happiness Is A Choice, Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues, and PowerDialogues. There are over three million copies of their books in print in over 65 countries. The Kaufmans are two-time recipients of the Christopher Award and, additionally, received the prestigious Humanitas Prize for their screenwriting of The NBC TV movie, Son-Rise: The Miracle of Love because it inspired audiences to believe in the dignity and inspiration of humanity.

Bears and Samahria started teaching The Option Process in 1972, and 11 years later established the Option Institute, offering personal development workshops to adults as well as counseling services for individuals dealing with trauma. The Option Institute is situated on an expansive 100-acre campus on a Berkshire mountainside in Massachusetts. In the past 40 years, we have worked with thousands upon thousands of individuals, families, and children from over 140 different countries. In 2020, the Institute migrated to presenting E-Learning Training Courses, year round, to audiences throughout the world.

srwasamAdditionally, The Kaufmans are also the originators of The Son-Rise Program, which is taught at the Autism Treatment Center of America®, a division of the Option Institute. The Son-Rise Program methodology evolved when their son, Raun, was diagnosed with having a severe and incurable case of Autism. Refusing to give up on their son’s future, Bears and Samahria worked with Raun for over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for more than three years, resulting in his full recovery from Autism. Raun went on to graduate from an Ivy League university, became the director of an educational center for school-aged children and for a period of time taught and assumed directorial roles at the Institute. Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues, the story of the Kaufmans’ work with Raun, became a bestselling book and the award-winning NBC TV movie based on this book was viewed worldwide.

bears-teachingIn addition to raising their three biological children, they chose to adopt three more children from circumstances of trauma, as a way to express their gratitude for what they had learned in their journey with Raun. One of their adopted sons had been seriously malnourished, resulting in physiological, motor and other challenges. Bears and Samahria worked with him and he thrived, demonstrating a keen mind and a wonderful ability to learn. Another son, whose mother had died and who had his throat slit by his birth father, found support, guidance and love in the expanding Kaufman family. Their adoption of an eleven-year-old girl from El Salvador, also a trauma survivor, completed their immediate family. The Kaufmans have passed this tradition on to their own children, some of whom have adopted children from similar situations, further expanding their multi-racial, multi-cultural family.

The Option Institute, and the work of Bears and Samahria Kaufman, have been featured in over 2,000 articles, publications, and broadcast in major media including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Parenting Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Good Morning America, and in interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue among others.

The Kaufmans’ books and works have been endorsed by well-respected figures including President Jimmy Carter, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Carl Rogers, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Bernie Siegel, Norman Cousins, Lou Holtz, John Bradshaw, and Harold S. Kushner.


Bears says of his life’s work…

“For Samahria and me, we clearly see our personal challenges as gifts to help us grow stronger and to create more love and sustained happiness in our lives. Our life’s work has allowed us the privilege, honor, and blessing to be able to help others facing their own challenges. Not just to teach them how to find their own best solutions to adversity and the surprises of life, but also to teach them a solid methodology and attitude they can implement to fill their own lives with a sense of ease, self-trust, empowerment and happiness. The title of my book, Happiness Is A Choice, speaks to the heart of what’s possible – to choose happiness and love even during tough times.”

The Core of What We Teach

A letter from the Co-Founder of The Option Institute – Barry Neil Kaufman

“At The Option Institute, we teach people unique and practical tools to build the life experience they desire. How? “It begins with a radical departure from everything we’ve been taught. Many of us have heard of the popular psychological model of stimulus-response. The dog barks, I get scared. My friend compliments me, I feel happy. This model has helped spawn a culture where we see our emotions and experiences as being caused by people and events around us. As a result, we often try to change our circumstances and the people around us so that we can feel good or, at least, not feel bad. stimulus_response “This approach leaves most of us feeling like victims. We believe that, if we could just get our loved ones to treat us right, or our finances to increase, or the roads to be traffic-free, we would feel better. But there’s always something else. Even without major life events such as divorce, bankruptcy, illness or loss of a loved one, many of us experience deep distress and discomfort.

