Photo by Michael Leras Pictures
Photo by Michael Leras Pictures

Karla McLaren, M.Ed. is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and empathy pioneer. Her lifelong work focuses on her grand unified theory of emotions, which revalues even the most “negative” emotions and opens startling new pathways into self-awareness, effective communication, and healthy empathy. She is the founder and CEO of Emotion Dynamics LLC.

Her applied work, Dynamic Emotional Integration® (also known as DEI) is a trailblazing approach to emotions and empathy that reveals the genius and the healing power within the emotional realm. Licensed DEI Trainers and Consultants are available in the United States and internationally.

Karla has also developed the groundbreaking Six Essential Aspects of Empathy model that highlights all of the processes in healthy empathy and makes them easily understandable, accessible, and attainable. This fully realized model teaches people how to access, develop, and manage their empathy intentionally. It also explicitly welcomes people who have been exiled from earlier models of empathy (such as men, boys, and autistic people).

With her husband, Tino Plank MA, MSN, RN, Karla developed the Healthy Empathy® program. Healthy Empathy® helps health and healing professionals develop healthy and sustainable empathy and compassion skills in their practice, in their workplace, and in their lives.

Karla’s workplace consulting process, Emotional Dynamics at Work® helps individuals, teams, and organizations develop strong emotional skills and effective communication skills that make the workplace actually work.

Karla is the author of The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill (2013), The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You (2010), and the multi-media online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions (2012).

Karla is also the coauthor (with cult expert Dr. Janja Lalich) of Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over, which focuses on Dr. Lalich’s groundbreaking study of seventy people who were born in or grew up in forty different cults spanning twelve countries (Routledge, 2017).

Karla has taught at such venues as the University of San Francisco, Omega Institute, Naropa University, Kripalu Center, Hollyhock Learning Centre, and the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Additionally, as a prison arts educator with the William James Foundation, she has utilized singing, drumming, and drama to help men in maximum security prisons explore and heal long-held emotional traumas.

For more information, please see below.

Karla McLaren, M.Ed. is an award-winning author, social science researcher, and pioneering educator whose empathic approach to emotions revalues even the most “negative” emotions, and opens startling new pathways into self-awareness, effective communication, and healthy empathy.

She is the author of The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill (2013), The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are Trying to Tell You (2010), and the multi-media online course Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions (2012).

Karla is also the author of numerous books and audio learning sets published prior to 2003, when she made a sea change in her career and left her metaphysical approach behind. This message to followers of her earlier work explains this transition.

Her honors and awards include the 2010 Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the 2010 Silver Medal from the Nautilus Book Awards for The Language of Emotions, and the 1998 Book of the Year from the Coalition of Visionary Retailers. She is also a summa cum laude and Phi Kappa Phi honors scholar.

Karla has taught at such venues as the University of San Francisco, Hollyhock Learning Centre, Omega Institute, Naropa University, Kripalu Center, and the Association for Humanistic Psychology. Additionally, as a prison arts educator with the William James Foundation, she has utilized singing, drumming, and drama to help men in maximum security prisons explore and heal long-held emotional traumas.

Karla is also a Certified Human Resource Administrator and a Certified Career Development Facilitator who helps people identify the emotion work they are expected to perform (or expect others to perform, perhaps without realizing it). When emotion work is brought out into the open and managed skillfully, individuals and businesses can avoid unnecessary conflict, burnout, and loss of productivity.

Karla served as a researcher and editor on the books When Killing is a Crime by Tony Waters, Ph.D, and Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich, Ph.D.

With Dr. Lalich, Karla also co-authored a research study on the multiple stigmatizations that GLBTQ people experience in fundamentalist religions (Inside and Outcast: Multifaceted Stigma and Redemption in the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Jehovah’s Witnesses). She and Dr. Lalich have co-authored a book titled Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over, based on Dr. Lalich’s groundbreaking study of seventy people who were born in or grew up in forty different cults spanning twelve countries (Routledge, 2017).

