Personal Awareness Group Selection Process

Personal Awareness group preferences will be solicited from all FITs and faculty closer to the course (January 2018).   The following PA groups will be offered:

Matrix Leadership- Amina Knowlan, MS
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Diversity- Gerald Boyd, MDiv, ICADC, CADC II
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Rogerian- Charles O'Leary, PhD
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Ronke Tapp, PhD

Matrix Leadership- Amina Knowlan, MS

The Matrix Leadership approach focuses on forming groups as interconnected, complex adaptive systems--or, Matrix Leadership Networks. Leadership emerges through the relationships--the interaction of all of the members--and by attending to the needs of the developing "Whole" (group or team, etc.). This style fosters communication between each pair of people “in the eyes and ears of the group” as a foundation that is highly inclusive. The remaining Matrix Essential practices include cultivating a ground of health and resilience, appreciative and differentiating feedback, differentiating from habitual roles, distributing emotional fields and perspectives, engaging with differences as collective intelligence, and redefining conflict as differentiation that leads to true collaboration and emergence. Heightening awareness of the impact of systems of privilege and oppression and developing mindfulness and connection with Source (or Wholeness) are also centrally important.

Amina Knowlan, MS co-founded Matrix Leadership in 1990 and is currently the Director and Lead Trainer, Facilitator, Consul­tant and Coach. She has been facilitating groups and trainings in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe for 30 years. Her formal background includes training from the National Training Laboratories for the Behavioral Sciences, as well as an M.S. in Counseling and Teaching Psychology at the University of Missouri. For four years she was the director of the Groups and Outreach Programs in Interpersonal and Group Communication at the University of Missouri Counseling Center. She was a trainer for the Hakomi Institute for Body-Centered Psychotherapy for 12 years. She was also a co-owner and practitioner at Wellspring, Partners in Health (a holistic community medical clinic) for 15 years. She currently works as a consultant, trainer & coach for corporate executive teams, businesses, health care organizations, schools, communities, city and state governments, and non-profits. She incorporates system’s approaches; somatic, energetic and intuitive awareness; multi-cultural and diversity training as well as dance, movement, voice, art and practices of mindfulness into her work. She also leads retreats for women en­titled Fully Embodied Woman: Remembering the Sacred Feminine. She considers herself a social artist and cur­rently works internationally in St. Petersburg, Russia and Sydney, Australia. She is currently in the final stage of editing a book on Matrix Leadership. Amina has two adult children and lives in the beautiful mountain foothills of Boulder, Colorado. She enjoys salsa dancing, swimming, gardening, singing and playing with her new puppy.

Diversity- Gerald Boyd, MDiv, ICADC, CADC II

The purpose of this group is to explore the history, nature, roles and impacts of white supremacy and other forms of oppression at the institutional, personally mediated, and internalized levels.  Working from the assumption that all humans want to be allies with each other, this group aims to increase the participants’ understanding and acceptance for the importance and complexity of creating space for diversity in the present context of the socially unbearable.  The group will draw on diversity principles, Rogerian and Matrix- based methods to help achieve participants’ learning goals.  Through experiential and didactic components, participants will have the opportunity to explore personal awareness of their numerous identities and the subgroups to which they belong; illuminating, investigating, and ultimately honoring differences between those identities and subgroups; and uncovering the roles of oppression, both external and internalized, and privilege in all interactions, both conflictual and otherwise.  

Gerald Boyd, MDiv, ICADC, CADC II has more than 50 years distinguished leadership in human and civil rights, anti-oppression, anti-racism, grass-roots organizing, and liberation  struggles. He is co-founder and COO of Peacwerks Center for Well-Being, LLC, Executive Director of Eastern Shore Training and Consulting, Inc, and Organizer and President of the Board of the Samuel D. Outlaw Blacksmith Shop Museum.  He has worked in the fields of applied sociology, human development, and addiction recovery for more than 30 years. He holds an Honorary Psy.D and Master of Divinity in transpersonal psychology, is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC II) and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC), a Certified Anger Management Specialist, a Certified Life Coach, and a Certified Mediator and consultant specializing in diversity and conflict resolution, and personal and social transformation. Gerald is currently living on Oak Grove Plantation in Eastville, Virginia and living his dream building a counseling practice in Exmore, VA.