The Option Institute modifies the stimulus-response paradigm with a simple twist. We introduce a third component: BELIEF. Every stimulus that elicits a response from us is first filtered and processed by one or more beliefs. As our beliefs change, so do our responses and experiences. This simple shift changes everything in our lives, moving us from the passenger’s seat into the driver’s seat. We call this new paradigm the Happiness GPS® because it helps you identify where you are and allows you to navigate to where you want to go (In terms of your own happiness and emotional well-being). “For instance, two parents watching their daughter getting married can have different experiences – one is happy and the other is distressed. How do we explain 2 people witnessing the same event (the same stimulus) having diametrically opposed responses? Simple – each one holds different beliefs that filter their experience of the wedding. One sees it as wonderful – believing that their daughter will be happy and the family will grow. The other sees it as terrible – believing they are losing their daughter and that they will be lonely without her. This simple illustration is a microcosm of the myriad ways our beliefs determine every response, from joy to anger, from kissing to shouting.

“The good news is: our beliefs are changeable. Our experience with thousands of people from across the globe has shown us that, when people use the tools that we provide, known collectively as The Option Process, they are able to uncover the beliefs fueling their responses and the underlying reasons for their beliefs. Moreover, they are able to change the beliefs that may be generating unhappiness, dysfunctional relationships or ineffective behaviors.

“In our highly interactive courses, we help people address ongoing challenges, find peace with catastrophic events, build more satisfying relationships and become efficient and effective at achieving their desires and dreams. We believe that the most effective way to help people change is to provide them with tools and opportunities to change, in an environment where they are completely accepted as they are, whether or not they change. We are happy to be, for many, the one place in the world where they can find just that.”


bears (Barry Neil Kaufman),
Co-founder of The Option Institute and Autism Treatment Center of America


Using the Happiness GPS®


Happiness I.Q.®

Definition: The measurement of a person’s capacity to choose emotional comfort and happiness irrespective of the stimulus. Happiness I.Q. is determined by core belief structures about ourselves and our ability to decide how we feel and what we think.

Low Happiness I.Q. Beliefs:

  • I can’t choose how I feel. It depends on what happens (the stimulus).
  • I have to be unhappy, angry, worried, or upset in order to do what it takes to take care of myself, my child, etc.
  • It’s only human to get unhappy when things don’t go the way I want.
  • My mind just does what it does and thinks what it thinks. I can’t control it.
  • I am how I am. I have a limited capacity to change.

High Happiness I.Q. Beliefs:

  • How I feel isn’t determined by what happens (the stimulus) but by my beliefs about what happens. And I choose my beliefs.
  • I don’t need to get unhappy, angry, worried, or upset in order to take care of myself, my child, etc. I just need to know what I want.
  • There isn’t one predetermined “human” way to respond to things. I respond the way I want to respond, and so does everyone else.
  • I am the pilot of my mind and the creator of my thoughts and beliefs.
  • Since I decide who and how I am, and since I can always make new decisions, my capacity to change is limitless

Option Process® Dialogue: Introductory Questions to raise your Happiness I.Q.®

  1. What is the stimulus?
  2. How do I feel about the stimulus?
  3. Why do I feel this way?
  4. What is my belief?
  5. Why do I believe that?
  • All beliefs are changeable.
  • Use the above questions to help yourself uncover your beliefs. Ask yourself these question in the most caring and accepting way possible.
  • Uncover the belief and choose whether you want to continue to hold it or change it for a new.
  • Change the belief and you change the feeling.
Learn more about What we Teach.

Testimonials for Barry (Bears) Neil Kaufman & Samahria Lyte Kaufman

– Testimonials for Bears Kaufman –

The search for peace in the world must start within the human heart and within our own families. Barry Neil Kaufman understands that. By personal example and through his writing and counseling, he gives a compelling vision for the building of inner and outer peace.

President Jimmy Carter

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Barry Neil Kaufman champions making the choice to believe in ourselves, to be hopeful and seize the power of loving ourselves and others.

Lou Holtz

Head Football Coach, University of Notre Dame

Inspiring, groundbreaking and visionary. Barry Neil Kaufman’s work is the science of love, compassion and insight which will transform the world.

Deepak Chopra

M.D., Author, Quantum Healing

They should win a Nobel Prize for love.

