FARGO — Executive Director Jann Johnson says personal empowerment training provided by Upstream Growth Consultants has had "life-changing" effects on addicts seeking assistance from the Lost and Found Recovery Center in Moorhead.
"It's based on emotional intelligence, so it helps them learn how to cope with emotions, how to handle them in communication and conflict, with whatever issues that may come up," Johnson said. "They liked the first class and got so much out of it, we've now added an advance class for men and women."
Laura Viozzi and her fiance, Troy White, founded Upstream Growth Consultants about a year ago in the Regional Small Business Center at 417 Main Ave. in Fargo. The couple teaches 44 different concepts of transformative empowerment based on their combined personal, professional and volunteer training and experiences. Viozzi explained that each concept builds on the one before it, giving clients a broader idea and understanding of themselves and others.
"It's conflict management. It's empathy and compassion. Self-esteem," Viozzi said. "It's hard to explain a platform or curriculum, but it's very much about understanding yourself. Then you skip to how do you control yourself; then it’s understanding others and managing yourself and others in a relationship."
"It has less to do with the world around you and more about how you interpret it," White added. "We help people understand what is in their control and how we give control away all the time."
Viozzi and White were introduced to personal empowerment training through previous employers. They were both motivated to share what they learned with others.
As a former practicing attorney from Pennsylvania, Viozzi saw its potential for divorce mediation. Upstream requires couples to learn the basics of personal empowerment as part of the transformative mediation process.
The goal is to help couples peacefully navigate their divorce, avoiding drawn-out and costly battles over assets and child custody.
Upstream gets referrals from several local attorneys as well as counselors of couples who have decided they've done all they can to repair their marriage and are now seeking a divorce.
They work with couples to arrive at an agreement which is then taken to their attorney. Viozzi explained that working out the agreement with a mediator can save the couple a great deal of money.
"What can drive up all the billable hours with an attorney costs a whole lot less doing it this way, and you get the added benefit of having a better relationship at the end," she said.
Businesses and nonprofits
While personal empowerment begins with improving the lives of individuals, its benefits are found in the workplace and wider community.
White, a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, had a successful career as owner of a local advertising agency, but he sold the business in order to pursue something that offered more personal satisfaction. A survivor of domestic abuse, White began volunteering with law enforcement and nonprofits such as Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota. One day he realized he wanted to do more than share his story, so he began teaching personal empowerment courses.
When asked what makes transformative mediation and empowerment different from counseling, the couple said they hope to focus on prevention.
White explained that there are three pools of people:
There is the crisis pool, which includes those who have a problem with substance abuse or may be in an abusive situation. Law enforcement and most nonprofits are focused on addressing that crisis.
There is also the post-crisis pool. White said not a lot of resources are devoted to people in this pool, so a lot of them wind up back in crisis again.
While UPSTREAM works with both crisis and post-crisis pools, they also have an interest in the people who fall into the prevention pool.
"Imagine being able to truly prevent domestic violence, suicide, addiction and all these things that lead to crisis," White said. "If we can teach children and people within an organization — whether it's a business or a school or nonprofit — that's going to help prevent crisis. The crisis pool will actually go down. It's really about education and people learning to think differently."
White hopes to do more work with businesses in the future. He said empowerment training can help with conflict resolution, productivity and job satisfaction.
He said there are often good employees who lack necessary people skills or maybe don't fit well with the overall company culture. Rather that letting that employee go, White says working with the employee on empowerment will save the business money.
"By the time you start hiring new employees, the cost is not small," White said. "Rather than doing that, we offer an employee enrichment program where we get them together and have them go through this process. It will save thousands and thousands of dollars in hiring. There is also a benefit to our community because you won't have someone going unemployed."
According to Viozzi and White, their work is about "empowering the individual to grow the whole."