Connecting Dots


The Frank Ridge Memorial Foundation, Inc. (a 501(c)3 non-profit) is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education credits (CEs) for all  NY licensed social workers (SWs), mental health counselors (MHCs), marriage & family therapists (MFTs), psychoanalysts (LPs) and creative arts therapists (CATs).  All seminars hosted by the Frank Ridge Memorial Foundation, Inc. are wheelchair accessible.  Our seminars can be commissioned by outside agencies. Private, live-in-person study groups can be arranged – especially if you’ve missed a regularly scheduled seminar. Contact us to discuss the possibilities at:

[Note: To register for seminars currently OPEN FOR REGISTRATION, go to our “Register for Events & Seminars” button in blue on the right hand side of the Home Page.]   

Below is a listing of our approved seminar topics.  Press on the title of each for description content. Please note that these topics are incorporated into our seminar offers throughout the year – many of which are included in our CONNECTING DOTS series. For dates, descriptions and registration for upcoming seminars visit our “Register for Events & Seminars” button. Questions, contact us at:

  1. An Overview of Mental Health.
  2. Trauma & Stressor Related Disorders (includes posttraumatic-stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder).  
  3. Autism as a Second Language.  About autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
  4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD).
  5. Typical vs. Atypical Neurodevelopment. 
  6. Bipolar, Depression & Psychotic Disorders
  7. Anxiety, Phobias and Obsessive-compulsive disorders.
  8. Disruptive Behavior Disorders.
  9. Addictive Disorders (about substance use and addictive disorders).
  10. Suicide for Survivors.  Recovering from loss and celebrating the lives of loved ones.
  11. Non-suicidal self injury and eating disorders
  12. Are you sleeping well? About sleep-wake disorders.
  13. The Aging Brain. About neurocognitive disorders.
  14. Welcome to DSM-5!  This 3 – 4 hour seminar can be scheduled as a private study group for 4 – 6 people.  Contact us to schedule a session at:

ADDITIONAL subjects:

 1. An Overview of Mental Health as seen through 4 Generations

It’s complicated. It only takes a moment to make a false or potentially fatal step. It takes a lifetime to understand and manage a chronic mental health condition. Ascertaining precise statistics of the number of individuals who live with mental illness is difficult.  However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that “at least 1 in 4 of us will be impacted by a mental health condition significantly enough within our lifetimes to impair our ability to work, attend school and/or manage self care.”

The focus of this seminar is not on individual mental health conditions (they are covered in later seminars), but rather on the impact those issues have on our lives and the lives of those around us. Learning objectives are to:

  • Improve understanding of what various mental health disorders feel like from the inside and how they appear to their caregivers, health care providers and neighbors.
  • Facilitate early detection through recognition of warning signs, symptoms and behaviors.
  • Discuss viable, effective, current treatment options, including healthy life style choices.
  • Entertain strategies to build supports and overcome barriers to compassionate, connected care.

[As per the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) “Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5,” mental illnesses include: bipolar, depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety, learning disabilities, autism spectrum, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dementias (including Alzheimer’s), eating disorders (e.g. anorexia and bulimia), sleep-wake disorders, substance use and addictive disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder.]

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2. Trauma & Stressor Related Disorders.  

When in danger it is natural to feel afraid. Fear triggers changes to the body and brain to prepare and defend against the danger. This ‘fight or flight’ response is normal and designed to protect.  Most people will be exposed to a traumatic event at some time within their lives.  Few will go on to develop posttraumatic-stress disorder (PTSD).  In trauma and stressor related disorders, this protection mechanism malfunctions. People experiencing a severe trauma response feel distressed and frightened when there is no longer any danger.

Disrupted or highly stressful environments (e.g. war, extreme poverty or hardship, domestic violence, volatile custodial battles, sexual and physical abuse/assault, neglect, abandonment, multiple caregivers, numerous losses, natural disaster, disease) pose extreme challenges for anyone. Some individuals are born with or have cultivated resiliency and inner strength.  They may persevere during great adversity and triumph. Most people need some assistance to cope with traumatic events. They may display challenging behaviors and heightened emotional responses. Early and sensitive intervention makes all the difference.

