Wide Awake

Self Structured, Dynamic Program for Advanced Students

Program: 5 days

Wide Awake is a non-stop roller-coaster ride – challenging, thrilling and exhilarating. From the first second, you’ll plunge deeply into topics and issues that many would consider off-limits or uncomfortable, but nonetheless, topics that you’ll want to deeply understand and master.

A winding, racing river digging deeper into your awareness, Wide Awake provides you an incomparable opportunity to realize meaning, joy and freedom in your life. Challenge your core beliefs, your very foundation and come out clearer, stronger and wiser.

By invitation or application only.

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What makes Wide Awake like no other program offered at the Option Institute®:

  • All Bears, All the Time: Taught exclusively by our Co-Founder Barry (Bears) Neil Kaufman in a style all his own – dramatic, feisty, fastpaced and daring, with jump-off-the-cliff improvised group dynamics combined with deep acceptance, warmth and love
  • Intense: Our most challenging group dynamics and teaching design, the format is fast-paced, intensely authentic, original and daring. It is thought provoking, challenging, thoroughly lively and fun
  • Dynamic: A brand new program design every year. Program participants return year after year. No two years are alike as the group dynamic strikes a new path each year
  • Ready to Rock and Roll: Designed for the most advanced students and by invitation only, this program is for exceptionally motivated, daring and passionate participants – no observers allowed
  • Inspirational: Stretch the envelope, making your “vision to live by” deeper, stronger and more concrete
  • Insightful: Deepen your understanding of how you operate in a way that will enhance your everyday experience ofyourself and others

Read Reviews

This is a graduate level program that requires other programs be completed and a level of self-studentship be displayed. I would tell anyone that the time, energy and money you will need to spend to get here will return to you tenfold. Do what you have to do to get yourself here. You will fly higher, dig deeper and love in a way you cannot imagine. Bears is such an amazing teacher, always taking your hand and pointing you to where you might not want to go, all in a loving effort to grow yourself bigger than you might have thought possible on your own.

Mary C.

Business Owner, Indiana

Every single day here at Wide Awake has given me the opportunity to open myself to deeper levels of love for myself and love for others. Today it was so incredibly clear to me that I increase my capacity to love as I drop my fear and practice loving, and loving bigger, and loving more. Snap – every moment I can decide,… and re-decide how I show up in the world and to myself. Delicious! Thank you so much, Bears, for the gifts and opportunities you’ve created for me. I Love You!

Ronda Platt Fitzsimmons

Movie Theater Owner, Pennsylvania

My third day of the Wide Awake program at the Option Institute was a day of BIG love! What was exciting was exploring how different loving actions are, and that they all are delicious! Whether singing a sweet love song or facing “controversy” head on, show up with enthusiasm and no apology! Love you Bears and Samahria! Xoxoxoxo

Amy MacDonald

Sales/Marketing, Pennsylvania

Day 3 of Wide Awake: I didn’t think that anything could be better than Day 2, and I was so wrong. This morning was *incredible*, a gift from the universe, from Bears, from the other participants. It was a morning about loving, about daring, about openness. I had an opportunity to practice accepting criticism (easy!…!!!) and accepting love (wonderful, and harder). I was moved to tears much of the morning. What an honor and a privilege it is to be here, learning so much, connecting so profoundly.

Judith English

Computer Programmer, Canada

In our 3rd day of Wide Awake I found that what I thought was loving in fact was not. I have learned today the power of celebration of my partner. This morning was so incredible and loving and powerful. This afternoon I got chance to look at how I want to show up in the world no matter what others think. I love being he…re and I love love. Thank you thank you thank you for all your love Bears. xxoo Kathleen   PS: Samahria our couples session rocked I love you too!

Kathleen C. Byrne

Health Care, Connecticut

Dear Bears, I am having the time of my life here at Wide Awake. I feel so amazingly loved and accepted for all that I am both by you, Bears, and all the other people who are on the program. It is the most wonderful nurturing and nourishing environment to be in. Knowing that I am completely accepted no matter what, is the… safety net that I want to stretch myself to try new ways of being and doing life. I am so blessed to be here and I can hardly wait for tomorrow. Huge huge love, Alison XOXOXOXOX

Alison Sharpe Taylor

Full-Time Son-Rise Program® Mom / Homemaker, United Kingdom

Wide Awake provided me with a safe, loving place to learn to make myself my own safe and loving place. I am so grateful! Wide Awake provided me with a mirror to honestly look at how I choose to think, to feel and to behave- and then a safe and loving place (both externally and internally) to choose to change those thoughts, feelings and behaviors to accurately correspond to how I think and feel on the inside (and for my behavior to manifest that also). It’s all my choice. How I feel, what I think and what I do, I choose for myself always. Wide Awake showed me that I choose for myself to take the best care of myself; and that I want to take care of myself by choosing to love myself first so that I can then love others; to trust myself first so that I can then trust other; to accept myself first so that I can then accept others and one and one. It all starts with the choices I make for myself. I am so grateful!

Robin M.

Artist, Maine

My purpose in coming here was to jump out into the world and be the biggest, bravest, most beautiful version of myself.  During this week, I gained some amazing, sustainable insights into my beliefs and how I operate in the world.  I quit playing it safe and took some authentic risks in a nurturing environment. It really paid off.  I practiced how I want to show up in the world, accepted feedback about how I presented myself, while still feeling that I was being loved.  I laughed at myself and saw it, too!  I want to attract like-minded people into my life, therefore I now model what I want to attract.

Denise D.

Lawyer, Ireland

I always knew Wide Awake would be amazing, though I hadn’t expected it to be so profound for me, and that I would make so many changes for myself.  I brought myself to the program with strong intentions of what I wanted to change and my week was complete by Tuesday evening!  I still progressed so much further and learnt so much about myself through Bears’s dynamic teachings.

Holly Balls

Child Facilitator, United Kingdom

Wide Awake just topped the list of my favorite programs!  I can’t imagine a more wonderful way to spend a week of my life.  It was so incredible to fly with Bears and my classmates, no curriculum, whatsoever, constructing our own completely unique, completely perfect program, moment by moment, just as we construct ourselves, our love, our experience in every individual instant.  It has been so peaceful for me; I have reached such a deeper connection within myself. Even my understanding of time, I now view as a sense of moments, each unique, each bursting with possibility, none dependent on the one before.

Alex Woolgar

Cognitive Neuroscientist, United Kingdom

What happened here, during this week at the Wide Awake Program, I see as the most important thing that happened on the entire planet.

Keith Hindmarsh

Caterer, Canada

Wide Awake is the most amazing program.  Because there is no curriculum, the whole program feels like it is designed for me.

Mary Church

Business Owner, Indiana

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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, 5 Days to Live, Defying a Terminal Cancer Prognosis , 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