Our Emcee, Michael T. Lane





Michael Lane has decades of personal experience dealing with what many call “mental illness,” drawing strength and wisdom from the process of overcoming. Every day he works to maintain his own recovery and wellness.
Michael has worked in the behavioral health field for more than 10 years as an advocate, trainer, manager, designer of programs, and peer specialist. Currently, he is the Director of Individual and Family Affairs for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. Michael is a Nationally Certified Peer Specialist, and has a Master’s Degree in Education.

Our 2022 Presenters


It's Time to Start Moving - Your Journey is Ahead!

These days, moving forward can be hard to do. Learn practical steps to empower change in yourself and achieve goals in recovery.

Portrait photo of Marja Lee FreemanPresented by Marja Lee Freeman, Employment Strategist at Laurie Mitchell Empowerment and Career Center

International speaker, trainer, author, and Peer Recovery Specialist empowering others to find their destiny. As a respected employment consultant, veteran trainer Marja Lee Freeman takes great pride in helping others find greater fulfillment and success in their careers.

Also known as “The Employment Lady,” she previously served as Board President for the Laurie Mitchell Empowerment and Career Center and serves as an Empowerment and Job Coach for over 25 years. As Peer Recovery Specialist she supports participants to thrive and achieve personal goals in their lives. She has delivered at conferences for organizations including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, women’s groups, community outreach programs and companies around the world. She draws from a vast well of knowledge from of her military experience in personnel management and employee training. She has produced and facilitated thousands of seminar programs including handling office politics, communicating with confidence, building your leadership development skills and mastering your work environment. Marja combines real-world experience with solutions that can mean the difference between stress management and strategies for success!

Featured Speaker

One Tiny Impossible Step at a Time

Hear Kathleen’s courageous healing journey through her empowering High Five System. Discover how she reinvented herself to live a more joyous, meaningful life adventure.

Portrait of Kathleen Klawitter
Presented by Kathleen Klawitter, Speaker, Author, Visionary, Resilience Expert

Kathleen Klawitter is a professional speaker and the author of Direct Hit,” a memoir about her 20-year survivors journey after she sustained a traumatic brain injury from an errant speeding golf ball when she was a pioneering LPGA golf instructor. While relearning how to speak, read, write, and drive again, she used  her own body-mind-spirit modalities to reprogram her brain and reinvent herself to her True Normal.


Now a resilience expert and visionary coach, Klawitter teaches her trademark High-Five System and other unusual and innovative strategies to help people access their inner wisdom and guidance, tap into their feminine side, and balance their left and right brains to improve their personal performance at home and at work.


Trained in Paramahansa Yogananda techniques, and Margot Anands Skydancing®  Tantra, she is a Certified First Degree Black Belt in Blue Dragon Tae Kwon Do. She is affiliated with Toastmasters International, the National Speakers Association, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, USA Archery, and Jodi House, a center for brain injury survivors.  She is also featured in Speaker magazine. 

Featured Speaker

Wrong Lanes Can Have Right Turns

A single question unlocked Dianna’s life. Discover how she learned to be thankful and to fight for her dreams.

Portrait of Dianna TaylorPresented by Dianna Taylor, Recovery Programs Manager, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

Dianna came to Fairfax County-Falls Church CSB from the Richmond area, where she worked at the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. In her role as one of the Lead Regional Peer Recovery Specialist Coordinators, Dianna supported more than 70 peer recovery specialists and programs in Region 4 (Richmond area).

Originally from San Diego, Dianna’s career has included leadership in programs in employment spaces, and behavioral health. She was Head of Employment Services for Mental Health Systems, Inc., managing county and regional programs. She has led programs addressing employment for women at re-entry from incarceration and veterans experiencing homelessness. Other management positions include overseeing San Diego County’s “welfare to work” program for individuals with mental health or co-occurring challenges.

