Becoming a parent is a pivotal moment in a life. Many unexpected and exciting times are experienced from birth until well after the child leaves the nest. For many, the day-to-day tasks of parenting can be rewarding as well as challenging and even overwhelming. How many times have you felt guilty about your frustrations and wished for easy answers? Or felt unprepared, unable to care for and/or give support to your child through the years ahead? At the Option Institute we will help you to feel at ease. We have helped countless individuals and couples to feel fully capable of being the best parent possible and to enjoy each moment of the incredible adventure of parenthood.

What are the Challenges Parents Face?

“Before I got married, I had 6 theories about bringing up children. Now I have 6 children and no theories.”

— John Wilmot, English Poet

Have you ever wished that your children came with an instruction manual? If so, you’re not alone. According to the U.S Census Bureau (2010), there are 77 million family households in the U.S., and 37 million of these households have children under the age of 18.

Although being a parent is a dream anticipated with excitement by many, oftentimes, the dream is not matched by practical application. What looked natural and easy from a distance now seems complex and difficult in reality. We could say that this challenge is the result of the inherent difficulty of parenting, or we can search for a completely different understanding of parenting. We choose the second option.

How the Option Institute Can Help with Parenting

We believe that parenting can be made not only reasonable, but a wondrous adventure and a most fulfilling life experience. We have found that when parents are grounded by clear principles, they have a sense of purpose and focus which acts like a rudder in a storm. Without a strong grounding in guiding parenting principles, we have to invent a whole new rationale and solution for every challenge we face. We certainly aren’t the first ones to advocate for parenting by principle, but our principles are very different from any you may have heard before. Moreover, they are easy to remember and, once learned, easy to apply.

We begin with some fundamental guiding directives: Love, Guide, Let Go. You’ll notice that the last 2 words are bolded. These 2 words represent what is, for many, the most difficult aspect of parenting. Why? One of the key reasons is the belief often strongly held by mothers and fathers that what their children do (or don’t do) is a reflection of them.   READ MORE

This belief makes letting go impossible, and leads to countless instances of parental anguish and stress. In fact, everything you do as a parent is dictated by your beliefs as a parent. Knowing that, we can help you to uncover and discard any beliefs which are making your parenting more difficult and less effective. These include other time-honored beliefs such as: It’s your job to make your children happy. In actuality, by replacing this belief with the idea that you can’t save you children from their unhappiness (and that’s a good thing for them), you help your children to be architects of their lives, rather than victims who wait around for someone else to take away their distress. Ultimately, we can provide parenting help to enable you to find your steady center as a parent, and this is a benefit that will serve you and your child whether your child is a toddler having a temper tantrum, a rebellious teenager or a grown adult.

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Personal Stories — Parenting With Ease and Effectiveness

They say that the inseparable bond between a mother and her child begins at conception, but I know from my own past experiences that this bond forms long before. I have had 6 miscarriages. In recent years, each moment leading up to Mother’s Day would agonizingly tear at my heart. I so desperately wanted to be a mother, to have a family, to receive a Mother’s Day card; the ache in my heart was unbearable. I hid the searing pain of my sadness behind a protective wall of staid composure and a hopeless acceptance of the will of God. Not even my husband knew the depth of my longing. In our mutual grief, there was an inexpressible loneliness and silence that made any attempt at a shared journey nearly impossible. I had read books by Barry Neil Kaufman and been on The Option Institute’s mailing list for years. I finally found myself at The Option Institute participating in a program called Optimal Self-Trust. To my shock and eventual gratitude, the program exposed my wounded heart and paved a path to true healing!   READ MORE

I had originally come to learn how to trust myself in my work as a grief counselor and find new ways to help others find a way to heal their hearts. Instead, I learned that I had not really healed my sorrows at all, but merely suppressed a longing to be a mother, rationalizing why mine was an acceptable situation.

I suddenly understood that being or not being a mother did not make me more or less of a person. Only my beliefs have this power. My new beliefs have released me to live my life as an expansive soul, galvanized by my mission to make my dream of motherhood a reality.

I now know that every time anyone makes a judgment, he or she experiences a debilitating contraction of the soul – I had absolutely been living with a contracted soul, fearful of reaching for what I really wanted. My own judgments (‘I’m too old.’ ‘I don’t have the right.’ ‘If I fail again, ‘I will die.’) had sealed my fate, making a seventh attempt at having a child a daunting, fearful and next-to-impossible prospect.

This Mother’s Day, I did receive a card-from my husband – who, of his own volition, has likewise made a shift in consciousness. To my amazement, he asked if I would like to try having another baby – this from a man who, a year ago, refused to discuss such a notion. My life has changed! To The Option Institute and to Bears, I say a profound thank you!
Olivia Kalih I.

Grief Counselor, California

I believe that this week has changed my life and put me on the path to a more honest, open, loving relationship with my teenage daughter. I am looking forward to going home and putting all that I have learned to use.

Tammy C.

Insurance Company Research Tech, Illinois

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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