Rogerian- Charles O'Leary, PhD

The Rogerian Approach also known as the Person Centered Approach and as Client Centered Therapy is derived from the research and formulations of Carl Rogers and the continued work of a worldwide network of theorists, researchers and practitioners. (There were 777 publications about the Person-Centered Approach, including 141 books in the seventeen years following Carl Rogers’ death in 1985 (Cain, 2010) This style of group leadership is client or participant or learner centered rather than facilitator centered. The facilitator does not have an agenda for the group, abstains from interpretation, does not direct the group to act in one way or another but rather, through empathic listening and non judgmental receptivity assists group members in clarifying their own goals, needs, feelings and thoughts. Rogers and many of his followers behave in a non-directive manner, trusting that the facilitators’ congruent attentiveness will make space for the group members to direct themselves. The Rogerian facilitator sees this space as a positive contribution rather than as the absence of techniques found in other approaches. This author, however, strongly believes that the facilitator should be active, though non-directive, especially early in the group, in active listening, open-ended questions, descriptions of the process without evaluation and in answering questions about his/her expectations and experience. He recently described three roles, useful for family therapy that also apply to skilled group facilitation: translator, moderator and host. (O'Leary 2012)

Charles O’Leary, PhD is a Colorado Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Denver Colorado. He has taught in graduate programs in family therapy at National University and San Diego State University and does training in relationship therapy in the U.S., England, Scotland ,Ireland and other countries.. He is a Clinical  Fellow of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and is the author of Counseling Couples and Families: a Person-centred approach (Sage, 1999). Charles studied with Carl Rogers and has more than thirty years experience facilitating small groups, including, he claims,  forty seven AACH winter courses. His latest book is The Practice of Person-Centred Couple and Family Therapy (Palgrave-McMillan, 2012)

Ronke Tapp, PhD

Ronke Tapp, PhD is Assistant Director of Multiculturalism, University Counseling Center/Assistant Professor, University of Rochester.

Professional interests:

  • Counseling and assessing ethnically and culturally diverse individuals, couples, groups, and families
  • Teaching and training multicultural awareness and sensitivity. 

More info coming soon!

Why Pursue Personal Awareness?

Why pursue personal awareness?

Personal awareness (PA) is central to effective teaching and clinical practice. Self‐reflection is the basis of both personal growth and practice improvement. Clinicians solve problems by applying learning from previous experiences to current clinical dilemmas “automatically,” without conscious direction of thought. We know little about whether the same process occurs when we face relational, psychosocial or affective dilemmas. Feelings evoked by work with patients and students are among the most intimate and exhilarating or difficult that people face. We are all aware of barriers to self‐reflection, such as time pressures, predominance of the biomedical model, physicians’ and educators need for compartmentalization for survival, and burnout. It is becoming increasingly clear that if we leave feelings unexamined, they can become additional barriers to effective patient care or to competent teaching. One cornerstone of professionalism is to integrate our affective experiences in order to foster personal learning with subsequent benefits to our patients and students. Few chances for this kind of exploration and integration exist in traditional medical education.

Personal awareness groups are opportunities for conversation about meaningful events (either from work at home with patients and students or from events within the course), and the effect of the feelings these events evoke on the work of health care provision, teaching, job satisfaction, and learning within the course. All ACH personal awareness groups use as their essential model the teachings of Carl Rogers (widely recognized as the founder of the person‐centered approach, the basis of many applications in education, group/organizational work, and counseling) and follow three group principles to create trust and safety that support personal discussion: the conversation of the group remains confidential ‐ what is said in the group should remain within the group each participant decides how much or how little to say, and says as much or as little as s/he wishes each participant speaks for him/herself, not for others


How is personal awareness work integrated into Winter Course?
A significant portion of the course (eight sessions totaling 13 hours) is dedicated to PA group time, in which attendees are placed in small groups led by trained facilitators.  Attendees remain in the same PA group for the entire course, so relationships are formed the absence of any group member can negatively affect the cohesion of the group.  Skipping sessions or leaving early has proven to dramatically take away from an individual's experience at the course, and also the experience of their group members.  For this reason, all attendees are strongly encouraged to attend and full participate in ALL sessions for the entire course.  

The goal of these PA groups is to provide a learner-centered venue where each participant will clarify her/his own learning goals in interpersonal and communication skills, personal awareness, and reflection. Trained  facilitators and fellow group participants will collaborate to fashion exercises that will help accomplish those goals. These goals may involve enhancing one’s relationships with patients, colleagues, or other team members; processing through challenges in interpersonal relationships and formulating approaches for further management; or, for intact teams that may come to the course, understanding and improving the team‐building process and team function. These groups have low learner to faculty ratios and present a unique opportunity to address challenging communication scenarios, to practice skills learned in course workshops, and to receive feedback from faculty and peers.  In the learning groups, learner safety is key to support learning. 

We offer several options for personal awareness learning, so that you may choose one that meets your learning needs and style.