This seminar focuses on understanding:

  • How trauma manifests in behaviors.
  • How these behaviors can be confused with other mental health issues (e.g. oppositional defiant, attention deficits, bipolar, depression or psychotic disorders).
  • How trauma may impact on a young child’s brain development.
  • How stressful environments can disrupt a child’s ability to bond.
  • Ways to restore safe and trusting bonds with caregivers and loved ones.

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3. Autism as a Second Language (about autism spectrum disorders).

According to the latest statistics from the CDC one in 59 children in the United States are born with autism. One in 44 boys will be born with autism.  Children with autism range from mild to severe.  A child with autism processes information (e.g. seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, sensing) differently than a child without autism.  For an autistic individual these differences include:

  • Ongoing deficits in social communication and interaction, as shown by challenges in recognizing or understanding facial expressions, social cues, and verbal intonations.
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, like: rocking or swaying; unusual use of objects or speech (e.g. lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia); inflexible adherence to routines; highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g. strong preoccupation with unusual objects like vacuum cleaners, subway maps, legos, dinosaurs, prime numbers).
  • Symptoms must be present in early developmental period, (0-3), but may not be noticed until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life.

The learning objectives of this seminar are to:

  • Understand how an autistic person absorbs the world.
  • Help distinguish between normal childhood behaviors and autism.
  • Provide current, accurate research findings.
  • Suggest effective intervention strategies, which include: therapeutic and behavioral strategies, as well as approved medications.

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4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

AD/HD is considered one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders (a group of conditions with onset in early childhood).  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Approximately 11% of American children between the ages of 4-17 (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with AD/HD.
  • Boys are nearly three times more likely than girls to have been diagnosed.
  • The average age of diagnosis was 7 years.

Missed or incorrect diagnoses of AD/HD abound.  This seminar will help participants:

  • Learn to distinguish between behaviors associated with trauma and stressor related issues and AD/HD.
  • Know what to expect from medications.
  • Understand how to balance medication treatment with supportive therapies.

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5. Typical vs. Atypical Neurodevelopment. How do young brains process information?

Neurodevelopmental disorders are a group of conditions with onset in early childhood, typically before a child enters grade school (e.g. learning and intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome).  They are characterized by developmental delays and/or deficits that impair personal, social, academic, and/or occupational functioning.  Participants will learn about normal early childhood brain development versus brains that process information differently.  Available services and how to access them will be addressed.  Regardless of the severity of the impairment, with connected care improved functioning is always possible.

The learning objectives of this seminar are to:

  • Contrast typical early childhood brain development with atypical development.
  • Increase awareness of available services.
  • Discuss access to effective treatment and services.

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6. Bipolar, Depression & Psychotic Disorders.

What are bipolar, depression and psychotic disorders?  How do they affect the way an individual perceives and negotiates the world?  What’s difficult, challenging, and/or exciting about having one of these conditions?  How can they be managed?  How can care-givers help?

Mood swings are a natural part of adolescence.  Everyone has good and bad days.  Everyone experiences sadness, loneliness and grief from time to time.  These are normal human emotions.  It is not uncommon to imagine danger in the shadows or people talking behind your back.  Depression, bipolar and psychosis are different.  Due to over-production, under-production or poorly processing of certain brain chemicals, thoughts, feelings and behaviors are affected, distorted, and/or changed.  Time itself may not move in a linear ordered fashion.  An individual in the throes of a depressive, manic or psychotic episode may want very much to control their behaviors and thoughts, to stop themselves from losing their grip–but these conditions interfere with that ability.  Some sufferers are entirely unaware that their thoughts and behaviors are altered or that their ‘reality’ differs from the reality around them.

This seminar helps participants understand:

  • What each of these disorders looks and feels like.
  • What early warning signs look like.
  • How they might impact day-to-day functioning.
  • How they affect those around them.
  • How to care positively for loved ones living with depression, bipolar and psychotic disorders.

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7. Anxiety, Phobias and Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting approximately 40 million adults age 18 and older (18%).  An estimated one in eight children and adolescents (more than 12%) suffer.  People with anxiety disorders are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association’s findings show that anxiety is sometimes the first warning sign of substance use or other mental health issues.  Because phobias and OCD often go hand-in-hand with depression, the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts for untreated phobias and/or OCD averages between 25-60%.  Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.  Fortunately these disorders are highly treatable and entirely curable.  However, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.  This seminar explores:

  • The various different anxiety disorders and their underpinnings.
  • The dangers of untreated anxieties, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
  • Treatment strategies.
  • The pros and cons of medication.

