Session Formats

Over the years of hosting this conference, we have learned that our attendees appreciate a variety of session formats to match with their caregiving needs and learning styles. Many of us enjoy ‘drinking from the firehose,’ so to speak, immersing ourselves in a full day of information-rich lecture presentations, while others seek opportunities to ask questions on particular care-giving topics of interest. Others of us gravitate toward small-group settings for connection and focused discussion about specific areas. And of course, many of us prefer a mix of all of these formats, depending on our unique needs and how we are feeling in the moment.

To that end, we offer three session formats. The following icons, presented with each session description, will cue you as to their format:


Each session description also includes the following symbols to help you decide which sessions are best suited to your needs:



Some of our sessions have a prerequisite. Our advanced sessions usually require completion of a particular course (or courses) in order to attend. Other sessions may require watching or listening to content that is available online. If this is the case for you, after you register we will send you any links or files needed.


Saturday Session Descriptions

If you prefer, you are also welcome to download a PDF of the conference program.

8:00-9:00 am

Registration and Connection

The registration desk will open at 8:00 am. Pick up your name badge and conference materials, then enjoy connecting with other attendees before getting settled in the ballroom.

9:00-10:15 am

Opening Address—Keys to Resilience

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Resilience is about the ability to bounce back to normal functioning after times of stress, or even better, to be capable of optimal functioning in the face of adversity. It is about healing after being wounded; recovery after losing one’s balance; optimal functioning when under fire. Every human possesses the potential for resilience but this capacity remains elusive to many. Resilience is not inherited and cannot be learned; it must be developed and childhood is the ideal time for this. Many people confuse resilience with ‘toughness,’ when individuals seem unaffected by adversity or are capable of basic functioning in wounding scenarios. In fact, the very armour that makes this possible also interferes with the development of the real thing. In his keynotes, Dr. Neufeld will discuss the essence of true resilience and reveal the keys to developing this capacity in our children and in ourselves. He will also share fresh understandings about the surprising role of play in resilience.

 Presentation: All Audiences

10:15-10:35 am

Morning Break

Refill your water bottles, connect with other attendees, and make your way to your morning workshop.

10:35 am -11:50 am

Sessions A

A1—Resilience and the Adolescent Rites of Passage

Tamara Strijack

Adolescents are faced with an explosion of awareness in emotion and thought. This alone can put them in a very vulnerable place, with temptations to escape at every turn. In this workshop, Tamara will explore the rites of passage that an adolescent needs to go through in order to become truly resilient. While a certain level of defense or armour is needed to survive in today’s often wounding world, when the defenses become stuck, maturation is at risk. We will also look at how we, as caring adults, can step in to help foster true resilience.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A2—Q&A on Food and Attachment

Dr. Deborah MacNamara

This session is a follow up for those who attended Deborah’s Friday evening public address. She will lead a discussion exploring and delving into the nuances of the connection between food and human relationship.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A3—Supporting the Anxious Child

Patti Drobot

Anxiety has increased substantially in children of all ages over recent years and can show up in a variety of symptoms including phobias, panic, obsessions and compulsions, somatic issues, sleep issues, and avoidance, to name a few. Today’s world can create many challenges for children. School and societal pressures, peer interactions, family dynamics, and many other stressors can impede a child’s ability to mature and develop resilience. This workshop will address this increasing problem of our times and help parents make sense of the roots of anxiety, as well as provide practical suggestions on how to support our children through anxiety and help them cultivate resilience.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A4—Cultivating Resilience in a School Setting

Colleen Drobot

Many students are able to overcome adversity, face loss and disappointment, accept not getting their way, and find creative solutions to problems. Yet not all students are so resilient. How can educators and schools cultivate resilience so that students will not only endure these experiences, but will be able to gain strength and confidence in their ability to cope with them? Based on years of working with Dr. Neufeld, teaching in schools, parenting, and counselling families, Colleen’s strategies are helpful for educators to use in the classroom and the school setting as they cultivate resilience at school and throughout their lives.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A5—Walking the Maze of the Mental Health System with My Child

