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by Felicia Carroll

Felicia Carroll

The Summer of 2009 was jam packed for Felicia Carroll. In May she traveled to Rio de Janiero, Brazil and presented to a large group of students and practitioners organized by VSOF Friends of the Foundation, Adriana and Rodolfo Ribas. Felicia gave an evening lecture about the child’s journey in Gestalt therapy as illustrated by the story of Pinocchio to over 150 attendees. This lecture was followed by a two-day workshop on shame and how we can addresses the issues of shame and anger in our work with children and adolescents. She felt as though she had found a new community of friends in Brazil. Felicia returned with many stories and beautiful memories of her stay in Rio.

In June, she presented a three-day Advanced Gestalt Play Therapy sponsored by the Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health in San Antonio, Texas. Again as in previous years over 75 people attended this workshop, many of whom said that it was the best training they had ever attended. This was her second presentation at the Center. They have invited her again for 2010.

In July, Felicia taught three graduate level seminar classes at universities and institutes in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. She also closed out her third Year-Long Training Group in Solvang. This Third Year group will continue with another year devoted to deepening their theoretical understanding of Gestalt Therapy with children and adolescents. The fourth year for this Year Long program will begin this September with another group of eight trainees.

The schedule got the best of her in August when she rescheduled the Summer Training Program until the summer of 2010. Then in late August Felicia presented a one-day workshop for the Central Coast Chapter of the California Association for Play Therapy on “Healing the Torment of Shame: A Gestalt Play Therapy Approach.”

In October, Felicia will be in Atlanta, Georgia, presenting at the Annual Conference of the APT. Her workshop topic is, “The Neuroscience of Gestalt Play Therapy.”

At present, Felicia’s 2010 schedule includes Morocco, Austria, and Germany. At home in Solvang, she will continue with the Fourth Year-Long Training, the first Advanced Seminar Series, and the Third Summer Training in August 2010.

A special Issue of the International Gestalt Journal, devoted to Gestalt therapy with children will be published in 2010. Felicia is the guest editor of this issue, and she is finishing up with editing articles that represent Gestalt Therapy with children from clinicians all over the world. This will truly be an international issue. PS: She couldn’t find a penguin who could write an article to represent Antarctica. Excerpts from an interview done by VSOF Founding Member, Chris Elsbree, with Violet Oaklander will be included.

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Summer ‘09 Training in Malibu


For five days in August, 20 international psychotherapists gathered from places as faraway as Kyrgyzstan, Israel, England, and Slovenia. With the surf and sand below, the group dove into the Oaklander Model – they explored new ways of helping children heal from trauma or other painful circumstances, and to feel better by expressing their emotions in ways that are complete, safe, and satisfying.


The training was led by Karen Hillman Fried, Lynn Stadler, and Sue Ellen Talley – all three are Founding Members of VSOF and licensed marriage family therapists who work with children and families. Friend of the Foundation Blake Brisbois offered his assistance with web site development, training set up, photography, Facebook page creation, and a variety of other helpful jobs.

Using Violet’s tried and true two-week Summer Training as their guide and inspiration, the trainers organized a 30-hour program that covered: Gestalt Influences on the Oaklander Model; Developmental Issues; Therapeutic Process, Working with Anger and Aggressive Energy; and Working with the Field (Parents and Teachers). Students learned via lecture, small group work, demonstrations, and first-hand experience with creative projective techniques using drawing, clay, encounter bats, projective cards, puppets, music, and a full day of sand tray on the Malibu beach.


The students came from near and far because of their interest in Violet and her books Window to Our Children (1978) and Hidden Treasure: A Map to the Child’s Inner Self (2006). Violet attended the training for an afternoon Q&A, and indulged the group with one of her treasured puppet shows. VSOF Founding Member Patric White Ph.D participated in the training as a guest speaker on the topic of Working with Adolescents. Violet and Patric joined the trainers and students for the closing dinner and bonfire on the beach.


Details and dates for the 2nd annual Malibu training will soon be available at

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by Violet Oaklander, PhD.

Hint: One should feel better, calmer, and more peaceful after expressing anger in one or more of these ways. Sometimes the body feels very tired. Breathing deeply while doing any of these things is recommended. Focus is important.

Punch a pillow.

Hit a mattress with a tennis racket.

Pound clay.

Tear magazines.

Have a purposeful temper tantrum.

Squash a piece of paper and throw it.

Draw a face of someone you’re mad at and jump on the paper, or tear it up, scrunch it and throw it.

Kick a can. Stomp on aluminum cans.

Squeeze a towel.

Throw a wet washcloth against the wall in the bathtub.

Talk into a tape recorder about your angry feelings.

Write about your angry feelings.

Write all the bad words you can think of.

Write a letter to the person you are mad at (but don’t mail it).

Scream. Scream in the shower. Scream into a pillow.

Sing very loud in an angry way.

Beat on a drum.

Do an angry dance to music.

Growl into a mirror. Make faces.

Tape the bottom of your shoe with the name of person you are mad at and walk around.

Chew gum—imagine you are biting the person. Or bite a washcloth.

Throw rocks into the ocean, or other safe place.

Throw ice cubes at a wall (and yell and scream).

Stuff a pillowcase with grass, draw a face on it, and hit it.

Hit a tin trashcan with a baseball bat.

Throw balloons filled with water.

Collect twigs and sticks and break them.