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8. Disruptive Behavior Disorders. (includes oppositional defiant, conduct disorders and anti-social behavior disorder, sociopathy and psychopathy)

Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) are conditions involving problems in the self-control of emotions and behavior.  They are unique in that these problems bring the individual into significant conflict with societal norms or authority figures and/or are manifested in acts that violate the rights of others. These behaviors are typified by callous disregard for authority and directives, are willful and at times destructive, and are usually triggered by serious life stressors. They can be extreme and impact negatively on social, educational, occupational or other important areas of life functioning.  They are not a two year old throwing a tantrum, or a stressed out teenager screaming at the top of her lungs when you ask her to clean up her room. Tantrums are normal for two year olds. Being contrary is common for teens.

Missed, misdiagnosed or untreated DBDs may go away as an adolescent brain naturally matures.  More often, they become worse and can lead to serious adult anti-social personality behavior disorders and/or criminal behaviors.  Treatment for disruptive behaviors focus on the issues that are at the root of the behaviors, which include: insecure childhood attachments, trauma, and stressful or toxic environmental elements.  This seminar focuses on why these behavioral problems emerge, how to prevent them from escalating, and effective resolutions.

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9. Addictive Disorders. About substance use and addictive disorders.

Drugs, alcohol, rigorous physical activity, caffeine, nicotine, various medications, orgasm, thrill-seeking behaviors and aging all alter brain chemistry.  Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse says, “Addiction affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior.  That is why addiction is a brain disease.  Some individuals are more vulnerable than others to becoming addicted, depending on the interplay between genetic makeup, age when exposed to drugs, and other environmental influences.  While a person initially chooses to take drugs, over time the effects of prolonged exposure on brain functioning compromise that ability to choose.  Seeking and consuming the drug become compulsive, often eluding a person’s self-control or willpower.”

Substance use and addictions alter brain chemistry in ways that can make recovery much more difficult than “just stopping” or “saying ‘no’.”  Recovery can be a messy, imperfect lifelong process, fraught with relapse and requiring loving support and competent medical care.  Addicts can and do recover — some on their own, others with the help of effective behavioral and medical treatment.  But, because addiction has so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is complex.

The DSM-5 substance-related and addictive disorders encompass 10 separate classes of drugs: alcohol; caffeine; cannabis; hallucinogens (with separate categories for phencyclidine and other hallucinogens); inhalants; opioids; sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics; stimulants (amphetamine-type substances, cocaine, and other stimulants); tobacco; and other (or unknown) substances. In addition to the substance-related disorders, this chapter also includes gambling disorder, reflecting evidence that gambling behaviors activate reward systems similar to those activated by drugs of abuse and produce some behavioral symptoms that appear comparable to those produced by the substance use disorders.

This seminar’s learning objectives are to:

  • Assist participants in understanding how substance use and addictions change a brain.
  • Recognize the difference between casual behaviors and addictions, and be alerted to potential dangers ahead.
  • Be cognizant of early warning signs.
  • Realize the impact addiction has on family members and loved ones.
  • Find helpful, compassionate, effective treatment options for those afflicted with substance use and addictive disorders.

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10. Suicide for Survivors.

Suicide, by definition, is a fatal disorder.  Each year we lose nearly 50,000 Americans to suicide.  (By contrast, 500,000 die from smoking cigarettes.) According to a recent federal data analysis, this rate has surged to a 30 year high.  the rise was particularly steep for women. For every loss to suicide, at least 6 survivors experience major life disruption. 

The truth is that about 90% of suicidal people communicate their intent within a week of their attempt, either through direct communication or behaviorally. Informed, compassionate, understanding caregivers can save lives.  The focus of this seminar is on the impact suicide has on survivors, understanding and healing.  It features an unconventional movie that celebrates the lives of loved ones lost to suicide and invites conversation from suicide survivors.