Terry Warburton

Children and teens are being diagnosed with anxiety and depression at alarming rates. With a diagnosis often comes referral to mental health professionals. Parents often feel intimidated, alone, and alienated in this system. This round-table discussion will provide parents with an opportunity to understand the influential, supportive, and key role that they can have in this sometimes confusing and challenging journey with their child. In the context of these difficult circumstances, it is still possible for parents to find a way to hold on to their kids and nurture resilience.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A6—Resilience and the Brain

Eva de Gosztonyi

Sometimes finding out what is going on inside our brain and our body helps us to better understand and accept our somewhat messy psychological processes. This session will introduce participants to the neuroscience of adaptation. Then we will look at how to prime and create the space for this process in our interactions with our children so that we can help them – be they babes-in-arms, children, teens, or young adults – to become more resilient.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A7—Alpha Children: Dancing Your Way Back into the Lead

Genevieve Schreier

This presentation will explore the essence of attachment, revealing a fascinating, little-talked-about dynamic that impacts every relationship – most significantly the parent-child and teacher-student relationship. With a growing number of children taking the alpha lead, the child-adult dance is becoming much more difficult than it used to be. It is in exploring and recognizing the intricacies of the alpha-dependent dance that doors for lasting change are opened: in the family, in the classroom, and in society.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A8—Resilience in Motion: A Journey of Stories and Pictures

Darlene Denis-Friske

There are many ways to absorb deep understanding of lessons, theories, and concepts beyond the structured word. Oral tradition, poetry, story, and expressive mediums are all able to weave a ‘knowing deeper than words,’ leaving us with a feeling of coming home to something we already knew. Join Darlene as she shares a presentation of stories and experiences that highlight key factors in the process of ‘resilience in motion.’

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A9—The Up-Side of Upset: Emotions and the Road to Resilience

Michele Maurer

Emotions can be messy, and we are sometimes tempted to avoid the mess, but at what cost? While emotions were once thought of as a “nuisance,” recent advances in brain science confirm that they are not just important – emotions are the key to maturation and the development of resilience. This workshop will explore the connections between emotions and resilience, including the important role of parents and caregivers in guiding and supporting children through these messy waters.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

A10—Q&A on the Role of Grandparents in Cultivating Resilience

Joy Neufeld, Lorraine Beaudry

The role of grandparents can be rather confusing in today’s society. In more traditional times grandparents served a pivotal role, often assisting with the care and serving as an anchor point for a child. For the most part, culture both honoured and preserved that role. With society coming undone, the need for grandparents has never been greater, yet the support of culture and society has never been weaker. What can grandparents do to make a difference in the lives of their grandchildren when they have so little control over the circumstances that affect them? How can they protect the grandchild who is having to deal with the sting of sibling rejection, the flaws of their own parents, or a divorce?  How can grandparents cultivate a strong enough relationship to build the resilience a child needs? This Q&A session is both for grandparents and for those who would like to explore the role of grandparents in a child’s life.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

11:50-1:00 pm

Lunch (Independently or Optional Add-On)

For an additional charge of $26, you may pre-order a buffet lunch with your conference registration – an Indian buffet that has received rave reviews from past conference attendees and includes some vegan/dairy-free and Paleo options. If you have specific dietary considerations, you may want to bring your own lunch. There are also a handful of restaurants near the hotel, only a short drive away.

Vancouver Kidsbooks will be on site with a conference bookstore, which you’re welcome to peruse during this time, too.

1:00-2:15 pm

Sessions B

B1—Hypersensitivity: Special Challenges Regarding Resilience

Gordon Neufeld

The condition of neurological hypersensitivity occurs when the sensory input is too much for the brain to process. The manifestations of this condition can range from a certain kind of giftedness all the way to classic autism, depending upon how this underlying condition has impacted attachments and development. It can also lead to attention problems or result in an Asperger’s syndrome. There is probably no condition where resilience is more needed and yet less likely to exist. Dr. Neufeld will briefly introduce this neurological condition, explain why resilience is so elusive, and suggest ways to restore neural plasticity and the capacity for adaptation.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B2—Alpha Problems and Resilience

Deborah MacNamara

A growing number of children are presenting as demanding, prescriptive, bossy, and controlling. A disturbing number of these alpha children are turning into bullies, as well. Alpha children tend to have difficulties letting themselves be parented or taught. These children also lack resilience in the face of adversity. This is making the child-adult dance much more difficult than it used to be or needs to be, despite the plethora of strategies and advice-giving available today. Deborah will discuss the roots of the alpha complex, along with the path to fostering greater resilience in alpha children.