Dianna is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, State PRS Trainer, Certified Personal Medicine Coach Trainer, Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, eCPR Trainer, Digital Peer Support Trainer, Peer Specialist Ethical Decision-Making Trainer, Certified Career Development Coach, and a QMHP-A. She has training in rehabilitation administration from Boston University, and in management from the University of San Francisco. In addition, Dianna has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and Services from Union Institute and University, Master of Arts in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix.

Dianna currently works for Fairfax- Falls Church Community Services Board as Recovery Programs Manager managing multiple (OIFA) Office of Individual Family Affairs recovery programs and contracts.

Dianna has a powerful story of personal recovery, faith, and resilience, with mental health and substance use issues, and an example of overcoming tremendous odds.

Dianna uses her story and experiences to serve others, role-model and seek out opportunities that will change and inspire thousands of lives.



5 Key Work-Life Balancing Concepts

Join us to explore this new time in the work environment along with important personal concepts.  Participants will also receive an added bonus of evidence based research to determine one’s overall wellbeing.

You can download this PDF describing 8 dimensions of wellness before the workshop.

Portrait of Mara Benner
Presented by Mara Benner, President & Founder, True North Executive Coaching

Mara Benner has a deep passion for supporting individual’s goals to achieve personal and professional success! Her background includes over 25 years in nonprofit and corporate leadership. Mara led both a national and state nonprofit healthcare association, and she spent 15 years at the corporate level, reporting to the CEO of a $2 billion national healthcare company. More recently, she has enjoyed success as a small business entrepreneur in Alexandria. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies as well as nonprofit organizations.

Mara combines her executive coaching techniques with a focus on a person’s
overall wellbeing, including a person’s mind, body and spirit. She is ordained through an interfaith/interspiritual seminary program and has had the pleasure to train with Qigong Masters, Reiki Masters and Lakota Native American healers.

She has also completed Duke University’s mindfulness and meditation training, and has enjoyed life-long learning in spiritual and healing practices from around the world. She believes that to align for success requires an individual to connect with one’s wholeness in all aspects of life.


Letting the Past Guide the Future

Learning from our mistakes is a wisdom that can be used in future decisions about one’s recovery. Your life’s experiences can be guides and steppingstones to desired outcomes in our own recovery.

This will be an interactive session where the workshop leader, facilitator and participants will get to share about positive past experiences and lessons learned that they can possibly use shape their future.

Presented by Monique McPherson, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

Monique M. McPherson has been a Peer Support Specialist in Northern Virginia for over 12 years. She began doing peer support with an internship thru DRS – now DARS, at PRS, Inc. in 2010.  She has worked and volunteered at various places in the Northern Virginia Recovery Community. Monique is also an Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, Peer Recovery Specialist trainer, Certified WHAM Facilitator and holds many other certifications. Monique holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Computer Graphics from Howard University. The biggest aspect of Peer Support that she enjoys is serving and supporting others as they venture out on their own recovery journeys.


Finding Hope Amid a Sea of News

Wave after wave of bad news from near and far can bring on a surge of feelings. But it’s possible to approach those feelings differently and find hope and feel relief.

Portrait of Debbie Sturm
Presented by Debbie Sturm, Professor, Counseling Programs, Department of Graduate Psychology, James Madison University

Dr. Debbie Sturm is a 2008 graduate of UNC-Charlotte’s Counselor Education program, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and currently a Professor at James Madison University in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her clinical specialties include trauma, community violence, family systems, nature-connectedness, leadership & advocacy, and climate change & mental health. She has graduate coursework, training, and teaching in environmental advocacy, environmental education, climate resilience efforts, environmental justice, and communication strategies. She is a member of ACA’s Climate Crisis Task Force and the current Chair of the Human Rights Committee. She received the 2013 SACES Award for Outstanding Teaching, the 2020 SACES Courtland Lee Social Justice Award, and the 2021 Counselors for Social Justice Climate Justice Award. She is the Chair of the WACES Committee of Climate Change and Sustainability, currently working on developing competencies and curriculum modules for counselor educators. She is a trained member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, “a global network of activists committed to spreading awareness of the climate crisis and working for solutions to the greatest challenge of our time” and a Climate Café leader with the Climate Psychology Alliance. In 2017, Dr. Sturm wrote the first article on climate and mental health to appear in ACA’s Counseling Today. Since then, she has published two book chapters and two encyclopedia entries on the impact of climate on mental health. She has produced a dozen (including in-press) peer-reviewed journal articles and delivered 18 conference presentations on climate justice and climate-related issues.  She is deeply passionate about expanding this conversation among counselors across the country. 


