Lecture Topics

All lectures include time for questions and answers, and many can also be delivered in an extended workshop format: half-day, full-day, or weekend program. Most include elegant Powerpoint visuals. Dr. Borysenko can tailor a presentation specifically for your group, or you can choose one of those described here.

If you are considering a musician for your venue, Dr. Borysenko works with Karen Drucker whose well known inspirational music is upbeat, inspiring, and one of the most memorable experiences of any program. For more information, visit www.karendrucker.com.

Dr. Borysenko is delighted to work with you to develop a custom presentation ranging from a lecture to a weekend workshop specifically for your group. The following is a sample of some of her most popular topics. These can be varied for professional groups, corporate events, and the general public. Dr. Joan is a talented, engaging speaker who makes every topic exciting, relevant, and authentic. She informs, inspires, and gives tools that change lives- all with her trademark wit, wisdom and easy going style. Your group will remember her presentation for years to come.

Click a topic below to view the description.

The Art and Science of Resilience: From Surviving to Thriving

(Joan has a book of this title)
Health Professional

Resilience is more than the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s a transformative process that reveals our inherent nobility, a rite of passage from pieces to peace. Mythologist Joseph Campbell called this passage The Hero’s Journey. It consists of three parts.

  • Separation: Change disrupts the status quo and plunges us into the unknown.
  • Liminal Time. This is the Unknown, wherein we can either despair and lose hope or- if we’re resilient- discover new strengths.
  • The journey of resilience ends with giving back the wisdom we’ve gained to family, friends, work, community, nation, and the world. Modern psychology and neuroscience have clearly identified the attitudes and practices that support resilience. Both adults and children can learn these skills and help bring one another and our planet through the challenging times we live in.

It’s Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change

General Public and Corporate

The world is in crisis, but you don’t have to be. We all know resilient people who bounce back from hardship and create their best lives. That’s the promise of change. Other people stress out and melt down, losing hope and health. That’s the danger in times of change. The good news is that resilience isn’t a genetic gift for the lucky few. It’s an easily understood skill of transformation that anyone can practice and master.

Resilient people face reality head-on, take action, find deeper meaning in life, laugh often, and are masters of improvisation. A new kind of natural selection is already having its way with us. We’re being prepared to become a whole-brain species and to use the full potential of both right and left brain to recreate the world.

In this workshop, Joan Borysenko, a world-renowned expert on stress, health, and human potential, offers you the tools you need to step into a bold new future that works for us all.

Mindfulness: The Practical Neuroscience of Leadership


Recent research indicates that mindfulness training reduces stress, increases emotional balance, resilience, equanimity, and creativity through stimulation of the left and medial prefrontal cortex (PFC). It brings our Wise Self online. Mindfulness also decreases mental rigidity and enhances relationality, allowing for better decision-making.  The health benefits of mindfulness range from reprogramming the brain and nervous system to reducing inflammation. In this daylong training (also available in shortened format as a lecture or short workshop) the focus will be 3-fold involving theory, practice, and discussion.

The Cutting Edge of Mind-Body Medicine: From Immunology to Neuroscience

Health Professional, Policy Professional/ General Public at Health and Hospital Events

The most important determinant of physical health is mental health. In this research-based practical presentation, participants will learn how adverse childhood experiences set the stage for chronic illness and substance abuse later in life through epigenetic changes, neurochemistry, immune function, and brain wiring. Dr. Borysenko will examine how evidence-based psychological interventions can rewire neuro-hormonal circuitry and help restore both physical and mental balance. Some of the interventions covered include the modification of explanatory style, stress hardiness and resilience training, narrative medicine, meditation and mindfulness techniques, imagery, cognitive approaches, and the all-important gut-brain connection. Since the quality of the provider-client relationship is key to healing, there will be a focus on how to optimize the therapeutic bond in professional presentations.

Personalizing Meditation Practice: Finding the Right Fit for Clients

Health Professional

As meditation practice is being integrated into psychotherapy more regularly, therapists too often have come to see it as a one-size-fits-all remedy. But these practices actually include a range of tools that can be more effective when tailored to a client’s history, personality organization, religious or spiritual orientation, cultural background, and presenting problems. We’ll explore how to help assure the right fit among three different families of practices (categorized by Dahl, Lutz, and Davidson) —including attentional approaches that strengthen self-regulation, constructive approaches that strengthen emotional wellbeing and healthy thinking, and deconstructive approaches that lead to insight—to better address the problems clients present. You’ll focus on:

  • Exploring the distinctive clinical applications of concentration meditation, centering prayer, and mindfulness practices
  • Expanding your personal understanding of meditation by directly experiencing a range of contemplative practices
  • Determining what kind of practices are most useful with various clinical issues, including stress-related disorders, addictions, trauma, anxiety, depression, and interpersonal struggles

Psychotherapy of the Heart: An In-Depth Look at How We Help Others

Health Professional

In our increasingly fast-paced technological and data-based world, it’s easy to forget the non-linear wisdom of the heart. Caring relationship to self, others and a larger Whole is the crucible from which healing emerges. Learning to embody that crucible is an important, yet sometimes unarticulated and untaught skill that can transform and amplify the power of therapy. Intuitively, human beings understand that love heals. Sociologically and scientifically, we’re beginning to understand why. Data from the emerging fields of psychoneuroimmunology and neurobiology illustrate the effects of connection and compassion on health, emotional balance, and well-being.