  • Prerequisite: None required

B3—Aggression, Adaptation, and Resilience

Patti Drobot

None of us knows what may happen in the future. Emotional readiness for adversity is just as important as physical readiness for a natural disaster. If there were any single tell-tale sign that the capacity for resilience is lacking in a child – or adult for that matter – it would be the existence or eruptions of attacking energy. Residual attacking energy is most often experienced as foul moods, irritability, and impatience. Eruptions of attacking energy can take many forms, including even suicidal thoughts and impulses. One could think of aggression as an early-warning system, alerting us to the fact that should a stressful event occur, a bounce-back is not likely to happen. This renders aggression of utmost concern – not just as problem behaviour to be addressed – but as a sign that the adaptive process needs to be restored. Patti will clarify the relationship between aggression, adaptation, and resilience and focus on ways to restore the ability to bounce back from whatever may befall.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B4—Softening the Defenses: Helping Children Face Vulnerability and Gain Resilience

Colleen Drobot

Dr. Neufeld and faculty often speak of the need for a child’s heart to remain soft, for emotions to be felt and expressed, and for tears of futility to be shed in order for a child to develop and mature. For anyone raising a sensitive or stuck child, softening the defenses can be a daunting task that sometimes seems almost impossible. This workshop will focus on ways we can soften a child’s heart so that the tears can be restored, lowering frustration and anxiety and cultivating resilience. As a family therapist and mother of sensitive children, Colleen will share Dr. Neufeld’s wisdom and her personal experiences of how to restore the ability for a child to feel, attend, grieve, and attach.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B5—Understanding Counterwill and Cultivating Cooperation

Dan Nault Heather Ferguson

Children and teens are naturally inclined to resist and oppose when feeling pressed upon or controlled. Although the reaction is quite normal – and even healthy in certain circumstances – its manifestations and impact can be highly disruptive, making life difficult for parents and teachers. In this session, Heather will discuss the meaning of this deep-rooted instinct and the dynamics that control its existence and expression. She will provide strategies to help adults reduce the effects of oppositional behaviour and deepen attachment and cooperation with children and youth.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B6—Q&A on Adolescence

Christie Mackie

Crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood can be such a challenging time – for adolescents and for those caring for them. Defenses and peer orientation can often get in the way. How can we come alongside our adolescents as caring adults? How can we help them navigate questions of friendship and sexuality? How can we make room for them to discover who they are in the midst of all the physical and emotional changes and the increasing demands of our digital world? In this question-and-answer workshop, Christie will share some of her stories from her experience as a clinical counsellor and as a parent of adolescents. Please bring your questions as parents, grandparents, teachers, and/or helping professionals.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B7—The Neuroscience of Resilience
(Exclusively for graduates of the Neufeld Intensive I)

Eva de Gosztonyi

This session will deepen the participants’ understanding of the neuroscience of the adaptive process. How does the brain move us from mad to sad? What role do bio-chemicals play in whether we become defended or truly resilient? And, most importantly, how can we help those in our care harness this wondrous process that can bring them closer to achieving their full human potential?

  • Prerequisite: This is an advanced workshop, open only to graduates of the Neufeld Intensive I.

B8—Special Challenges in Resilience: Fostering, Adoption, and Divorce

Geneviève Brabant

All children possess the potential to adapt and “bounce back” from emotionally challenging circumstances. However, the transplanted child in the context of foster care, adoption, or divorce has the most to adapt to, and the least capacity to do so. Geneviève will discuss some of the impediments to the development of resilience in transplanted children, as well as the keys to overcome these impediments and help children develop to their full potential.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B9—Roadblock to Resilience: The Problem of Addiction
(Exclusively for graduates of the Neufeld Intensive II)

Terry Warburton

Addiction can easily get in the way of individuals becoming resilient and achieving their developmental potential. Pursuit is nature’s way of filling attachment voids. What happens when this pursuit becomes depersonalized into fixes and fixations resulting in addictions of various kinds? What does an attachment-based developmental understanding of human relationships reveal about this common problem of addiction, and what hope does it offer for recovery?

