About TCI

Our Mission

Our mission is to create a more compassionate and empowered world through training courageous leaders in the arts of effective communication and group facilitation.
At The Connection Institute, we train the leaders of tomorrow to create a more connected and relational world.
When an individual decides to become a group facilitator they are embarking on a path of growth that is unique, and can only be understood by others who have walked that same path. We train leaders who are passionate about helping others and we are committed to serving these brave souls on this journey.
The search for meaning and depth is something that drives all humans, and the more we live into our potential and self-actualize, the more that quest becomes the guide for our whole lives.
Leading groups through navigating emotional topics has never been more relevant in human history.
People are longing for guidance that helps them find belonging and connection in their lives.

Let us guide the way.

Our Team

Peter Benjamin

Co-Founder | Lead Trainer

Peter Will Benjamin is one of the joyful co-founders of The Connection Institute.  As lead staff trainer and CEO he delights in caring for the staff and students.  Peter also works as a Professional Coach and teaches continuing ed for Coaches and Therapists. Peter’s mission is to support everyone he knows in feeling worthy of love and goodness, and accessing their personal power.  He’s also an intimacy junkie, community builder, and dancer. 

Mark Boughton

Co-Founder | Lead Trainer

Mark Boughton has been studying communication skills and the psychology of relationships and interpersonal dynamics for over a decade. By the time he was twenty two, he had worked, traveled or volunteered on every continent of the globe, and had discovered a deep passion for understanding people. He stumbled upon the world of therapy and coaching in his early twenties, immediately knew his calling, and has been facilitating relational practice ever since. He has a love for building community and bringing people together to connect, and also works as a coach helping people vision and actualize their deepest desires.

Jason Digges

Lead Trainer

Jason Digges, author of new release Conflict = Energy, The Transformative practice of Authentic Relating, a modern renaissance man. Equal parts artist, philosopher, teacher, and media producer, from 2003-2012 he worked for Integral Institute to create thousands of hours of educational media on the topics of transpersonal psychology, spirituality, productivity, and personal growth.

Obsessed with how humans can live and relate optimally, he’s facilitated groups and taught authentic relating and circling since 2012. In 2017, Jason co-founded Authentic Relating Training International and has since led courses in 20 cities around the world.

Sophie Kruip

Communications Admin

Sophie Kruip is an enthusiast, project catalyst, and “vision doula.” She studied in Theatre Arts, specifically immersive and site-specific work, and trained in group facilitation under Dr. Hazel-Grace Yates, Sara Ness, and Jason Digges. Authentic Relating, and Circling practices have expanded her capacity to hold more complexity, and brought incredible people into her life. Her dream is to invite more of this aliveness, joy, and honest connection into the mainstream.

Jen Burns

Community Manager | Lead Trainer

Jen loves creating safe spaces where people feel inspired to welcome all parts of themselves. 

Circling has played a huge role in her overcoming social anxiety that consumed most of her life. When she discovered circling she felt at home. It was somewhere she felt deeply supported, seen, held, and understood. She was amazed at how easy it could be to feel so connected to people she just met! She fell in love with the practice and has felt inspired to share it with others ever since. 

She enjoys bringing her weirdness, wigglyness, and playfulness into her Circles. She especially adores going slow, savoring the subtleties found in the spaces in-between our words. 

When she isn’t facilitating or participating in circles, she enjoys writing, singing, and dancing in the grocery store aisles in Silver Spring, MD. 

Avery Beck

Lead Trainer

Avery is a life coach who deeply believes in transformation through self expression and showing up authentically in relationships.

He has been practicing authentic relating for over five years. From attending NVC and communication workshops, to contact dance, and being a part of many different community organizations, he has developed and refined these interpersonal skills and brought them into his everyday relationships.

Between improv, music, and circus, Avery has always loved to share his passion for life with others both on and off the stage. Avery has been developing his skills in facilitating for over the last 5 years with a variety of workshops from improv, men’s circles, goal setting, resilient play, and more. He is committed to embodying a deep compassionate presence, and creating spaces for others to step into their own power.

Fei Wyatt

Lead Trainer

On a mission to bring people closer, Fei has dedicated her life and work to learning and teaching about connection. Authenticity, vulnerability, non-judgment, and ownership are some of Fei’s core values that she brings to this practice. Her primary work as a cuddle therapist and intimacy coach has been deeply enriched by circling (and vice versa). Fei brings her appetite for relational exploration to her work with individuals, groups & professionals, helping them deepen their relationship with themselves and others. You’ll find her facilitating connection everywhere she goes, but most particularly in Los Angeles, CA where she is based.