The objectives of this seminar are to:

  • Open the dialogue about suicide through film and conversation.
  • Celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide.
  • Assist survivors in processing loss by suicide through dance, comedy, music and more.
  • Discuss recovering from the loss of a loved one to suicide.

[note:  specific information and treatment modalities for depression and other mental health concerns are addressed in seminars specific to those topics.]

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11.  Non-Suicidal Self Injury and Eating Disorders.  Cutting, biting, carving, starving, burning, ripping skin, breaking bones and swallowing toxic substances are examples of non-suicidal self injurious behaviors.  Though people who engage in these behaviors do not intend to take their lives, risk of accidental death is high.  Untreated behaviors pose a serious threat to one’s safety.

Anorexia is the deadliest of all psychiatric disorders, killing up to 20% of chronic sufferers.  Starvation, binge eating and purging all damage the heart and gastrointestinal systems.  Erratic eating can cause hormone imbalances that can lead to osteoporosis.  Repeated vomiting and malnutrition damage teeth.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.  Approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of our children and adolescents aged 2 – 19 are obese.  Obesity related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer — some of the leading causes of preventable death.  According to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents, topping drug abuse and smoking.

This seminar explores:

  • Why individuals develop self injurious behaviors and eating disorders and the underlying self-esteem issues that frequently prompt these behaviors.
  • The warning signs we might see.
  • Treatment strategies to improve self image and healthy life style choices.

Treatment for non-suicidal self injurious behaviors and eating disorders is difficult and ongoing, not unlike treatment for addictive disorders.  However, with supportive treatment, non-suicidal self injurious behaviors and eating disorders are entirely curable.

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12.  Are you sleeping well?  About sleep-wake disorders.

Are you sleeping well?  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.  An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.  Sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, poor quality of life and well-being, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity.  Sleep problems are critically under-addressed contributors to some chronic conditions, including obesity and depression. In 2013, the National Department of Transportation estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.

Sleep disorders in children and adolescents are common.  Even infants have sleep disorders.  CDC studies have shown that poor sleep quality and/or quantity in children are associated with a host of problems including academic, behavioral, developmental and social difficulties, weight abnormalities, and other health problems.  Not only do pediatric sleep problems affect child health, but they can impact family dynamics and parental or sibling sleep.

This seminar will:

  • Alert participants to dangers and symptoms associated with sleep disorders.
  • Assist in understanding the various sleep disorders and their causes.
  • Pave the path to better sleep.

Though sleep-wake disorders may be chronic and difficult to address, they are completely treatable and curable.

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13.  The Aging Brain.  About neurocognitive disorders.

As per DSM-5, neurocognitive disorders (NCD) include: dementia, delirium, Alzheimer’s and NCDs due to Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s, HIV infection, substance/medication-induced, Huntington’s disease, traumatic brain injury and more.  The underlying diseases have been the subject of extensive research and clinical study.  NCDs are broken down by ‘domains’ – complex attention, executive function, social cognition and more (from mild to major) – to inform assessments and treatment.

Participants will explore:

  • The etiology and sources of a variety of NCDs.
  • How to recognize early warning signs and onset of NCDs.
  • Current treatment modalities for NCDs.
  • Protective and preventive factors to improve prognosis of NCDs.
  • Hopes for future treatments.

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14.  Welcome to DSM-5!

Part I of this seminar provides participants with an overview and rationale of the most significant changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5. These changes include:

• Comprehensive structural changes.
• Details of eliminated, combined and new disorders.
• Explanation of the elimination of the multiaxial and GAF systems.
• Explanation of change from the use of NOS to ‘Specified’ or ‘Unspecified.’ • Sections at a Glance.
• Controversies surrounding the changes.

Part II is a discussion of the updates to diagnoses found in DSM-5, highlighting new categories. For purposes of clarity and discussion, “Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5” have been reproduced and referenced in their entirety as they appear in DSM-5.

The learning objectives for this seminar are to:

  • Understand the purpose and relevance of DSM-5 diagnosis.
  • Apply diagnostic criteria to practice for the benefit of clients and diagnosticians.
  • Become aware of relevant updates and changes made to diagnostic criteria, includingthose pertaining to correct coding for insurance claims purposes.

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Child Sexual Abuse. 