Karla has a Master’s Degree in Education (with a concentration in linguistic anthropology and neurodiversity studies) and her thesis focused on the social construction of autism and the enforcement of normalcy in social skills training programs for autistic people (Interrogating Normal: Autism Social Skills Training at the Margins of a Social Fiction).

She lives in Sonoma County, California with her husband, Tino Plank, MA, MSN, RN, a nurse educator working in hospice and end-of-life care (and the co-developer of the Healthy Empathy® program).

EDUCATION

M.Ed. in Education (Empathy and Social Interaction Curriculum Development with a focus in Linguistic Anthropology) – Sonoma State University, CA, 2014

B.A. with Honors in Social Science (Sociology, Criminology, Cultic Studies), summa cum laude – California State University, Chico, CA, 2006

Career Development Facilitator Certification – California State University, Chico, CA, 2006

Human Resource Administration Certification – Santa Rosa Junior College, CA 2009

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

McLaren, K. & Lalich, J. (2017). Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over. New York, NY: Routledge.

McLaren, K. (2014). Interrogating Normal: Autism Social Skills Training at the Margins of a Social Fiction.

McLaren, K. (2013). The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

McLaren, K. (2012). Emotional Flow: Becoming Fluent in the Language of Emotions. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

McLaren, K. & Lalich, J. (2010). Inside and Outcast: Multifaceted Stigma and Redemption in the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Jehovah’s Witnesses. Journal of Homosexuality 57(10).

McLaren, K. (2010). The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

Waters, T. (2007). When Killing is a Crime. Reinner Publishing. Researcher, content and technical editor on this criminology textbook.

McLaren, K. (2006). Ideology versus Reality in the Lunchroom: A Comparative Study of Three School Nutrition Programs. California Journal of Health Promotion 4(1).

Lalich, J. (2006) Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. Bay Tree Publishing. Content and technical editor on the revision and republishing of this sociological resource on cult abuse.

McLaren, K. (2005). The Social Context of Cults (Review). Skeptical Inquirer 29(4).

McLaren, K. (2004). Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures. Skeptical Inquirer 28(3).

CURRENT RESEARCH

Book project entitled Escaping Utopia, (Routledge, 2017) co-authored with the internationally-recognized expert on cults, indoctrination, extremism, and terrorism, Dr. Janja Lalich. This project focuses on the first-person accounts of seventy people who grew up in — and escaped from — cults, religions, or other high control groups.

Nothing About Us Without Us: An original international survey study of people on the Autism Spectrum, focusing on their responses to existing forms of social skills training.

Ongoing study organizing autism-positive and diversity-respecting approaches to autism from the research, drawing from linguistic anthropology, neurology, child development, and psychology. See this short compilation of the research.

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Empathy, emotions, emotion work, workplace research, microsociology, linguistic anthropology, social constructionism, neurology, stigma, disability studies, autism, neurodiversity, microethnographic research, somatic psychology, cultic studies, queer theory, crip theory.

PAST RESEARCH

Ethnographic sociological study of seventy cult survivors (for the book Escaping Utopia, Routledge, 2017).

Research into international, historical, and multidisciplinary data on empathy for the creation of an original, unified model of empathy for the book The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill (2013).

Microethnographic study (2010) for Inside and Outcast: Multifaceted Stigma and Redemption in the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Researcher, coder, and theorist).

Criminological and sociological research for the the book When Killing is a Crime (2007) by Tony Waters, Ph.D.

Original microethnographic study (2006) for Ideology versus Reality in the Lunchroom: A Comparative Study of Three School Nutrition Programs.

Karla McLaren focuses on emotions, empathy, and emotion work, and she teaches workshops and retreats suitable for professional and lay participants.

Karla has also developed a licensing process for her work, Dynamic Emotional Integration®, a nonclinical approach to emotional awareness that can be used by individuals, couples, families, in schools, and in the workplace. The Dynamic Emotional Integration education and licensing program commenced in 2015. Learn more at Empathy Academy.