Caroline Johnson

Lead Trainer

Caroline Johnson is a graduate of The Circling Institute’s Art of Circling training with Guy Sengstock.  She also completed Authentic Leadership Facilitator Training with Sara Ness and brings skills in group process and facilitation, counseling and NVC (Nonviolent Communication).

Caroline is passionate about awareness and intention, curiosity and leading from the core self.

When Caroline isn’t facilitating Authentic Relating Games or Circling, she is probably traveling!  She holds an MS in Rehabilitation Counseling with a particular interest in Internal Family Systems.

Damian Gallagher

Lead Trainer

Damian Gallagher has a passion for people and exploring what is available in every moment. He loves the simplicity of living a life in connection with self and others. Damian considers one of his greatest relational strengths to be revealing his inner world when he’s feeling awkward or vulnerable (and he feels awkward writing this Bio). He thrives when working with others and enjoys facilitating Circling, AR games and Relational work. Damian also facilitates one on one Personal growth and Transformational work, as well as Men’s work exploring accountability, shadow, and presence. He finds pleasure in movement and embodiment and also delights in finding moments of slowness and stillness. Damian lives in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife and son.

Indigo Dawn

Trainer

Indigo Dawn (They/Them) is an impact-oriented love activist, who lives and works to cultivate a more abundant, humane, sustainable world.  They coach clients; offer touch therapy; and create events, workshops, and communities that change lives.  As the Program Director for Center for New Culture, Indigo spreads skills and mind-sets that support joyful relationships and communities– including open communication, emotional intelligence, radical compassion, and healthy boundaries. They co-create an intentional community at Allegheny Crest Intentional Village; and within the DC metro region.

Rachel Rohlman

Trainer

Rachel’s love affair with communication and relational dynamics started when she was 23, as she began her recovery from social alcoholism. At 28, she discovered Circling and Authentic Relating – and it changed her life dramatically. After founding several startups, she now operates as a success coach for lawyers and dreams of bringing Circling to the working world.

Cat Gelinas

Trainer

Cat Gelinas is a Development Coach, Teacher, and the Co-Founder of the Yugen Institute. She’s a professional nerd of the art & science of being human and teaches people how to create lives they love.

Since 2005, she has trained in consciousness development, shadow work, ancestral healing, relational skills, leadership, and more. She has coached and taught others on their journey to explore what it is to be a human, to expand capacities, & work with their humanity.

Her delight in life is to meet people where they are and, with welcoming and compassionate curiosity, bring to light what people are needing and support them in their evolution towards aliveness.

Zoe Benjamin

Facilitator

Zoe is committed to supporting individual transformation through bodywork, nutrition, therapeutic exercise, and self-care. Zoe got an early start in the field at age nine through Jin Shin Jyutsu, an energy healing modality. Through her own journey, Zoe discovered the power of nutritional choices and continues to be motivated with the understanding that what you put in your body has the ability to transform your quality of life. 

Zoe Benjamin received her formal training at the Florida School of Massage and has most recently been studying Muscular Therapy, Orthopedic Massage, and Active Isolated Stretching with Dr. Ben E. Benjamin (who just so happens to be her father).  Zoe welcomes individuals seeking treatment of specific injuries, as well as those focused on relaxation and self-care maintenance.

Cameron Grayson

Facilitator

Cameron Grayson was living at the Omega institute when she was introduced to Authentic Relating. These practices were so impactful for her because they served as a grounded way to deepen all of her connections within the community. These tools completely shifted her relationship with herself and the world around her. She quickly realized how perfectly AR and Circling intertwined with other tools she practiced such as Internal Family Systems, Life Coaching, and Conscious Communication. When she moved back in with her parents she joined the online platform as a participant. Having a daily reminder of pure connection supported her in moving through relationships that felt disconnected. Her practice on COnnect started to shift those disconnected relationships with her family to feel more open, grounded, and clear. Seeing this impact, she signed up for the ALT where she learned what it meant to truly feel like herself. She now uses Authentic Relating and circling in her work as a container to help facilitate meaningful connection and develop a deeper understanding of self. Having an accessible way to impact the world through facilitating on COnnect supports her passion of being in deep connection with others while witnessing the present moment unfold.

Lila Low-Beinart

Facilitator

Through a life-time of self-exploration, Lila Low-Beinart has cultivated deep presence, wisdom, and compassion. From this spring-board, she creates spaces where people can be their full selves, from profound joy to deep grief to resonant stillness… and everything in between. She has been exploring meditation and relational practices for over five years, and is currently training as a Buddhist and Contemplative Psychotherapist.