  • Prerequisite: This is an advanced workshop, open only to graduates of the Neufeld Intensive II.

B10—Supporting Emotional Expression in Schools

Martine Demers

Life in schools is hectic and demanding. For many children, handling all the demands – both academic and behavioral – is daunting, overwhelming, and scary. Managing peer relationships, responding to academic challenges, coping with the varying expectations of adults, and dealing with family issues can evoke a range of emotions. It is important to provide support and a warm invitation for children to express their most vulnerable emotions and to feel safe in our presence. Martine will show how Dr. Neufeld’s developmental paradigm can be applied in various school settings. This session applies to preschool, elementary, and high school alike.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

B11—Loss, Grief, and Resilience

April Quan

Loss is an unavoidable human experience, but many of us are not comfortable with grief – whether our own or another’s. At the same time, the emotions surrounding loss are some of the most crucial for developing resilience. Childhood losses can take many forms besides death – including separation of parents, moving, loss of a pet, and others that adults might discount as minor. Our children need us to lead the way in making room for feelings of loss. In this round-table discussion, we will look at obstacles to grieving and find ways to support the process in our children’s lives, as well as our own.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

2:15-2:30 pm

Afternoon Break (15 minutes)

Refill your water bottles, connect with other attendees, and make your way to your next session. Vancouver Kidsbooks will be on site with a conference bookstore to peruse, too.

2:30-3:45 pm

Sessions C

C1—Resilience and the Digital World – A New Frontier

Tamara Strijack

Our world continues to move quickly around us, with technological advances at every turn. Whether we like it or not, the digital world is here to stay. While in many ways these advances make our world an easier place to live, sometimes the shortcuts they offer come at a cost. Although technology can be tempting, offering its easy ways to avoid and distract from difficult feelings, it can also have implications for the development of true resilience. In this workshop, Tamara will explore how technology can interfere with healthy development and resilience, as well as how we can safeguard the developmental process in our children and adolescents.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C2—Tears and Tantrums: Understanding Frustration and Aggression

Deborah MacNamara

The expression of frustration and aggression in children can take on many forms, including temper tantrums and various forms of attack. Part of making headway requires understanding the roots of frustration and aggression and how to deal with the resulting behaviours. This presentation will focus on strategies for dealing with a frustrated child while preserving one’s relationship to them. It will address the importance of setting limits and helping children learn that they can survive the futilities that are part of life.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C3—Q&A on Sibling Rivalry

Patti Drobot, Colleen Drobot

Conflict between siblings can be a natural occurrence, but one that often drives parents crazy. Competition between siblings close in age can be exasperating. Witnessing one child verbally or physically attack his/her sibling is very challenging and often leaves parents at a loss as to what to do. Siblings Colleen and Patti will share stories and answer questions around the subject of sibling conflict.

  • Prerequisite: Viewing the Sibling Rivalry online presentation from November 2015. (The link to the recording will be sent to you when you register.)

C4—Consciously Integrating Families – The New Blended

Jodi Bergman

The family structure is rapidly changing and the process of bringing people together is complex.  Not all step-families are alike, and true integration involves respectfully combining different histories, traditions, personalities, and preferences. Insight into the dynamics of attachment and vulnerability and how they are at play in these new relationships can help navigate the maze, and offer us an opportunity to understand and act from relationship, not role. Through years of study and personal experience, Jodi Bergman will help make sense of the dynamics of an integrated family and discuss the key elements that need to be present to support growing a family that is thriving, not just surviving.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C5—Stuck On You: Adolescent Sexuality and Nature’s Design

