for Children, Teens and Adults in the Heart of the Triangle
Specializing in Services for Autism, Aspergers, ADHD
and the Twice Exceptional. In-person and 
Telehealth Services Available


Our Team.

Our Team.


Ages 15-18
Ages 18-25
Dinner Group

This group meets on Friday nights to go out to dinner at walkable local restaurants.

Suggested donation: $20-$60 to support group facilitation and organization.


Ages 14-16
Ages 15-18
Ages 18 and up

Critical Core: D&D Fantasy Game Group

What is Critical Core?

Critical Core is so much more than a tabletop role-playing game. Using the power of play for plays sake and designed as an alternative to traditional social skills training programs, Critical Core invites you to enter a shared world of fantasy and social problem solving to build social confidence and empowers you to flourish socially on your own terms. Developed under the guidance of autistics, therapists, educators, psychologists and using the practices developed by Game to Grow, Critical Core will change the way you understand tabletop role-playing games.

Critical Core combines modern developmental therapies with the mechanics of tabletop role-playing games to help kids connect with their families, their friends, and the world around them. Players build social confidence, communication and collaboration skills, develop frustration tolerance, emotional resilience, and caring for others, all while rolling dice and having fun.

The 15-18 year old group is more traditional D&D based and meets on Mondays at 6:30pm.


The other two groups are TBD. We currently have a waitlist which you are welcome to join. 

Urban Zen

Ages 8-11

Ages 12-14

Ages 15-18

Ages 18 and Up


Saturday Therapeutic Activity Groups

These ongoing groups are designed for those who are looking to have more social opportunities in their lives.


Participants explore a host of exciting therapeutic activities geared towards recreation, relaxation and social engagement. 

Activities may include:

Board Games


Music Share

Mindful Walking

Arts and Crafts



Each week participants will get intentional with their understanding and use of various core social and emotional life skills including:
Social Reciprocity
Reading Non-Verbal Cues
Giving Non-Verbal Cues
Interpersonal Effectiveness

Executive Functioning

Those interested may reach out to us to set up a brief intake. After that, we will reach back out to give you exact dates and times for the group. We plan to build various groups based on age, strengths and preferences.

Ages 12-14
Ages 14-17
Ages 18 and up
Game Changer:
The Board Game Summit for Social and Emotional Growth


Working Over Coffee

This 16 week course is designed to provide intensive in-vivo practice of proven conversation skills. This course is recommended for people with mild to moderate social anxiety, ADHD, Autism or just plain shyness.

Next course will begin upon demand. Contact us now to stay informed of next start date.

Ages 16-20
Ages 21 and up

The Art of Conversation


This DBT informed group is designed to meet emerging adults where they are on the pathway to adulthood. 

Previous and current group members appreciate the ability to talk openly about curiosities, struggles, fears, hopes and dreams in a safe, supportive space while also incorporating real-life role-play strategies to deal with adult issues such as budgeting, dating

and employment.

This group meets weekly.

Next group will begin upon demand. Contact us now to stay informed of next start date.

Ages 16 and up
Emerging Adults:
The Path to Adulthood

Our Team.

Our clinicians and support professionals inspire the wisdom, confidence, and radical realizations that can help you get unstuck, overcome obstacles, and unlock your authentic potential.

While we are trained in evidence based therapies, we realize that long-lasting change can only occur when an individual feels comfortable, connected and calm enough to witness their own inner wisdom. By taking the time to help you feel more comfortable with yourself and others in a safe, judgement-free environment, we are better able to provide you with the custom tools and techniques to get you to the next level or path on your journey.

Therapy Session

The Story

My interest in Autism has led me through many paths over the last 20 years. Prior to completing my Bachelors in Psychology from NC State University and my Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I enjoyed many years working with individuals as a Direct Support Professional, Case Manager, ABA Therapist, Director of Vocational Services and even as a Software Programmer and Tester in the Tech industry.


With Essential, my vision is to offer the therapies and services that help individuals feel calm enough within themselves and connected enough to those around them that they can reach their full potential.

I have witnessed this happen for many of the people I have worked with.

Leon Monroe, Clinical Director

Individual Therapy

Weekly Individual Therapy session s have shown to be highly effective for targeting both short-term and long-term goals. Exposure Therapy is also highly effective for phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions, OCD.  We specialize in DBT and CBT for issues that may arise as a result of Autism, PDD and the diagnosis formerly known as Aspergers. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

The components of DBT include:

mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.

We have found that many people in the ASD community benefit from our modified DBT approach.

 Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has also proven to be effective for many.

Social Groups, Clubs and Courses

We offer an array of social group, clubs and courses to meet the various personalities and cognitive levels of those we serve. To see the full list of the groups we are currently offering, scroll down this page.

Parent Training

Parent Training is offered to parents and caregivers who would like to be more effective in the home environment. We also offer family therapy, couples therapy and caregiver self-care education and support. 

Therapeutic Support in the Home and Community

We offer Independent Skills Training and Therapeutic Support in the Home and Community.  

Groups, Clubs and Courses


We are located in the heart of the Triangle at Sutton Station near Southpoint in Durham, close to Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and

Chapel Hill

5716 Fayetteville Road, #202

Durham, NC 27713



Short survey to assess needs for teens and young adults

Other Therapies we offer:

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)

for Mild to Severe Anxiety, Sensory Issues, Trauma and Social/Emotional Challenges

What I love about the SSP is that almost anyone can use it right away and start to see results. Many people who come to us have had mild to severe traumatic stress from previous individual counseling or group sessions due to severe anxiety and/or social anxiety. The SSP is a five-day intervention lasting one hour per day that only requires the individual to sit with and listen to the listening device (a Sony Walkman). 


Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a five-day auditory intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience. Based on Dr. Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, by calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy.

The SSP is a research-based therapy showing significant results in just five days in the following areas:

  • Social and emotional difficulties

  • Auditory sensitivities

  • Anxiety and trauma related challenges

  • Inattention

  • Stressors that impact social engagement






Man with Headphones

The Path Begins Here


Late one cloudy afternoon at Cape Disappointment in Washington State, a traveler followed a sign which read "The path begins here".  The traveler followed the path in that direction a short distance to where another sign appeared. The same words appeared "The path begins here". Weary, confused and a bit frustrated, the traveler summoned the wise traits of curiosity and tenacity and continued on the path.  However, when the path changed course again, the traveler began to understand what the path had revealed. The path is always beginning. The path begins here, wherever here will be.