Grief has impacted many of us at various times in life – death of a loved one, illness, the end of a relationship, financial loss and the perception of failure in a career. We have been programmed to respond to such dramatic events with sadness. We have accepted the natural process of grief and submitted ourselves to the sadness and difficulties that follow our losses. But we don’t have to continue with this same pattern! At the Option Institute we believe that grief is an optional response to an event and that we can choose another path. Read below for more information.

How Grief Affects Our Lives

Many of us have experienced the death of a loved one or the ending of a relationship. We are taught that the “natural” response to such a life event is grief – a deep sadness about the loss. While grief is certainly a typical response in the grieving process, to say that it is natural is to speak as if we are somehow biologically programmed to experience it. And, indeed, that is what most of us are taught. We are told that there are natural stages of grief that we must pass through when experiencing a loss. In fact, in 1974 “The Handbook of Psychiatry” defined grief as “. . . the normal response to the loss of a loved one by death.” We, however, believe that grief is optional, not inevitable.

How the Option Institute Can Help in Dealing with Grief

We would never advocate the suppression of the grieving process for those who feel that they need to grieve. At the same time, if you are having trouble dealing with grief, we can offer you concrete assistance. We can help you examine the learned beliefs and perspectives you hold which continue to support your grief and sadness. Then you will have the opportunity to make key decisions about whether to retain or jettison these beliefs. The teachers of our programs will help you in the most nonjudgmental way, not pushing you, but rather opening doors for your understanding and change. Many of us, particularly those of us who have lost a loved one, fear letting go of our grief. We are afraid that in letting go of our grief, we will be somehow letting go of our love and caring of the one we have lost. We can show you how to treasure the one you have lost and deepen your caring for this person – with your gratitude, rather than your sadness. We can help you to move on with your life in dealing with grief – not as a dismissal of the one you loved, but as a celebration of them.

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Personal Stories — Letting Go of Grief

I have changed my vision of the life I want to and am able to live, by virtue of my stay here. I am just so excited about the person I’m becoming. I never thought I’d be able to feel anything but pain over my dad’s death, but now I see his death as the gift that brought me here. I know somewhere he is looking and smiling and being very present in my life!

Emily R.

Marketing Manager, New Jersey

Without a doubt, this past year was the most difficult year I’ve experienced in my life. The woman I wanted to marry left me; I was in the middle of a career change; my uncle died; and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I came to The Option Institute confused and searching for new ways to deal with everything that was happening.  READ MORE

In the fall, I signed up for two programs at the Institute. It was two weeks of meditation and mindfulness unlike any therapy I’d experienced. When I was at the Institute, there were absolutely no labels attached to me because of my problems, nor definitions nor diagnoses that concluded I had a problem.

The most beneficial aspect of the Institute’s programs is the message that there are no right answers. The only right answers are the answers that you have for yourself. The atmosphere in the classroom was a kind of jovial other-worldliness- the camaraderie was amazing!

The Option Institute provided me with simple tools that helped me look at my life in a very new light. The most profound lesson I took from the programs is the realization that there is always a choice. Once you understand the simple but valuable lesson – we can view events as a blessing or a curse-we can then make the internal choice of happiness, leaving the external choice not so difficult to make.

My experience at The Option Institute has been one of the best gifts I’ve given to myself. In a sense, it started me on a spiritual journey, a journey to become more human. My mother is still battling cancer, and I have chosen to see it as a blessing, to make each moment count and be present in each moment, both with her and the rest of my family.

I am doing incredibly well in a new career and am enjoying my single status. I’ve learned to let go of the past and concentrate on the good things in my life-there are only the infinite possibilities of the present for me. The ‘what ifs’ no longer exist.
Tim Suh

Information Technology Consultant, Illinois

I came here to deal with my husband being killed. I came to realize over the five days that I can let the pain and grief go, but keep Paul forever in my heart. Change my beliefs – change my life. Now I see a future, I used to think my life was over. This is indeed a place for miracles for it has given me and my two boys back our lives. It’s time to be happy! The best week ever – thanks guys. I felt loved and secure being amongst the other participants – some will be friends forever.

Linda McGinn

Mom, Scotland

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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