From Tamsen B. of Denver, Colorado

When I met Pat, I was a fifteen-year-old unwed mother. My own mother had committed suicide shortly before, three days after Christmas, when I was eight months pregnant and fourteen-years-old. Pat was a substitute for another visiting nurse who as going to dismiss my case. Instead, Pat decided to stick with me — I honestly don’t know why — I was angry, hostile, depressed, unfriendly, moody and volatile.

For most of my life to that point, virtually everything I did was in reaction to something else. I felt that everything was my fault and at the same time, everything that happened in my life was because of things other people had done to me. I thought I had “victim” stamped on my forehead. I lashed out at everyone, especially those who were trying to help me. I was constantly beating myself up for things I had done or said. Why? Why did I do that?! And yet it kept happening over and over. I was raised in a very reactive family, in an environment where there was constant pain, violence, fear, unhappiness, and anger. I never learned any other way, and I might not ever have, if it hadn’t been for Pat.

While she had not yet developed the Ten Wise Ways or the BrainWise program, she served as a very strong example to me, simply by being who she was. I rarely stopped to think. I had never heard of the “lizard brain,” but I sure was good at using it. Wizard brain? That was beyond me at that point – or I would have thought so. Pat taught me how to calm down and think about what was happening. She helped me to see that I had alternatives to my problems and the way I chose to react to those problems.

I reconnected with Pat a few years later when I called her at Christmas time. She was in graduate school and I was on my own, raising my son. We met for lunch, and over the next three decades, continued to meet every few years when I called her. Several years ago, Pat gave me a copy of How to Be BrainWise. When I first read it, I had a number of Aha moments. Most of them were moments of recognition – that, yes, I had learned how to use most of these ten “simple” tools. I haven’t mastered them, by any means, but I am on my way. I have built many pathways from that lizard brain to the wizard brain, by putting into practice most of the ten wise ways for making smart choices. One of the things Pat says in the preface is “Walls of oppression and resistance may be of our own doing, or they may be built by others.” When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter where the walls came from – only that we be able to think our way over, under, through, or past them.

Because of Pat, and other key people in my life, I finally had a constellation of support and some good role models, whose positive behavior I could emulate. With their help, encouragement, and example, I was able to educate myself, go to college, and raise a wonderful, responsible, loving son. Despite chronic problems with depression and bipolar illness, I have managed to always (well, almost always) see that I had more choices than I thought. I regularly self-talk and one of my favorite quotes that I use when I feel stuck is, “There are always more options than you think – always.”



Dr. Gary Swanson, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Wesley Spectrum Highland Services, Pittsburgh, PA

“The BrainWise Program appealed to me because of the power of its explanatory model.I think it is considerably easier for children, parents and staff to understand that the behavioral and emotional problems that we see are not due to ‘chemical imbalances’ or ‘ADHD’ but rather, are the result of developmental connection problems that can be addressed through both therapy and medications.”

Mary Steiner, R.N., B.S.N, El Paso County Public Health, Colorado Springs, CO.

“As manager of a program called Strong and Healthy Families, a nurse home visitation program that includes a workforce development element, we incorporated BrainWise in the program’s orientation session.The results have been astounding.I have witnessed firsthand the ways in which clients have used skills used in BrainWise to avoid conflicts with other clients.These problem solving skills are not only reinforced in the classroom setting, but also in the home setting when the client’s nurse home visitor meets with them.”

Dr. Richard Hattwick, General Coordinator, Rotary International Literacy Resource Group, 2008-2009, on the occasion of the Los Angeles Rotary International Convention

The Rotary International Literacy Resource Group has identified character literacy as high priority area for club literacy projects. BrainWise is an outstanding program which clubs should consider adopting as a character literacy project.”

