VSOF Newsletter – Summer Fall 2015

Summer-Fall 2015

In This Issue:

Ask Violet:  Parents at the First Session


35th Anniversary Edition of Windows to Our Children


Report on the 2015 Summer Trainings in Malibu and Solvang, CA


VSOF sponsored Certification Program’s First Graduate:  

Vicente Orzoco


The Oaklander Model Worldwide:  

Australia, England, Spain and Italy


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Parents at the First Session

I have a file of the many, many questions that people have asked me.  Sometimes there were so many people in a workshop that I would ask people to write their questions and turn them in.  I have kept all of these thinking that I might write a book called “THE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK ME” some day.    Here’s one that was asked several times:

“You had stated that you see the parents and child together at the first session.  I have been leery to do this because, when I have, the parents’ comments were hurtful for the child to hear.  I thought that it was more harmful to the child than helpful.  Please comment.”


On the contrary, I found it most helpful to do this.  If the child thinks I don’t know about his parents’ complaints, then this interferes with the relationship.  A division has been set up between us.  Believe me, he already knows how his parents feel about his behavior.

It’s important that he knows that I know.  If I smile at him, he doesn’t think, “If she only knew how bad I was, she wouldn’t smile at me!”

Here’s a sample:

An eight year old boy—I’ll call him Danny—is brought in to see me because the school people threatened to put him in a special class due to his aggressive, disruptive behavior.  The parents were told that if they tried counseling, they would wait before doing this.  The parents were extremely angry at Danny for forcing them to seek counseling, as well as his behavior.  At the first session I generally do an “intake” asking the child various question from a form on my clip board.  I told the parents they could add information after their son answered the questions, such as, “Do you sleep O.K.?  How is your appetite?  “Do you have your own room?”  “Do you have a favorite TV show?”  and so forth.  If he is reluctant to answer anything, I then turn to the parents.  Danny was willing to answer many questions for himself.  As you can see, our relationship is beginning to form.  Finally I asked the parents to tell me why they are here.  Dad responded in a very angry voice describing Danny’s transgressions and talking about how much trouble he is, etc.  I turn to Mom, and she agrees, albeit somewhat reluctantly, (probably because Danny is in the room.)  She begins to cry.  I notice that Danny is cringing as his Dad speaks and his Mom cries, and lowers his head.  I turn to Danny and say, “This must be hard for you to hear all this!”  He nods.  I sometimes will ask the child if he or she agrees with what the parent is saying.  I did not do this since I could see that Danny is pretty upset and turned into himself.

Finally I tell the parents that I will need to see Danny alone for about four sessions and that after that we will come together again.  At that time I will let them know if I think we will need to continue, or I may want to just see the parents, or have family sessions.  I explain how I work, and give them my handout called,  “A Description of the Therapy Process.”  (See our Resources page for a copy of this handout).  This handout pretty much describes each phase of the therapeutic process along with a description of my use of projective, expressive techniques.  I say to Danny,  “You might not agree with me, but just hearing your parents today I would say that you are not too happy in life.”  Then to the parents, “My job is to help him feel happier.”   (I have never met a parent who doesn’t want their child to feel happy.)   I say to Danny, “Again I don’t know if you agree with me or not, but I would say that you don’t feel too good about yourself.”  To the parents, “My job is to help Danny feel better about himself.”  Then I say that I imagine that Danny keeps a lot of his feelings to himself and I hope to help him express those feelings.  We use many of the expressive techniques to help him do this.  Sometimes the inappropriate behaviors drop away through all of this.  ”You can be sure that if I decide to see Danny for individual sessions, we will be in close contact, and I would want you to come in at least every 4 to 6 weeks.”

Then I turn to Danny and say, “Will you be willing to come in next week?”  In this case, Danny, who has been eyeing some of the equipment in my office, especially some jars of paint, I notice, vigorously nods.  If he should say no, or not answer, I would then tell the parents they need to make this decision.  I generally say something like, “If he needed to go to the dentist, you would decide for him!”