Embodying Spirit: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science

Health Professional or Health Oriented Public Talk

Ancient yogic wisdom created maps for the control of mind, body, and emotions. The new brain science builds on and expands these spiritual practices by providing an exciting window into the nature of consciousness, emotional balance, and physical health. The new field of interpersonal neurobiology describes how the mind is both embodied in our brain and nervous system as well as embedded in our relationships. The quality of those relationships- whether they evoke love, compassion, and mindfulness or fear, anger, and constriction- affects the release of informational molecules. These “mind molecules” in turn affect gene expression. The newest body-mind frontier concerns another intimate relationship- the food we eat. Nourishing ourselves wisely in accord with our unique physiological needs- while also being good stewards of the earth- is a missing piece in the puzzle of emotional and physical health.

Tending the Soul of HealthCare: Beyond Burnout and Compassion Fatigue

Health Professional

One of the most widespread problems in healthcare today is the alienation created by burnout and compassion fatigue. In the Healing Arts the relationship itself is part of the medicine, a field of trust and care that forms the fabric of excellence. When the relational field is strong, symptoms are reduced and patients become more mindful, skillful, and empowered as do the clinicians themselves. Re-inspiring staff to care for themselves is a critical component of patient care and satisfaction. This fascinating and practical lecture or workshop provides a close up and personal tour of burnout- how to recognize it; how to prevent it; and how to reverse it.

Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive

(Joan has a book of this title)
General Public

We live in a fast paced, information dense culture where the inbox magically fills with more todo’s than can be t’done. The result, especially if you’re a hard worker who cares deeply about what you do, may be burnout. Are you emotionally exhausted? Physically depleted? Snarky? Depressed? Working more and getting less done? In this program you’ll learn about the 12 stages of burnout so that you can get a read on where you are and how each stage can open the door to new possibilities and a more authentic, effective life. You can do more than get your groove back. You can use burnout as an opportunity to connect more deeply with the passion, purpose and aliveness that inspires a creative and fulfilling life.

End Food Confusion: Get the Real Facts about What to Eat and Why One Diet Does NOT Fit All

Professional or General Public

Cut through dietary hype and confusion at last! There is no one size fits all diet. When Joan and her husband adopted an ultra low-fat, high carb plant-based diet, they were surprised that their health deteriorated instead of improving. What was the problem? Joan put on her cell biologist hat (she has a doctorate from Harvard Medical School) and did some serious science sleuthing, separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff. A plant-based diet (including Plus foods that can range from meat to dairy, and from grains to beans) is key to good health- but it has to be “carb reasonable” and suitable for individual protein needs and sensitivities. Joan will tell you what simple medical tests (and self tests) can help you eat right for your metabolism and lose weight, gain energy, and optimize your health. Nutrition for the 21st century takes genetics, epigenetics, and our symbiotic community of 100 trillion gut microbes into consideration. And personalizing your diet is super fun and tasty. Let’s beat the epidemic of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, inflammation, autoimmunity, Alzheimer’s and depression that makes kids born today the first generation expected to live shorter lives than their parents. We can do it!

Writing Down the Light: A Conscious Retelling of Your Life’s Story

Weekend Retreat
General Public

Narrative medicine is a fascinating new field that recognizes the role of story and meaning in health, happiness, and wellbeing. In this weekend writing workshop led by a New York Times best-selling author known for her tender exploration of the human spirit, you have the opportunity to rewrite your own narrative and discover the vector of love that forms the invisible warp of light upon which your life story is loomed.

The stories we habitually tell ourselves change our brain circuitry, our relationships, and path through the world. They can elevate life to heaven on earth, or drop us unceremoniously into the fire. In this workshop you will:

  • Explore your life myths, both sacred and profane
  • Harvest the wisdom of deep discontent
  • Use the written word to transform darkness into light
  • Learn the arc of transformational storytelling
  • Change your brain and your life by changing your story
  • Discover the relationship of story to affective neurobiology

Sacred Crossroads: Connecting with your Next Yes

One or two day retreat
General Public

Do you feel like a caterpillar swelling inside a cocoon? Do you know that there’s an inner metamorphosis going on, and are you ready to put your ear the ground and listen for and to your heart’s longing?

Crossroads is an opportunity distinct from any other retreat. It is an opening to discover wise ways to say “yes” to life, yet again. Are you asking questions like, “How can I best honor my gifts, my family, and the larger Spirit that’s unfolding in a way that feels gentle, true, and powerful? Is there a new purpose for my life that is ready to emerge?” Change can be an exhilarating process – rather than a daunting one – when we learn to understand its transformative power in our lives. You will participate in experiences that help you to:

  • Map the journey of change and identify where you are
  • Discern the direction of the underlying flow
  • Identify the adversaries of change within and without
  • Draw from your own vast creative realm of infinite potential to encounter new ways to say yes” to life!
  • Surrender the old to claim the new.