Dr. Wayne Dyer

Ph.D., Author, The Power of Intention

I have long admired the work of Barry Neil Kaufman. He reveals the options and choices we can all make to find the road to happiness. Simple and effective for all.

Bernie Siegel

M.D., Author, Love, Medicine, and Miracles

Barry Neil Kaufman’s work affirms the unlimited potential of the human spirit and offers hope to those who have been challenged by adversity.

Coretta Scott King

Founder, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Mr. Kaufman’s moving and eloquent account of his son’s recovery vividly illustrates the power of parental love expressed through imagination, understanding and perseverance . . . a remarkable adventure story.


Ah Bears, what can I say? Your teachings saved me. There are no words to express the difference my life has moved toward. Thank you for the tools and creating a place of love and safety that is so special.

Karen Healey

Senior Administrative Assistant, New Hampshire

Bears is a sheer pleasure to listen to, be facilitated by and learn from. His compassion, magnificent and probing mind, ‘attitude’, love and vast experience make him a master teacher. Thank you Bears!

Lisa Steindorf

Feldenkraus Practitioner / Peace Educator, Germany

– Testimonials for Samahria Kaufman –

Samahria Kaufman is a perceptive, wise, patient and inspiring woman, a bright light whose presence is tremendously healing and comforting to every person she touches. Her passionate love for her autistic son, moved her to create and tirelessly continue the innovative process that has healed so many children and their parents for decades. Offering the same deep acceptance she utilized in dealing with autistic children in teaching adults, she changed my life forever. By modeling acceptance, she taught me how to love myself and others.

Jane Wyker

Family Counselor, New York

To have this fabulous, fiesty little lady who founded this whole earth-shattering program come bursting into our living room on Tuesday morning had an astonishing, uplifting impact on our week. Her warmth, her wisdom, her wit and humor, her insight, her common sense, and that unforgettable laugh! She filled the room with enriching energy, practical advice, and sheer fun.

Jack Burnicle

Son-Rise Program Dad, United Kingdom

Samahria, through her passion and love for teaching The Son-Rise Program, has enabled me to reach my son Blake at a level of complete love, acceptance, language and communication. Her wisdom, humor and dedication has helped my son Blake, 12, be able to talk, laugh, sing and see the world as an exciting and caring world something that he now takes part in. Samahria is a true beacon of what love is about and it shows in every breath of her being. Blake will now attend public school thanks to her love and dedication.

Leanne Dole

Homemaker, Australia

Such a model of love, kindness, laughter, joy, connection, incredible caring – she sweeps you forward with a soft but powerful strength – she adds so much at just the right time, exuberantly and so appropriately. What a spirit! What a contribution!

Keith Garrick

Financial Planner, California

The warmth of a mother and the wisdom of a sage.

Lejla Somun-Krupalija

Manager /Lecturer, Bosnia

You are an exceptional woman! What a shining example of strength and love and humanness. I look forward to connecting deeper with you.

Shayu Talbot

Community Service Worker and Counselor, Canada

Energetic, outrageous, exceptional woman, an absolute inspiration; she embodies everything we can be. Samahria’s energy is so powerful that she fills the whole room and is so giving, loving, and accepting of everybody. It’s like she has a fine tuned radar to know who to go to and how and when to stretch them.

Zobeeda Madsen

Son-Rise Mom, Spain

Samahria is my second mother, with the wisdom of 10 women. She is fun, spunky, funky, and yet extremely professional and always seems to hit the nail on the head—Always!

Mina Okoloko

Lawyer, Nigeria

Samahria is deeply loving with a clarity and force which continually challenges us to question the beliefs we have chosen to adopt for ourselves in every area of our lives. She teaches us to question ourselves on the most daring and profound level. I am deeply honored to know her and learn from her.

Erika Cohen

Educational Therapist, New Jersey

Contact Us

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Or send us a message or question and we will get back to you as soon as we can.



The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

We are not a medical facility and we do not dispense any medical advice. We have and would always guide our program participants, to consult with their doctors, healthcare providers, and family members in making medical decisions for themselves and those they love. Neither Mass General Hospital nor any member of its medical staff endorses any program being offered by the Option Institute and its teachers.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration



PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

  • Completion of The Option Institute’s PowerDialogues program.
  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration


Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar