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The Authentic Connections Story

Authentic Connections strives to implement community based support groups in companies, schools, and communities to help people develop resilience in high stress environments.

Suniya Luthar The motivation for Authentic Connections began in 1991, with the start of Dr. Suniya Luthar’s research on risk and resilience. After studying teens in urban poverty, Luthar began research on upper-middle class communities. Through this research, Dr. Luthar found that students in high-achieving schools have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, than other students across the U.S. Over time, it also became clear that parents in these communities were experiencing high rates of stress as well. These surprising findings led Dr. Luthar and her collaborators to explore some of the risk factors that these groups were experiencing, such as feelings of intense competition, stress, and pressure to succeed.

Decades of resilience research has shown that the single most important thing that helps children do well in spite of high pressure and stress is having strong, supportive relationships with those who take care of them; in most American families, this tends to be the mother. Because of this, Dr. Luthar created a supportive group program, the Relational Psychotherapy Mothers Group, to promote resilience among mothers facing high everyday stress and poverty. The goals were to ensure personal supportive relationships for the women, while helping them develop positive parenting. Results showed significant improvements in the well-being of mothers, as well as their children.

AC - Mayo Dr. Luthar then brought the same approach in working with moms facing a different type of daily stress: work in highly demanding, competitive work settings. The Authentic Connections Groups (AC Groups) intervention was piloted at the Mayo Clinic in 2016. The pilot was done with health care professionals who were mothers, a group at high risk for burnout and stress. Central to the AC Groups program was cultivating participants’ authentic relationships with other women in the groups and in their personal lives. The groups succeeded in significantly reducing participants’ stress and improving their well-being.

Since the successful intervention at Mayo and with support from the Rodel Foundation, Dr. Luthar and her collaborators are working to implement the AC Groups intervention in other high-stress environments. The feelings of stress and pressure that Luthar originally discovered in teens and parents in Northeast suburbs exist in highly achieving communities all across the country. Thus, Authentic Connections strives to implement community based support groups in companies, schools, and communities all across the country. For References, copies of research papers, and more details, please see www.SuniyaLuthar.org