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The Art of Comforting

(A One-Hour Presentation)

Listening with warmth and acceptance is one the greatest gifts we can give someone. We will explore what it means to be a comforting presence with current research on grief, empathy and social support, and discuss helpful ways to reach out to those in distress. This program will increase our understanding of how to use words of comforting (what to say and what not to say), as well as how to create acts of kindness.

Brave New Friendships: Building Community and a Sense of Belonging

(A One-hour or 90-minute Course)

It takes courage and initiative to break out of a period of isolation and rebuild our support networks. After a serious illness, a period of grieving, or relocating to a new area, we may find it difficult to “get out there,” to be socially confident, outgoing, and open to new relationships. Simply going to a meetup might not feel right, as we may prefer volunteering, a support group, or a class. This program offers guidance for how to explore and tap our wider communities to build friendships, fellowships, and a deeper sense of belonging.


Friendship Studio: Theater Games for Building Community

(A One-hour Workshop)

Theater games, storytelling, speech-making and more. Join our lively improv workshop to act out stories, read out loud our own poems and short stories, make speeches, tell jokes, play with words, and have fun using our imagination. Ideal for people with disabilities and their families. This workshop aims to help people break out of social isolation and build social skills and confidence.


Restoring Our Compassion: Heartening News for Helping Professionals

(A One-hour Presentation) 

Even the most empathic, generous and kindhearted people among us experience compassion fatigue at times. We hear too much disheartening news, and we don’t seem to get enough support. We may feel numb and powerless, and neglect to restore ourselves. In this presentation, we learn from stories of highly inspiring professionals who found ways to restore their compassion in difficult times, and explore what it takes to spark our own. We also get a strong dose of heartening news from recent social science research, thanks to the Greater Good Science Center and other uplifting resources for helping professionals.

Self-Advocacy for People with Disabilities

(A One-hour or 90-minute Course)

As a Human Rights Trainer and Advocate (Department of Developmental Services Certification, Commonwealth of Massachusetts), I provide interactive activities, storytelling/drama and discussion to teach self-advocacy skills for people with intellectual disabilities. I also speak about self-advocacy for groups with people living with cancer and other chronic illnesses.


Comforting Others: What to Say and Do

A Two-hour Workshop for Caregivers and Healthcare Providers

This workshop is ideal for caregivers and professionals supporting people through grief, as well as for those coping with chronic illness, disability or aging. When called to comfort others, we may feel empathy and care deeply, but sometimes what to say or do can elude us. We will explore how to put compassion into action with practical examples of comforting at work and at home. We will review recent research on empathy, grief, and social support, and examine best practices for how to be helpful. We will discuss realistic ways to make commitments with others in need, and how to honestly set boundaries with our availability to help. Finally, we will share our stories of comforting others, or being comforted by others, and learn from each other’s experiences.


Good Connections: Communication Skills Group for People with Developmental and Intellectual  Disabilities


  • Comforting Others: What to Say and Do
  • Building Friendships, Community, and a Sense of Belonging
  • Self-Advocacy for People with Disabilities


Val Walker, MS