VSOF Newsletter – Winter 2009


Founding Member Spotlight
on Sue Ellen Talley MFT
by Karen Fried

Karen Fried

Sue Talley and I met at Violet’s two-week intensive in the summer of 1995, and began a 14-year friendship and association through our work with children using Violet’s model.  What I recall about our first meeting is Sue’s protest of the back rests that were provided by bringing a stash of beach chairs, one of which she generously shared with me. Over the years I learned this was a small example of how Sue operates, challenging the status quo to create improvements in others’ lives.

Sue was born in North Carolina, lived as child in Arkansas and Texas, and eventually settled in California. At the age of 14, Sue’s parents divorced and entered her into therapy with a Freudian analyst. Sue describes this as an unfortunate first exposure to therapy. “He didn’t speak for one year and I didn’t speak for one year and at the end he said, “I don’t think this is working.” The analyst then referred Sue to a psychiatric social worker, who was very helpful and served as a reminder to Sue in subsequent years of the benefits of therapy.

After a 20-year career as a litigation support consultant, Sue was drawn back to the therapy process as a professional and enrolled in Antioch University to get her Masters in Clinical Psychology. This was a hectic time in the Talley/Greenberg home; their sons Max and Sam were 6 and 3. Thanks to the support of Sue’s husband Steve, Sue managed to be a parent, work full time in the legal field, attend graduate school full time, and intern at Children’s Institute International.
It was during graduate school that Windows to our Children was assigned reading. Inspired, Sue attended a workshop given by Violet, and then she attended Violet’s two-week summer training.

In consultation with Violet, Sue envisioned a community of professionals who could continue Violet’s work, as well as benefit from the association of working with others who have a passion for Violet’s work with children. The Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation emerged from Sue’s notes taken on napkins during several lunches with Violet, as well as collaboration with other founding members.

Presently, Sue has a private psychotherapy practice in Agoura Hills, specializing in work with children and families who have experienced trauma. Sue and her husband Steve Greenberg have now five children between them: adopted son, Blake Brisbois, 25, a graduate student in psychology at Antioch University, Sam Greenberg, 23, a second year Law student at Loyola, Max Greenberg is a student at Moorpark College, Kira Greenberg, LCSW, lives in San Jose, and Michael Greenberg, JD, lives in Sacramento.

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Update from Switzerland

Fabienne Monard-Kuenzli and Andre Kuenzli

VSOF Founding Members Andre Kuenzli and Fabienne Kuenzli-Monard have been busy training therapists about working with children in Switzerland. They draw from the Oaklander Model, Family Therapy, and other Post-Modern approaches.

Here’s a sampling of some of their courses at their “Institute of Reflexive
Practices”. The following schedule and course descriptions are available in English at www.reflexivepractices.com.

1. The one-year training program for 2009-2010 is 54 hours for a group of 8-10 participants. Accent will be placed on learning to articulate and generate theories of practice as they are emerging from the clinical work. Learning and applying the complexity of a clinical positioning moment by moment, ethics in practice and the art of reflexivity.

2. Working with children teens and their families, plus the original contribution of the Violet Oaklander’s work. This is a 24-hour training. 

3. Sand Tray: Working with children and the sand tray, the original contribution of the Violet Oaklander’s work.  This is a 24-hour training June 11-13, 2009.

4.  Therapeutic Questions: Learning the art of asking potentially therapeutic questions –  A difference that makes the difference. This is a 24-hour training.

5.  Therapeutic Letter Writing: Another Tool in your Toolbox. March 2009.

6. Introduction to a Methodology of Contact: How to creatively invite a child or a teenager into psychotherapy. This course is 32 hours October 2008 – March 2009.

7. Dr. Scott D. Miller (from the Chicago Institute www.talkingcure.com) offers a one-day training at the Institute of Reflexive Practices for the first time in Switzerland. May 30, 2009.

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Board Meeting Hightlights – January 11, 2009

Website & Media

  1. Board approved a second printing of the VSOF brochure.
  2. The VSOF store links to a new page listing the 13 language translations for  “Windows”. URLs for foreign publishers will be added.
  3. New pages will be added to the website so Friends of the Foundation can pay online via Pay Pal, and Scholarship Fund donations can also be made online via PayPal.
  4. Increased efforts are underway so that the VSOF site can be accessed from websites of academic institutions and child therapy centers and associations. 
  5. The documentary film about Violet is coming along. Six hours of footage has been time-coded, and eventually the tapes and time-coding will go to the VSOF archives.  The 60-minute documentary is scheduled for completion in June 2010.
  6. An article about Violet for Wikepedia is in progress.

Scholarship Fund

  1. Board approved a $2500 grant from the VSOF Scholarship Fund to Founding Member Lynn Stadler so that she can teach a 3-day workshop in Kyrgyzstan in 2009 on the Oaklander Model.
  2. The Board discussed setting up an application process for future scholarship funds.  A scholarship chair and committee will formulate criteria for two possible types of assistance: 1) Subsidizing a trainer (like sending Lynn to Kyrgyzstan) and 2) Subsidizing students to attend trainings.
  3. The Santa Barbara chapter of CAMFT announced a yearly ($300 to $400) VSOF scholarship donation for a SB CAMFT member to train in the Oaklander Model.  VSOF Board member, Chris Orpen, will work with CAMFT-SB on the application process.


The VSOF archives are now housed at Sue Talley’s home in Agoura Hills, California. Chris Orpen will help Sue catalogue all the materials — books, games, sand toys, clay tools, papers, most of the items used at Violet’s two-week Summer training. The room also has a color printer and wireless internet.  A computerized sign-out list will be created for archive materials.

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