Robin Brooks-Sherriff

Adolescent and sex in the same sentence generally strikes fear in the hearts of even the most grounded and intuitive parent. How on earth can we help teens navigate – or even begin to understand what healthy sexuality looks like – in a world that has truly gone mad? Somewhere along the line, teaching sexuality left the realm of family and was handed over to schools. We have come to a point where we teach about sex and birth control and disease outside of any context. Intuitively we know something is wrong with this approach, but how can we bring sexuality and sex back into context where it belongs? Science offers us some insight into nature’s design: sex is essentially human superglue and our adolescents have no idea what they are playing with. Robin offers perspective on how to take this information and find our way back into the lead with our adolescents. She will also discuss how to come to their side in this exciting and challenging period of their lives with insight that might save them from an unexpectedly sticky situation.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C6—Cultivating Resilience in the Defended or Stuck Child
(For practitioners and parent consultants who have taken the Neufeld Intensive I)

Darlene Denis-Friske

For the child who is adaptive, we might say there is balance in the intricate life-dance between emotion and human defenses. The adaptive process guides the dance at times – enough for defenses to soften, emotions to drain, and rest to be found. Resilience is in motion. We celebrate healthy functioning, and guide the parents’ eyes to understand what is naturally unfolding. For the child who has stuck tears, however, defenses have assumed a protective and dominant position, wrestling for control in the dance. Our discussions with parents must necessarily take a more nuanced shape, and include special considerations around working with defenses to regain healthy functioning. In this workshop based on her direct therapeutic work and parent consultation, Darlene will present thoughts and experiences on cultivating resilience in the child who is stuck or defended.

  • Prerequisite: This is an advanced workshop, open only to practitioners and parent consultants who have taken the Neufeld Intensive I.

C7—Resilience and Special Needs in Schools

Eva de Gosztonyi

When we have in our care a child with special needs – be it as parents or as teachers – life can be hectic. The focus on early intervention often means a life filled with appointments, interventions, and therapies. But is there something we are missing? What about resilience? This presentation will examine the conditions necessary to promote true resilience and what the implications are for those in charge. Come prepared to experience some cognitive dissonance as we explore this topic. Can less really be more?

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C8—Carving out the Space for Play

Genevieve Schreier

In this busy, demanding, pressure-filled world, play seems like a luxury. Who has time for play when urgency is all around us? The trouble with the urgent, however, is that it risks eclipsing the important. True play is absolutely vital to the unfolding of human potential, but we are losing the room for this kind of play in our society. In this presentation, Genevieve will explore the necessity of play and carving out the room and space for it – not only in our children’s lives, but in our own lives as well.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C9—Attachment-Safe and Developmentally Friendly Discipline – Keeping Resilience in Mind

Geneviève Brabant

As parents and adults responsible for children’s well being, we are often tempted to correct their behaviour, teach them a lesson, or ignore their plea for attention. On the other hand, developmental science informs us that resilience is not inherited and cannot be learned; it must be developed. Geneviève will discuss special considerations when using discipline to impose order on a child’s mind, including ways to help children grow up and adapt to the many circumstances they are up against.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C10—Boys, Men, and Tears

David Robertson

Framed within the context of “true resilience,” David’s presentation will invite participants to: unfold some assumptions we might have about tears; name a few cultural and social norms; make connections with our own narrative and experience; notice our relationship with emotion; and create room for expression. These are all significant compass points for exploring the territory of boys, men, and tears. This presentation will help participants consider how the practice of fostering a connection between tears and resilience – along with the preservation of a soft heart from boyhood well into the adult years – will make a difference.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

C11—Roundtable: Resilience in Indigenous Communities

Denise Findlay

Our indigenous people have suffered significant stressors in the past – like colonization and residential school – that make resilience of paramount importance. Unfortunately a significant number of today’s indigenous children and adolescents continue to be exposed to wounding environments – both inside and outside of their communities. Fortunately many pieces of the resilience puzzle actually exist within traditional aboriginal culture, but now need to be restored and knitted back together: rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage, and family relationships. In this session Denise will facilitate a round-table discussion about resilience within indigenous communities and what adults can do in the context of relationship to ensure that our children and adolescents reach their full potential.

  • Prerequisite: None required.

3:55-4:30 pm

Final Address—Keys to Resilience

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Dr. Neufeld will share his closing thoughts on resilience.