HEALTHY EMPATHY® with Tino Plank, MA, MSN, RN

1440 Multiversity, California 2017
Naropa University 2016
East West Seattle, 2016

EMOTIONAL DYNAMICS AT WORK®

Seattle, Washington, 2014 & 2015
San Jose, California, 2014

THE ART OF EMPATHY

1440 Multiversity, California 2018
Esalen, California 2017
Kripalu Center, Massachusetts 2014, 2015, & 2016
Naropa University, Colorado 2013
Hollyhock Retreat Center, British Columbia 2014

EMBODYING EMPATHY with Nick Walker, MA

Studio 12, Berkeley, 2017
Studio 12, Berkeley, 2012 and 2013

EMOTION THEATER®

Santa Rosa, California, 2016
East West Bookshop, Seattle 2015
Studio 12, Berkeley 2014
East West Bookshop, Seattle 2014
Naropa University, Colorado 2013
People for People, Edmonton, Alberta 2012
The CG Jung Society, Florida 2012
University of San Francisco, 2011 through 2013

EMOTIONAL GENIUS

Santa Rosa, California 2016
The Wake Up Festival, Colorado 2013
Integral Leadership in Action, California 2013
The CG Jung Society, Florida 2012
People for People, Edmonton, Alberta 2012
Kripalu Center, Massachusetts 2010-2012

EMBRACING YOUR SHADOW

Monte Rio Arts Center, California 2013
Kripalu Center, Massachusetts 2010-2012

ADDITIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
The Association for Humanistic Psychology, the Institute for Noetic Sciences, Omega Institute, and the William James Foundation (as a Prison Arts Educator).

PODCASTS & AUDIO INTERVIEWS

Insights at the Edge Podcast with Tami Simon on The Art of Empathy (listen to Insights, part 1) (1 hour, 2 minutes)

Insights at the Edge Podcast with Tami Simon on The Art of Empathy (listen to Insights, part 2) (1 hour, 6 minutes)

On Bread for the Journey with Marianna Cacciatore (listen to Bread for the Journey) (58 minutes)

On How She Really Does It with Koren Motekaitis (listen to How She Really Does It) (56 minutes)

On Conversations with Michael Stone (listen to Conversations) (51 minutes)

On The Opening Door (listen to The Opening Door) (27 minutes)

On Conscious Talk Radio (listen to Conscious Talk) (56 minutes)

ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS & EXCERPTS

A Talk with Empath Karla McLaren on Rewire Me

Why Feeling (Even Feeling Bad) Is Good on Rewire Me

Shelter (a 4-part essay) on Untold Animal Stories

Excerpt from The Art of Empathy on Spirituality and Practice

The Difference between Empathy and Enmeshment

The Difference between Healthy Empathy and Martyrdom

Empaths on the Autism Spectrum, part 1 on Autism and Empathy

Empaths on the Autism Spectrum, part 2 on Autism and Empathy

The Addiction Show with Shira Goldberg (Video, 41 minutes)

VIDEOS ON EMPATHY AND EMOTIONS

Visit Karla’s Emotion Dynamics YouTube Channel

Anger and Good Boundaries (11 minutes)

Shame is Your Friend! (16 minutes)

How Many Ways Can You Say Happy? (4 minutes)

Emotions Simplified! (10 minutes)

The Art of Empathy introduction (2 minutes)

The Magic of Weasel Words! (8 minutes)

Are You Positive about Emotions? (4 minutes)

Embracing Your Emotions (1 minute)

INTERVIEWS ON EMPATHY

Empathy meets Aikido with Nick Walker and Edwin Rutsch (33 minutes)

Karla McLaren on Empathy with Edwin Rutsch (1 hour 14 minutes)

The Benefits of Empathy series with Edwin Rutsch

Empathy can help you understand emotions (19 minutes)
Empathy can help you understand emotion work in yourself and others (8 minutes)
Empathy helps you support others (12 minutes)
Empathy helps protect you from emotional manipulation (10 minutes)
Empathy can help you understand art, music and literature very deeply (It’s Einfühlung!) (9 minutes)