I saw Danny weekly for four months.  He painted and drew pictures, did sand tray scenes, pounded clay, and generally was quite responsive. His father, who was in the military,  was shipped out and I never saw him again.  His mother dropped Danny off regularly, but was reluctant to see me.  We did talk on the phone often.  She was pretty depressed herself, and Danny became her somewhat therapist.  When he talked about his loneliness, I asked him if his mother was lonely, so he went home and asked her and this prompted a wonderful discussion between them.  He even asked her to do some of the drawings he liked, such as the “Safe Place.”  One day his Mother said he was so busy with life (baseball particularly) that she thought he was finished with counseling.  I called the school and the counselor almost didn’t remember who he was.  She spoke to his teacher who said he was doing just fine, that he probably was going through a stage!

I have had many experiences such as the above.  This family (there was a younger sister) had moved many times and Danny had been in several schools before his present one.  In fact he had never finished a school year in one school.  There were many issues to deal with and we dealt with them one by one.  “Draw a picture or make a sand scene about what it’s like to always be the new kid in school.”  “Make your family out of clay and say one thing to each that you like, and then what makes you mad.”  (Working with anger was an important part of his therapy.)  I think our first session set the stage for a successful relationship and productive work.


35th Anniversary Edition of Windows to Our Children

For the first time since its publication in 1978, there is a new edition of Dr. Violet Oaklander’s ground-breaking book, Windows To Our Children. The new 35th Anniversary Edition features a recent lengthy interview with Dr. Oaklander by Christiane Elsbree, M.S.W. Ms. Elsbree, a long-time colleague of Dr. Oaklander, has also added a new introduction to the original text of this classic book. A comprehensive index has been added to the 35th anniversary edition as well.

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Oaklander Model Training Malibu California, August 2015

 The Oaklander 5 Day Intensive Training was a huge success this summer in Malibu at the lovely Serra Retreat.  Lynn Stadler, Karen Hillman Fried, and Sue Ellen Talley presented the Violet Oaklander Model to a group of thirteen participants, all therapists working with children and adolescents from around the U.S. and Canada.  The workshop included many projective experiential activities (sand tray, clay, puppets, music, drawings), as well as didactic sessions that explained the theory underlying Violet’s model.

We also had a visit from Violet, along with her son and daughter in law.  Violet spoke about her history of working with children and gestalt theory, and answered questions posed by the participants. Afterwards, Violet met individually with many of the participants to sign her books and get to know them, while enjoying a wine & cheese party hosted by the Serra Retreat.

For more information regarding our August 2016 training, contact http://www.oaklandertraining.org   oaklandertraining@gmail.com // (805) 962 – 9992

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The West Coast Institute for Gestalt Therapy with Children and Adolescents held its 14th annual training August 1-9, 2015.  The Summer Intensive Training  is an international training bringing together people from all over the world.  The training is limited to 12 participants to maximize conversation and feedback during practicum exercises. Participants complete  60 contact hours.

The purpose of the West Coast Institute (WCI) is to further the therapeutic approach developed by Violet Oaklander, Ph. D.  Violet has been recognized by WCI as the Emeritus Founder of the Oaklander Model. The WCI Core Faculty Denise Richman, LMFT, Christine Orpen, LMFT and Valente Orozco, LCSW, RPT-S, PPS joined with Principal Faculty, Felicia Carroll, LMFT and RPT-S and Certified Gestalt Therapist in the eight day training.

This summer eleven outstanding individuals participated.  Three participants came from South Korea, four from Illinois, and four from California.  For more information contact fcarroll@west.net or go to http://feliciacarroll.com/ 

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West Coast Institute for Gestalt Therapy

Recognizes Valente Orzoco of California as the

First Recipient of the WCI Certification Program

for Gestalt Therapy with Children and Adolescents

At the final dinner Valente Orzoco, LCSW and RPT-S was celebrated and congratulated as the first graduate of the Certification Program at WCI.  This extensive process includes training, supervision, theory exam, and written case presentation.  This program was developed to encourage and promote focused study and responsible practice of Gestalt theory and psychotherapy as represented by the writings of Violet Oaklander, the wider Gestalt literature, and of contemporary neuroscience within clinical understanding.   Valente received his new status as Certified Gestalt Therapist with Children and Adolescents on August 9, 2015.  

