Meet the Team
Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:
How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?
Brené is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and was the topic of two 2010 TEDx talks (Houston and Kansas City).
Brené is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (Hazelden, 2010) and I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (Penguin/Gotham, 2007). She is also the author of Connections, a psychoeducational shame resilience curriculum that is being facilitated across the nation by mental health and addiction professionals.
Brené’s current research focuses on authentic leadership and wholeheartedness in families, schools, and organizations.
Robert Hilliker, LCSW, LCDC, CCF-C received his Master's degree from the University of Houston's Graduate College of Social Work (UH-GCSW)program. Following graduation Robert pursued additional training working as a Post-Graduate Social Work Fellow on the Professionals In Crisis (PIC) Unit at The Menninger Clinic. He then completed a two-year fellowship at the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies. Currently, Robert is a doctoral student at the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago, IL.
Robert worked for three years at the Center for Recovering Families (CRF), a division of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston. At CRF, Robert was the Manager of Treatment and Executive Services. He served as a therapist for the Healing Choices adult intensive outpatient program, as well as providing clinical treatment services to individuals, couples, families, and other groups.
Robert is the co-founder of Connections Curriculum LLC with Dr. Brené Brown. Connections Curriculum LLC is a business that trains and certifies helping professionals in the use of Connections, a psycho-educational shame resilience curriculum. Robert trained with Dr. Brown both at the UH-GCSW and following graduation. He has facilitated the Connections across diverse settings including Baylor Psychiatry Clinic, The Menninger Clinic, and The Center for Recovering Families.
In addition to providing training and consultation for helping professionals through Connections Curriculum LLC, Robert continues to work with patients in private practice in Houston, Texas.
Eric Williams, LCSW, CCF-C, CSAT Candidate received his MSW at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2008. He has worked for the Center for Recovering Families a division of the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston since 2008. He utilizes family systems, psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapy in his practice. Eric currently facilitates intensive outpatient for adults struggling with compulsive behaviors and co-occurring disorders. Eric specializes in sex addiction treatment and is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapy Candidate. Eric is also a CCF-C trained by Brené to facilitate the Connections curriculum, train, and consult other clinicians regarding shame resiliency therapy.
Virginia Rondero Hernandez, Ph.D., LCSW, CCF-C, is a professor in the Department of Social Work Education at California State University, Fresno and a Certified Connections Facilitator-Case Consultant. She originally piloted Connections with women in residential treatment for substance use disorders. This research is featured in the fall 2011 edition of Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. Virginia also co-authored a chapter featuring Connections with Brené in Shame in the Therapy Hour published by the American Psychological Association in 2011. She has incorporated the principles of shame resilience into her clinical practice and classroom teaching and facilitates Connections trainings for clinicians, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Virginia is currently assisting Brené in building an evaluation network of certified facilitators who will participate in data collection activities that will help to establish Connections as a nationally recognized evidence-based intervention.