Lila has followed a beautifully winding life-path, from working as a chemist for 7 years, to living and practicing at Buddhist Retreat Centers. As someone who identifies as neuroqueer, she is passionate about social justice, and wants to play her part in creating a world where everyone can be their authentic, vulnerable selves. She lives by the motto: First, do no harm.

When not facilitating events, Lila can be found meditating, playing music, doing homework, connecting deeply with friends, or cuddling up with her cats Teddy and Buttercup.

Kyla Sokoll-Ward

Facilitator

Kyla Sokoll-Ward is a speaker, facilitator, and professional community builder who speaks about loneliness in the millennial generation and how millennials can use their emotional experiences as tools for connection. She has shared her message internationally, on multiple TEDx stages, and has facilitated millennial-focused programming around the world for thousands of young adults. Through keynotes, workshops, and 1:1 mentorship, she aims to disrupt the status quo of connection and challenge others to connect more intentionally, vulnerably, and empathically with those around them in order to build more effective communities for young adults. She’s a firm believer that we’re only one good question away from connecting with the entire world.

Laurie King

Facilitator

I’m Laurie. An experienced space holder originating from the UK, I have a deep passion for bringing people together in safe, warm, supportive environments. I recognise how fundamental connection is to contentment and well being. Since August 2019, I have been on a mission to make Authentic Relating more accessible through facilitating workshops and retreats in urban spaces, rural communities and festivals around the world.

Svetlana Lilova

Facilitator

Svetlana Lilova discovered Authentic Relating in late 2016 and soon became awed by its power to cultivate authenticity, freedom, and genuine connection. In 2018 she began to more intentionally pursue AR and circling, and has since facilitated and hosted events with AR Toronto, trained and co-facilitated with ART International (Level 1) and Realness Project, and is currently facilitating on the Connection Institute Platform.

Svetlana is passionate about art and all things human, including fostering, for herself and others, awareness, aliveness, creativity, space of self, an inner life, surrender, and vulnerability – the currency of connection.

Svetlana is also a writer, a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice, and runs private groups in Toronto, Canada.

Paul Falk

Facilitator

Relational & Transformational Life Coach w/ Explore & Align

Paul feels most inspired when he is taking part in heartfelt connections, collaborating with others on an idea or vision, trading insights from our psycho-spiritual journeys, dancing to soulful funky music, or communing with pine trees and mountains when the weather is warm.

With a background in Engineering and Sciences, he brings his recognition of patterns, mechanisms, and systems to the realms of consciousness, emotionality, and relationships; intent to help contribute to greater presence, choicefulness, and satisfaction in the world.

Whitney Allen

Facilitator

Whitney Allen is a Transformational and Relational Coach who discovered Authentic Relating and Circling in Boulder, CO.  She has recently traveled through her own Dark Night of the Soul, unleashing an aliveness and freedom she had never imagined possible and inspiring others to do the same.

She is currently writing a book about how Authentic Relating changed her deeply, transformed and saved her relationship, and simultaneously, dissolved her 20-year marriage in a caring, courageous way.

She lives in Golden, is bilingual in Spanish, passionate about traveling, reads voraciously as a self-proclaimed personal growth junkie, dedicates herself to a daily chi-gong practice and is the mother of two amazing, open, aware teenagers.

Whitney is most excited about leveraging AR skills with students.  She has facilitated leadership programs with international teams as well as marketing and event planning in Latin America for both for-profit and nonprofit entities.

Brandi Dawson

Facilitator

Brandi has enjoyed expanding her extensive inner meditation work to the world of Authentic Relating and Circling. What drives her is to think creatively about fusing together these practices as well as combining Circling with other practices. Brandi has a constant appetite for learning. She has evolved from Circling trainings and courses with The Circling Institute, Authentic Revolution, and The Connection Institute. Some other multi-week courses that she’s completed and have further informed her practice are courses in Non-Violent Communication, Mindful Self Compassion, and Attachment Theory. Brandi also regularly facilitates Circles for the Authentic Relating community in Portland, OR.

Oren Shefer

Facilitator

Oren is passionate about helping people restore inner faith, be courageously vulnerable, connect deeply, and embody their desires, creativity, and joy.  He has trained in bodywork, Tantric counseling, the Completion Process, and facilitation. His process and facilitation work can be found at https://awakenedheart.space.

A.J. Bond

Facilitator

A.J. Bond is a Toronto-based writer, filmmaker, and shame educator currently completing his certification with the Center for Healing Shame in Berkeley.

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