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Kathleen McGuire Gaines

Founder

Kathleen is a former dancer, a writer, and a fundraiser. She is also one of millions of people who have battled depression. 

As a dancer Kathleen trained at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and the San Francisco Ballet School in their pre-professional divisions. She also spent summers at the School of American Ballet and the Chautauqua Festival program. 

Over the last 10 years, Kathleen has written more than 100 articles on dance for Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Spirit, and Dance Teacher magazines. As a result she has had the opportunity to conduct nearly 1,000 interviews with dancers, teachers and dance medical professionals. In 2014 she was named a contributing writer to Dance Magazine. 

Kathleen is also a dedicated nonprofit development professional and was the Director of Development at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy where she worked for more than 7 years raising money to support public parks. 

Minding the Gap was founded as a reaction to the outpouring of support Kathleen received after she posted the article Why are we still so bad at addressing dancers' mental health on the Dance Magazine website in the summer of 2017. Her ambition is to enact a movement which results in mental health being regarded with the same seriousness as physical health in dance culture. 

Brian T. Goonan, Ph.D. 

Senior Adviser 

Dr. Goonan is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Houston, Texas.  He received his Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta, and has over twenty-five years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, and families. 

 

Dr. Goonan has consulted with numerous athletes across multiple sports in various stages of their careers.  He has been the sports psychology consultant for Velocity Sports Performance (2006-2008), Elite/TNT Tennis Academy (2007-2008), and most recently the Ben Stevenson Academy of The Houston Ballet (2008-2017). 

 

Dr. Goonan’s work with athletes goes beyond focusing on the strategies that help the athlete perform in the moment, to helping the athlete find a deeper level of satisfaction, direction, and confidence in their abilities.  His work with athletes addresses the whole person, not just their athletic performance, so that the individual no longer has to screen out distractions but is able to address and thereby minimize the stresses, tensions, and detractors in their life without sacrificing their pursuit of athletic excellence. 

 

Dr. Goonan helps athletes attain the state of calm personal and professional confidence that promotes the experience of flow allowing for their best performance.

Leigh A. Skvarla, Ph.D. 

Associate Adviser 

Dr. Leigh Skvarla is a National Certified Counselor and performance consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. She received a Master’s degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Sport & Exercise Psychology from West Virginia University, and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Bucknell University.

While at Bucknell, Leigh could often be found in the dance studio, participating in classes, developing choreography, and assisting with production details.

Professionally, Leigh has worked with a variety of performers, including youth, adolescent, and adult athletes and dancers. She has most recently served as a mental skills trainer at KPEX Consulting, an adjunct professor at Chatham University, and a clinical counselor for student-athletes through Western Psychiatric Hospital. She is a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, and American Psychological Association, and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, and has contributed to several published articles and book chapters.

Leigh's applied work with performers often focuses on identifying and building a confident mindset, as well as managing stress/anxiety and high internal/external expectations. One of her favorite aspects of working with performers is helping them to recognize multiple life areas in which mental skills and strategies can be advantageous.