It is estimated that more than one in three people in America are sexually abused before the age of 18.  Fortunately, the majority of those who are abused do not grow up to become perpetrators.  However, most abusers were molested as children.  How do you know if your child has been sexually abused or is at risk?  How can you help him or her?

This seminar’s learning objectives are to help participants:

  • Distinguish between expected sexual development and behaviors and symptoms demonstrated by the sexually abused child.
  • Recognize who is at risk and why perpetrators abuse.
  • Learn how to help the sexually abused child.

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Climate Change & it’s impact on our mental health.

The world is heating up.  The impact is far-reaching, affecting our environmental health, world resources, planetary balance, physical health and mental well being.  In this seminar we watch a powerful movie about climate change and discuss:

  • The far-reaching impacts of global warming.
  • The immediate implications for our clients and ourselves.
  • What we can pro-actively do to affect change.

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Psychopharm: uses and abuses (about psychotropic medication and safe medication administration).

New medications for the treatment of mental health issues are researched every day.  Many medications may be used to treat more than one illness.  Regardless of the efficacy of any medication, every individual is unique and medications perform differently from person to person.  The treatment of mental health conditions is not an absolute science and can be confusing.  Understanding why and how medications work, as well as what brain chemistry is implicated from diagnosis to diagnosis, informs care.  In this seminar participants will learn:

  • Which medications are effective in treatment of various mental health issues.
  • Tips for safe medication administration and improved medication compliance.
  • Healthy alternative non-medication treatment options.

Note: Only an M.D. psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist can prescribe medication in NY State. Mental health providers should be knowledgeable about medications, it’s importance and it’s uses.  However, it is prohibited by the NY State Education Department for any non-M.D. practitioner to recommend medications or dosages.  Violators are subject to loss of license.

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Time & Relaxation Management.

What thoughts and activities relax you the most?  How often do you think or do them (hourly, daily, weekly, yearly)?  On a scale of 0 – 10 (0 = low, 10 = high) what or who stresses you above a seven?  When was the last time you took a stress-free vacation to a place where you could not access your cell phone or read an email?

Through highly interactive exercises participants will:

  • Learn how to manage time in a manner that parallels the way we manage a budget.
  • Practice ‘Stress busters’ that can be utilized any time, any place.
  • Plan a ‘relax-to-the-max’ vacation within the coming year.

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Cultural Sensitivity.

We are all unique.  Even two people raised under the same roof, with the same parents, traditions and religious teachings have their own ways of perceiving the world.  Everyone has biases.  Maybe just like ones like “this man is so rude he won’t stand to give me his seat, even when he can clearly see I’m falling under the weight of my bags” or “who let her out of the house dressed in those clothes?”; to bigger biases, like how we feel about gun control or the death penalty.

The objectives of this training are to help participants:

  • Explore their personal biases in a safe, non-judgmental manner.
  • Examine how our biases might impact on others.
  • Discuss how to be sensitive, accepting and aware of differences in a culturally competent manner.

This seminar includes an assessment on how to make the workplace a more culturally diverse and sensitive environment and provides a copy of the NASW Code of Ethics guidelines to cultural sensitivity.

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Julie Ridge swam the English Channel in 1982 less than one year after performing nightly on Broadway. She was a casual mile-a-day lap swimmer in a Manhattan city swimming pool. Her adventure in training, research, support systems and eventual English Channel crossing is a story of dedication, learning and love. In this unique one-woman performance Ridge tells the tale of her swim and charts her zig-zag trek across the murky channel seas.  In 1991, Ridge learned that she’d been dashing through life blissfully living with undetected bipolar disorder.  Weaving the two stories together, she illustrates her personal journey.

In 1983, Ridge became the first person ever to swim two consecutive laps around Manhattan Island (earning her a spot in the record books and a guest appearance on the David Letterman Show), completed the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in ’84, swam into the Guinness Book World Records by swimming one 28.5 mile lap around Manhattan Island each day for five consecutive days in ’85, and 1990 bicycled across America with her father when he was 67 years old. Today Ridge is a foster and adoptive parent, facilitator of learning seminars, therapist and proud Founder & President of the Frank Ridge Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to living well with mental health conditions through awareness and understanding.

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