” For decades Rotary clubs have promoted character-building through the sponsorship of Four-Way Test projects. BrainWise represents an obvious next step for clubs committed to character building. BrainWise addresses the problems created when children or adults have poor decision-making abilities. It addresses the problems that occur when a child or adult can’t manage dangerous but common emotions. In short, BrainWise addresses the psychological problems that lead to children at risk and adults in prison. Whether we’re talking about learning to think through the consequences of an action or managing dangerous emotions, BrainWise is a tool that works. The underlying psychological principles are state-of-the-art concepts. But the developers of BrainWise have managed to teach those concepts in such a simple way that children as well as adults can master the material.”

Dell Brooks, master BrainWise instructor and award winning teacher, Denver, CO

“BrainWise gives me tools to teach young people about the brain, helping them learn skills to stop and take responsibility for their behaviors.The concepts in BrainWise need to be practiced by everyone, and the program’s 10 Wise Ways should become the foundation for teaching and learning critical thinking skills.”

Rebecca Persing, RN, DNP, supervisor of the Jefferson County Public Health Nursing and Human Services Collaboration, Jefferson County Department of Public Health and Environment

“BrainWise Thinking Skills help our nurses provide adults and children with thinking skills and resources to solve problems and function adaptively in family, school, work, and community contexts.”

Tracy Dodd, M.S, Winner of the “2004 Outstanding Teacher award” and Teacher of emotionally disabled children in grades K-5, Denver Public Schools.

“In my 23 years of teaching, I have tried and developed many different types of affective education programs to help decrease my students’ inappropriate behaviors. When I learned of BrainWise, I thought I was being given a magic potion. I feel I have been given a gift. My students’ behaviors have significantly changed since I began using Brain Wise. They now have tools to problem solve and are actually capable of using critical thinking skills! I am even using the program at home with my own kids. It has definitely empowered them.”


The following excerpts are from a letters submitted in support of a grant for BrainWise:

As Colorado’s Attorney General, I had an opportunity to meet with 7th graders and witness the BrainWise program first hand. The BrainWise program has a proven track record of teaching valuable thinking skills. Further, a powerful group of collaborators has joined together to ensure success of this effort. I urge the Department of Education to support the application submitted by Dr. Welsh. Ken Salazar, former United States Senator

As District Governor, I have the opportunity of speaking to 58 clubs and sharing the work of Rotary. In each of my talks, I make it a point to mention the Villa Park program and the remarkable collaborative work BrainWise, the School of Psychological Services at the University of Northern Colorado, and Rotary — all of whom have undertaken to make a difference on cognitive thinking skills–thus in literacy and the graduation rate among the families of Villa Park. – Frank Sargent, M.D., District Governor 5450 of Rotary International

As Director of Interagency Prevention Systems with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, I have had the opportunity to review the positive outcomes of the BrainWise program. The sound methodology for the evaluation components of the project offers an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how such involvement can serve as a booster that produces positive outcomes in children and families. The commitment to offering the program to monolingual Spanish speaking parents is commendable, and is not a common practice in prevention programs.– José Esquibel, CDPHE Director

I spoke with several parents who are participating in the BrainWise/Rotary school and family project and each said that they are grateful to learn the thinking skills and have the opportunity to tell me about how the BrainWise strategies have helped them make better judgments and give clear directions to their children.

– Robert Woodson, Instructional Superintendent, Denver Public Schools

Your introduction of best practices in building critical thinking skills, your goal of using those skills to simultaneously improve reading skills and develop good citizenship, involving families and measuring outcomes with a scientifically acceptable protocol are features we are very interested in following.

– Richard Hattwick, Ph.D., Rotary International Literacy Resource Group


From Nurses trained in BrainWise

“BrainWise remains the primary intervention with our clients and I cannot say enough about its effectiveness and usefulness in helping our clients make healthier choices.”  Armando Reyes, public health nurse, Jefferson County, CO

“BrainWise is an effective and exiting tool!” Becky Gamble

“Thanks for introducing us to BrainWise. What a powerful way to teach our clients about their thinking!” Francine Miye

“The lizard-wizard is already having a meaning and application in my home visits. I know this will make a difference for clients and their families.” Brenda Graves