VSOF Newsletter – Spring 2014

Spring 2014


In this issue

The Second Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Conference

May 31th to June 1st, 2014 in Malibu California


Ask Violet:  Aggressive Energy


Dr. Oaklander at the Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013


The Oaklander Model Worldwide:   Korea, Russia and England

The Second Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Conference

May 31st to June 1st, 2014 in Malibu California

I am thrilled to announce the second conference sponsored by the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation (VSOF). This conference will bring the Foundation’s Founding Members together for a reunion, as well as provide a forum to share ideas and expertise about Gestalt Therapy with Children & Adolescents. I am happily looking forward to an exciting weekend gathering of fine therapists, excellent teachers, and good friends.

— Dr. Violet Oaklander

The Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation’s first Conference took place in Malibu on November 5th and 6th 2011 and it was a great success.  Seating was limited to 40 people and the Conference was sold out.  We have expanded our capacity and are able to offer registration to 60 people for our upcoming conference May 31st to June 1st , 2014.  Here is what Violet had to say about the Foundation’s 2011 conference:

“It was a great conference and very well organized.  It was very special.  I was glad to be there and to see everybody.  I stayed for all the presentations and I was very impressed—I felt they were each different.  I liked all of them. Although I know all the speakers very well I had never heard most of them present and I was very pleased and very proud.  I loved and appreciated how each person presented my work but in their own way and their own style.  It made me proud that the VSOF bears my name.  And since everyone there including all the presenters paid the full conference fee and donated their time, I think we raised a lot of money for the Foundation that can be used to promote the work and for scholarships.”

Violet will give a keynote speech again in 2014, as she did in 2011.   Registration for the conference begins at 8:15 AM on May 31st.  Presentations will be given from 9 AM till 5 PM, with an hour break for lunch.  Following the presentations on Saturday, there will be a wine and cheese social hour and special entertainment.  Sunday’s presentations will run from 9 AM to 4:30 PM.

For more information, registration and conference speaker schedule, go tovsofconference.org



Aren’t you encouraging children to be violent and angry with some of the “aggressive energy” activities you use?

Most children who are emotionally disturbed in some way have no idea how to express their angry feelings appropriately. These feelings are scary for them so they hold them in, or aren’t even aware they might be angry. The organism, in its quest for health, tries to get rid of these held in feelings, and the child acts out in often harmful ways. Most of the symptoms that bring children into therapy have as their root unexpressed anger, or the unexpressed self. Further they restrict and inhibit aspects of the self. Even children who act angry and aggressive are not expressing their innermost feelings, and find no relief. In order to feel more integrated and whole, children need to experience all the aspects of the self. Aggressive energy activities (not to be confused with aggression) involves helping children find their inner strength and self support. They are then able to express their authentic feelings such as anger or sadness. There are important rules for doing this kind of therapeutic work: There must be contact with the therapist. The child must feel she or he is safe. The activity is exaggerated. There is a spirit of playfulness and fun. There are clear limits—the therapist is always in control. Content is not necessary. It is the experience that counts.

Are there some mediums you would refrain from using with certain children?

I would try everything. Some therapists believe that it is not wise to use “aggressive energy” activities with children who may have witnessed domestic violence. I disagree. These children especially need these experiences since they often are fearful and restrict and inhibit themselves. They are closing off parts of themselves. If the child rejects such play, it can be introduced very gradually in a non-threatening way, following the above rules. I read some time ago in a book by a renowned child expert that he would advise not to use finger painting with disturbed hyperactive children. When I worked in the schools with severely hyperactive and disturbed children, I often used finger paints. At one time I had a class of about 12 extremely disturbed boys, ages 11 to 14. I would push the desks together to make a long table. The boys would stand around this structure each with a cafeteria tray before them and jars of red, yellow and blue finger paints in the center. I demonstrated how they could take some colors, move the paint around, and make designs with their fingers. When they were done I placed a paper over the design, pressed down, and voila! A beautiful block print was the result. While doing this activity the boys talked to each other in ways they rarely did. They were calm and focused. Of course they had to follow the rules: no flicking paint, no hitting, etc. They loved the activity so much that they never (or hardly ever) broke the rules. They were totally delighted to discover that blue and yellow make green, red and blue made purple, yellow and red made orange and most of all, that all three colors made brown! Another activity that was kept from these boys all their lives, was working with tools and wood. This activity provided amazing experiences for them. They were allowed to make anything they wanted to except guns (my own bias). They made boxes, bird houses, all kinds of things, out of scraps of wood. They needed to share the limited tools and saw-horses we had and did this without conflict. They measured and problem solved and cut and nailed. If they swung a hammer or saw, they could not continue that day. Needless to say, they loved woodworking so much, I had no problems. At one point a professor from the local university came to observe his student who was placed with me. He came one morning while the class was “building,” as they children called this time. “This looks like a regular group, not a special education class!” He then admonished me for offering this activity in the morning, rather than as a reward later in the day after their academic work was completed. I told him that the social and academic learning with this activity was enormous, and it was important that it be done early in the day while they were most alert. We saw a side of each child that was usually hidden from their parents, teachers, other children as well as themselves. I am feeling tearful as I write this.