Valente Orozco works in both outpatient children’s mental health and private practice.  He has worked in a variety of settings as a school-based mental health counselor, child welfare worker, and clinic-based mental health.  He served as the president-elect (2014) and President (2015) of the Central Valley Chapter of the California Association for Play Therapy.  He is an active participant at the Pacific Gestalt Institute.  He has given several presentations including, “The Use of Music and Sound in Gestalt Play Therapy” “Working with Fantasy in Gestalt Therapy”  as well as providing ongoing consultation and training groups in Gestalt Therapy with children and adolescents.  Valente can be contacted at www.cloviscounseling.com 

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Valente Orzoco




By Peter Mortola, VSOF founding member

Peter is Dr. Oaklander’s longtime colleague, Associate Professor of School and Counseling Psychology at

Lewis & Clark College in Portland Oregon


In May, 2015, I was the Faculty Leader for a group of psychology students from Lewis and Clark College for an overseas trip to Australia. The students took classes on Australian history, flora and fauna, and social service provision. They also were placed in Internships for five weeks in varying social service agencies (e.g. a young parenting program, an Aboriginal rites organization, etc.). In advance of this trip, I contacted Greer White, Director of the robust Gestalt Therapy Brisbane organization, and worked together with her to offer a 3-hour workshop on the Oaklander approach to therapy. I was immediately impressed not only by Greer’s openness and warmth (even over email!), but also by the attention to detail that she and others offered to this project. On the day of the workshop, over 30 therapists from all over the Brisbane area converged on the stunning 12th floor of a new social service agency building called Common Ground. I opened with slides of Violet’s book covers from the 14 countries in which it has been translated, posing the question that has fascinated about her work from the beginning: What is it about her work that speaks to so many people in so many places around the world? Perhaps in answer to that question, the 30 participants (plus my 12 undergraduate students) were soon silently immersed in first creating their own “rosebush drawing,” then working together in triads as they spoke “as if” they were that rosebush (or any plant really). I have started a mini research project in which I ask participants of such Oaklander exercises if they were able to make personal connection between their experience as a rosebush, in this case, and their own lives as individuals, family members, working professionals, etc. In Brisbane, every one of the participants found that they could personally identify with some aspect of their experience as the rosebush, which to me reinforces how in Violet’s approach, so often the playful does become real. I am grateful to Violet for having such lovely and helpful work to share with others, and to the foundation for helping to keep the work alive. I am presently formulating a new book about Violet’s work that I hope to complete in the new year.   For more information contact pmortola@lclark.edu

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SUNDAY AGE DOMAIN  12 July 2010  660 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.  The rooftop.  Pic by Rebecca Hallas SPECIAL 00000000

The Common Ground Service Agency Building where Dr. Mortola taught the Oaklander Model Workshop:

From the ground looking up (left), and from the root top patio looking out over Brisbane (right)



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Oxfordshire Retreat House

Jon Blend MA Dip Child. is a UKCP registered child and adolescent psychotherapist; clinical supervisor, author and international trainer with extensive experience of working with children and families in CAMHS and other mental health settings offers.  Jon will offer a 5 day residential course April 4 to 8, 2016 in Oxfordshire, an hour from London.   This course is for counsellors, psychotherapists and other professionals who are working directly with children in a therapeutic or pastoral capacity. The course draws inspiration from the pioneering work of Gestalt Therapist Dr. Violet Oaklander PhD whose approach puts the relationship between therapist and child at the heart of the therapeutic process.  Bookings; Crissy Duff crissyduff@counsellinginsurrey.net   Enquiries: Jon Blend jon.blend335@gmail.com

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                           Jon Blend with the London Easter Oaklander Model Training Group



Karen Fried taught a Four Day Day Workshop in Trieste, Italy from April 23 – 26, 2015 in coordination with Dr. Paolo Baiocchi, and Dr. Giandomenico Bagatin.  Here is a note posted to Facebook along with the following photo by the group coordinator:  “Thanks to Karen Fried Hillman for giving us his wonderful therapeutic art and giving us many tools to work with families, children and teenagers! A wonderful experience and really useful for my training and my work.”

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Karen Fried Hillman with  training group in Italy



Karen Fried taught a Five Day Day Workshop in Barcelona, Spain from April 30 to May 3, 2015 in coordination with Dr. Paolo Baiocchi, and Dr. Giandomenico Bagatin.  Here is a note posted to Facebook from the group coordinator along with the following photo:  “Thank you all, colleagues and students, for your dedication and contribution in this journey of discovery and learning.  Thanks to Karen Fried, Oaklander the Violet Foundation, for their warmth and professionalism.  It was a wonderful workshop!”

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Karen Fried Hillman with  training group in Spain

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