In the shelter of one another, using processes of inquiry that invite deeper ways of knowing, we’ll let the mud settle so that we can see more clearly together and as individuals.

Learning to Love Ourselves: The Wisdom of the Heart

Weekend Retreat with musician Karen Drucker
Women’s Retreat

Spread too thin? All stressed out? Tired of listening to that grouchy self-critic?

Then get ready to unleash your creative genius. The root of human suffering is self-judgment, the belief that something is wrong with us, that we are not worthy of love. This fundamental lack of security translates into anxiety, depression, addiction, and burnout.

Learning to love ourselves is both a psychological and spiritual journey.
In this retreat we will cultivate self-acceptance through reflection, inquiry, meditation, movement, writing, sharing and laughter. In the compassionate shelter of one another you will have the opportunity to lay aside your “false self” and step into the radiance of who you really are. In this retreat, you will:

  • Transform your emotional DNA and rediscover who you are without all the stress
  • Use movement, music, and the tools of modern interpersonal neurobiology to retrain your brain and quiet your judgment circuits
  • Learn how food changes mood and make friends with the gut microbes who manufacture your neurotransmitters
  • …and much, much more.

Bottom line:  Life is beautiful. Love is possible. Every moment can be the blessing it is meant to be.

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind: New Windows into Radiant Health

General Public

Empower your health with integrative tools for optimizing mind, body, and emotions. The mind is both embodied in the brain and nervous system as well as embedded in all our relationships. The quality of those relationships- whether they evoke love, compassion, and mindfulness or fear, anger, and constriction- affects the release of informational molecules that integrate physical systems. These “mind molecules” in turn affect gene expression and the way that we adapt to the environment. In this practical presentation you will learn how to use evidence-based techniques to calm down the fear centers in the midbrain and activate the prefrontal cortex where happiness, resilience, and wise mind reside. We will also touch upon the new field of personalized nutrition and how to feed your gut microbes- the second brain- a powerful and newly understood contributor to health and wellbeing.

The Spiritual Art of Memoir: Discovering the Invisible Thread of Grace

General Public

If you’re thinking about this workshop, you weren’t born yesterday. You’ve lived and loved, won and lost, celebrated and grieved. You have a lot of stories to tell. All stories have an inside and an outside. The outside is linear- it happened in what the Greeks called chronos- or clock time. But inside there is a hidden thread of grace, an archetypal story of awakening, that lives in the multidimensional world of Kairos- the timeless dimension.

In our days of contemplative writing, the bones of your spiritual journey will begin to emerge through your writing and in the mirror of the other good people who have come together to make meaning and share the legacy of their life.

In this weekend workshop you will:

  • choose 10 stories to begin the process, and focus down on at least 2
  • write, write, write about authentic emotion and experience
  • find your voice
  • identify one or more narrative arcs in your life
  • laugh, cry, love, celebrate, and heal
  • see your life as a spiritual journey

The SyNAPSE Program

Integrative Methodology for Personalized Wellness and Recovery with Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. and Gilah Rosner, Ph.D.

This 3-day in-depth training program has 2 iterations: SynapsePro for mental health and addiction professionals, and SyNAPSE for the general public.

This program presents experiential and effective tools to reprogram brain, body, and behavior. It unites science, nutrition, awareness, positive psychology, spirituality, and epigenetics.

If you are a health professional you will learn how to develop a personalized strategy for your client utilizing:

  • Nutrition and Brain Optimization
  • Meditation and Mindfulness Practice
  • Positive Psychology for getting clear and moving forward
  • Spirituality and Access to Wise Mind

During this experiential retreat/training you will:

  • Integrate cutting edge nutritional science, neuroscience, and positive psychology for wellness and/or recovery
  • Discover evidence-based practices that promote neuroplasticity and heart reconnection.
  • Learn which food choices optimize brain physiology, cognitive function, and mood., and participate in hands-on culinary demos and tastings of healing foods.
  • Receive instructional materials to use with your clients

“Joan Borysenko has that rare ability to reach people—no matter where they are on their journey. Her presentations blend science and real-life experiences that leave the audience thinking, laughing, cheering. Joan is a beautiful, gentle spirit with a wisdom for a world so badly in need of healing.”

Kathy TilotSt. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center

“Dr. Borysenko is a wonderful speaker! She incorporates evidence, life stories, and practical tips in a way that is meaningful and inspiring. We could not be happier with her as our keynote.”

Carole A. Bartoletto, MA, RDKaiser Permanente, Regional Heath Education

“Dr. Borysenko absolutely engaged the audience with her dynamic, thought-provoking concepts wrapped in her wonderful personal anecdotes.”

Jane CallahanThe Indianapolis Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

“Joan, thank you for your wonderful presentation. As always, you put your heart and soul in your work, and it shows.”

Larry Burk, Jr., M.D. and Marty Sullivan, M.D.Duke University Medical Center

“What a smart, informative, interesting and entirely positive speaker Joan is. Her warmth and wisdom come across so well. Listeners can tell they’re in the presence of a good soul and great person.”

Steve Russo, President/Creative DirectorRusso Communications