 The Evolution of Psychotherapy is the largest conference in the world devoted to psychotherapy.  Its purpose is to enhance the therapeutic skills of each attendee by teaching principles of techniques of contemporary schools of psychotherapy, understanding the commonalities that underlie successful clinical work and appreciating the historical development and future projections of psychotherapeutic disciplines.  It was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim from Wednesday December 11 to Monday December 15, 2013.

Dr. Oaklander taught at the last Evolution of Psychotherapy in 2009.  Her lecture were jam packed, but more important, were full of the very special passion, joy and expertise with children that has made Violet and her work so widely used and treasured all around the world.  

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Dr. Oaklander with the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference Lecture Staff

(Front Row, 6th from the left)

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BOOK SIGNING:  Violet signed copies of her books, Windows to our Children andHidden Treasure, A Map to the Child’s Inner Self on Friday night, December 13th from 6:30 to 7:30 PM  

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Violet with her friend and colleague, Mary Pipher at the conference book signing

WORKSHOP:  Violet taught a packed workshop to about 1,000 people titled:  Gestalt Therapy with Children and Adolescents on Saturday afternoon, December 14th from 2:30 to 5:30 PM.  

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Violet with one of her grandsons, Michael; her daughter Sara’ and her son Mha Atma:  Conference attendees were delighted to see Violet’s grandsons sitting front and center at her workshop

INVITED ADDRESS:  Violet gave a one hour address titled “What Brings Children into Therapy” on Sunday morning December 15th from 8 to 9 AM.  Despite the early hour, again, the 1,000 seat auditorium was packed.  

In addition, the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation hosted a booth throughout the conference featuring many resources for using the Oaklander Model of psychotherapy with Children.  Violet enjoyed spending time at Foundation booth  and meeting people from the conference in between her presentations.  

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At the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Booth:
Violet’s colleagues Sue Talley (who teaches the Oaklander Model in Russia and other places) and Karen Fried (who teaches the Oaklander Model in Italy and  other places).  Both Sue & Karen, along with Lynn Stadler, also teach a yearly one-week summer training in Malibu, California

(see Training and Presentations Page for more information)

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At the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Booth:

Dr. Oaklander and her daughter in law Martha and son Mha Atma


The Oaklander Model Worldwide

Korea, Russia and England


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Hidden Treasure, in Korean, with Korean Therapist attending the conference from Korea, happy to get the chance to have Violet sign his book.  


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At the Evolution of Psychotherapy, December 2013:  Violet with Natalia Kirillina, MD, General Director, Institute of Harmonious Developments & Adaptation.  Natalia organizes the Oaklander Model workshops in Moscow, taught by Foundation Member Sue Talley.  For more information contact Sue Talley at  talkingear@gmail.com 


Here is a letter sent by Jon Blend, Foundation Member in London England, to VSOF members about his recent workshop in London:  Jon  will present on the Oaklander Model at the Foundation Conference in Malibu, California in May 2014.  His workshop is titled:  More Musical Innovations: Putting the Hum Back into Being Human!  For more information, go to http://www.vsofconference.org/schedule.html

Dear Fellow Foundation Members,

Just a note to say that my Working with Children and Adolescents week long Easter intensive, based largely around the Oaklander expressive arts  approach  and now in its fifth year, went very well.   I had an excellent assistant this year which helped. Fourteen people attended, most counselors or therapists, a youth worker a, a hypnotherapist working holistically with children, and a woman who works with displaced/refugee children in the Middle East.   People came from all parts of the UK,  Belgium, Iraq, Turkey and Romania – the latter being able to take part through the generosity of an Oaklander Foundation Scholarship- much appreciated. One of our group had worked on the translation of ‘Windows’ into French recently – lovely to work with her, too!   Here are some of the photos we took at the potluck lunch on the last day etc.

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Jon Blend (2nd from left, back row) with his workshop group in London

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Jon’s group learned the Oaklander music process

I am excited about running the course again in  next Easter,  at the Gestalt Centre London  and  am considering  offering this in an extended  format sometime in the future- watch this space for details!   I have been asked by some participants to put together a weekend on adolescence so  hope to run this, also at the Gestalt Centre, London  this autumn.

Meanwhile I look forward to meeting many of you at the Second Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation Conference (held every two years) in Malibu, California next month!

Sincerely,  Jon Blend, London, England, Spring 2014

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Oaklander Training