Run or other physical activity while focusing on the anger.

Buy dishes at a thrift show and break them in a safe place. Or put them in a paper bag and hit with a hammer.

Pound nails into something—(watch your fingers.)

Eat a carrot or an apple in an angry way.

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Board Meeting Highlights August 2009

Website, Store & Media Relations

  • Plans are underway to translate the Windowsill newsletter into Spanish as soon as possible. Thanks to FOF member, Lesley Cruz; FOF member Blake Brisbois will create a VSOF Facebook page.
  • Board member Martha Oaklander and FOF member Mha Atma Khalsa are the new Editors of the Windowsill quarterly newsletter.
  • Plans are underway to offer a one-hour documentary DVD about Violet’s work via the store.

Scholarship Fund
VSOF and the Santa Barbara chapter of CAMFT are working together on an annual scholarship so that a SB-CAMFT member can attend a training related to Violet’s work. 
Trainings and Conferences
VSOF will have a booth at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim in December 2009. The booth will provide information about VSOF and the Oaklander model, as well as offer hands-on creative projective demonstrations.

Next VSOF Board meeting:  The Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 22, 2009 at Sue Talley’s office in Agoura Hills, CA. For details and directions contact





by Lynn Stadler

Aware Parenting

My daughter turns four next week, and during these gorgeous late Summer days at the beach or swimming pool or on the sidewalks of Santa Barbara, I’m nostalgic for the last trimester of my pregnancy – the clothes, the attention, the glow, the baby kicking. It was not an easy time for me, but it was a sweet and poignant time. After wanting to be a mother for so many years, I was finally getting my chance.

One of the things I remember is getting loads of advice and a slew of parenting books – gifts from friends and colleagues. I was a tad overwhelmed and more than a little intimidated as all these books poured into my house. So many parenting approaches! Though I tried to be gracious and appreciative when I received a parenting book, the truth is, I never read a single page. Call me crazy, call me lazy, call me stubborn, but years before those Summer days of 2005, I had chosen the parenting philosophy that made the most sense to me -- Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting.

I met Aletha during my Santa Barbara Summer training with Violet in 2000. Aletha stopped by the training site one afternoon to drop off a box of her books. At that time, she had written three books – The Aware Baby, Helping Young Children Flourish, and Tears and Tantrums. Her fourth book, Raising Drug-Free Kids, came out in 2006. All four are fantastic!! These books are available from all of the major online booksellers. See Aletha’s website for more information:

Aletha is a Swiss-American developmental psychologist, international speaker, and the mother of two grown children. She studied with Dr. Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, where she earned a master’s degree in human biology. She earned her Ph. D. in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The three primary aspects of her Aware Parenting philosophy are:

  • Attachment-style parenting
  • Non-punitive discipline
  • Helping children heal from stress and trauma

Aletha writes “Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing based on current research in child development. It questions traditional assumptions about children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.”

As a Gestalt therapist and a teacher of the Oaklander Model, for me the most important and distinctive feature of Aware Parenting is its full acceptance of children’s emotions. Aware Parenting is an excellent complement to Violet’s work. I joke that Aletha is trying to put child therapists out of business. If all parents had the support of Aware Parenting tools, most children would have the support they need to experience and express their emotions in ways that are safe and satisfying.

If parents support emotional expression from infancy, it’s less likely that children will feel a need to inhibit their natural emotional process as they grow and develop. When children are not able or accustomed to feeling and expressing emotion, therapists using the Oaklander Model can help children unlock buried emotions by using a variety of creative, expressive, projective techniques.

Aletha’s first and most popular book, The Aware Baby, has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. It focuses on how to parent children from birth to 2 ½ years old. This book has been translated into several languages, and has influenced parenting around the world. This is the basic Aware Parenting book, and covers essential topics: love, attachment and bonding; how to respond to crying; and issues with food, sleep, play, and conflict.

Helping Young Children Flourish is for ages 2 to 8 years, and includes chapters on crying, play, learning, fears, challenging behaviors, and non-punitive discipline.

Tears and Tantrums explains the function of crying from birth to eight years, and describes ways to respond that will enhance children’s emotional health.

Raising Drug-Free Kids is a very helpful guidebook of 100 tips for keeping children of all ages away from drugs and alcohol. Here Aletha discusses how children and teens can feel good about themselves, cope with stress, respect their bodies, have close family connections, and take healthy risks rather than dangerous ones.

In addition to writing the abovementioned books and several workbooks, Aletha has led workshops for parents and professionals in 13 countries, and is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline. She also has a consulting practice where she offers individual sessions for parents, as well as coaching for parental/child play therapy.

Aletha has also done a great job of creating an international Aware Parenting community through a network of certified instructors in 12 countries. The Aware Parenting instructors include psychologists, therapists, doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, social workers, and dedicated parents.

As usual, when I write or talk about Aletha’s contributions, I feel excited and a bit evangelical. Violet’s work is my compass for my work as a child therapist. Aletha’s books are the compass for parents to extend the emotional healing done through therapy into their homes.

For details about Aware Parenting, books, workshops and certification please go to the Aware Parenting Institute website at
Please send me your comments and questions about Aware Parenting so we can stay in dialogue! I welcome your 21st Century Perspectives at

Lynn Stadler is a Marriage Family Therapist in private practice. She is a Founding Member of VSOF, and offers trainings on Gestalt Therapy with Children, Adolescents & Adults.




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