Sense, Move and Breathe

Anxiety and overwhelm can be, well, overwhelming. How can we manage it mindfully? In this session, we’ll learn to use our senses, movement, and breath to identify anxiety and bring ourselves to calm. 

Presented by Niecia Bullock, Managing Partner (Visionary), Rooted Yoga Niecia is the owner of Rooted Yoga and a RYT 200 yoga & mindfulness educator. Rooted is a  a vibrant yoga studio that celebrates diversity, community, and practical self-care. It is located in the picturesque Belmont Bay neighborhood of Woodbridge, VA. After experiencing a series of seizure activity, Niecia was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Through her healing process she discovered the benefits of yoga and mindfulness. She couldn’t believe how transformative a few moments of simple movements, focused breath, and practical self-care could be. Like Oprah, she wanted everybody to have her favorite things! She’s been passionately guiding new yogis to the mat, providing mindfulness education, and encouraging the practice of unapologetic self-care ever since. Her intention is to create diverse, relational, and supportive spaces for connection. Food and ridiculousness are her love language and finding the funny in less than stellar situations is her superpower. She also enjoys biking, paddle boarding, traveling, reading, and binging podcasts.


Moving Forward with Mindfulness

Find your way forward through a holistic approach to cultivate mindfulness in your everyday life. In this workshop, you will learn how to apply mindfulness to your everyday life, explore mindful movement, breathing, and how the importance of being in the present moment can support your path forward. Simple techniques will be taught that you can immediately begin appling to make the most of the time in every day and the presence of every person you meet.

Portrait of Kara Simon

Presented by Kara Simon, Owner, E-RYT 200 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), Certified Usui Shiki Ryoko Reiki II Practitioner, Emotional Freedom Technique Facilitator
Kara Simon is the owner and operator of Loving Heart Holistic Wellness, a small, woman-owned LLC, which was established in 2016. Located in Arlington, VA, Kara provides an empathetic approach to Stress Relief and Wellness through Personalized Yoga, Reiki, Meditation, Mindfulness, and Emotional Freedom Technique (also known as Tapping.) Kara, who was born with generalized anxiety, is passionate about being a mental health advocate and works to end the stigma around mental health. Through trauma informed practices, Kara upholds a space that is safe, non-judgmental, and supportive for all and strives to cultivate connection through movement, mindfulness, holistic wellness, community, and compassion.


Sparkle Your Day with Zumba

Take a break with fun, uplifting Zumba dance. No experience needed, just willingness to feel great and move.

Presented by Wanda Thorpe, Licensed Zumba instructor and Founder, Sparkling Dance Fitness

Wanda has been a part of the fitness community since 2014. What started off as a personal weight loss journey, turned into a whole new career for her. Wanda received her Zumba certification in 2015 and began teaching in 2016. She has since furthered her fitness career by expanding her knowledge in Zumba and exploring other fitness programs. Wanda currently holds certifications in Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumba Toning, Aqua Zumba, Strong Nation, Zumba Kids & Kids Jr., Zumbini, and Xtreme Hip Hop.
Wanda has lived in Northern Virginia all of her life. She loves her community and loves to help others.  With the help of her friends, family and her Zumba community, she holds monthly fundraisers to help the local communities. She has collected donations for cancer and heart research, coats, and food.
In 2021, Wanda made a huge career move is now focused on helping her locals get healthy as a full time fitness instructor.  She is also furthering her career as a nutritionist and personal trainer.
In her spare time, Wanda loves to spend time with her husband, dog, her two nieces, and her family and friends. She loves to cook, especially on holidays, keep active, explore her community, and watch her favorite shows or movies.


Getting Ready to Rent

If you’re thinking about moving into an apartment, consider how communication with future roommates can pave the way for success.

Portrait of Joel FranksPresented by Joel Franks, Recovery Facilitator for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV)

Joel is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist who works as a Recovery Facilitator for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV) at their Consumer Wellness Center in Annandale, VA. Joel volunteers for Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in the Northern Virginia area in his free time. He is chair of the Hospitals and Institutes subcommittee. The committee coordinates with local hospitals, agencies, prisons and other institutes to provide NA meetings to the populations they serve.

Musical Ending

The Healing Power of Music

Hear the powerful stories behind the James Taylor songs, “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” Peter shared how crises and friends shaped Taylor’s songs.

Portrait of Peter Galloway
Presented by Peter Galloway, Recovery Facilitator for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV)

Peter Galloway has worked as a Recovery Facilitator for over 5 years for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia and is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist. He is a very popular staff member and many of the Reston Wellness Center participants seek out his friendly conversation and advice. He is someone who recognized his need to recover from drugs and believes that staying off those substances is paramount to maintaining the successful mental health recovery journey he is on. Always cheerful and available to the participants, he emphasizes in his peer groups and music groups that there is HOPE for everyone seeking recovery. As far as music is concerned, he is mostly self-taught and is still learning Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Banjo, and Harp and travels in his free time to Maryland’s Glen Echo Park to listen to traditional Irish music. He is also well travelled throughout the United States and Canada.

Hosted Chats

It's Your Turn to Share

After our speakers spoke, our workshops were complete, and Peter  delighted and enlightened us with music, it was your turn to talk in small groups.

Let's Talk About Our Pets

Photo of a catSome of our favorite friends might be furry, feathered, fishy or slithery. Join this conversation to share what you love about your pets. This chat is co-presented by Cynthia Evans and her cat, Beemery. Cynthia is  Wellness & Recovery Educator with the Fairfax/Falls Church Community Services Board and invites you to share how having pets aids in your personal mental health recovery. Together with others, explore the two-way healing our four-legged, furry, or feathered friends bring into our lives!

Learn About Peer Recovery Specialists

Photo of Robert Johnson III
Peer support services are essential for many people in mental health recovery. Learn about the service and how to become a peer support person yourself. Hosted by Robert Johnson III, a peer recovery specialist at Trillium Center.

Here’s what Robert has to say about being a peer recovery specialist himself: I began my journey towards becoming a PRS back in 2018.  At that time, I had no idea of the satisfaction I would get in return.  Since working in this field I have met people from all walks of life and also have been blessed to hear from not all but some of those that I was able to help in their recovery journey.  I must say that for me when I hear that my experience and story of my personal mental health recovery journey has helped another, it is the best feeling in the world and I know that back in 2018 I made the right decision.  I also been invited to do public speaking events for the PWC Police department, the Virginia State Senate and various college nursing classes, none of which would have been possible I hadn’t chosen this career path. 

Making and Keeping Friends

Photo of Monika TaylorFinding, keeping and developing friendships and loving relationships is important. Monika Taylor of RPSV will lead a discussion on these popular topics and share resources that can help.

About the Wellness and Recovery Committee

The Pathways to Wellness Conference is organized and presented by the Wellness and Recovery Committee. The committee is made up of representatives from the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and other organizations focused on the needs of people in mental health recovery. The Conference is designed for persons with mental health issues, persons with co-occurring disorders, families, professionals, and others with an interest in the topics of wellness and recovery.

Logos of Wellness and Recovery Committee organizations