Saturday Session Choices

Attendees may choose one breakout session per Sessions A, B and C at time of registration.

Switching Sessions

Attendees may request session switches by emailing our registrar up until April 2, 2020. After this date, session switches are no longer available due to meeting room assignment and capacity considerations.

7:30-8:30 am

Registration and Connection

The registration desk will open at 7:30 am in the Britannia ballroom foyer. Pick up your name badge and conference materials, then enjoy connecting with other attendees before getting settled in the ballroom.

8:30-9:45 am Plenary Session

Keys to Emotional Health & Well-Being

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

The scientific evidence is mounting that emotion is indeed at the heart of the matter, whether the issue is the stress response, problem behaviour, attention problems, learning problems, immaturity, or even mental illness. Given this new understanding, it only makes sense that emotional health and well-being should become our collective priority, whether it be at home, at school, or at work. But what is emotional health and well-being? How can we recognize it and foster it in ourselves, in our students, in our clients, and in our loved ones? Fresh understandings of the neurobiology of emotion are revealing interesting and surprising answers that have implications for us all.

Dr. Neufeld’s life’s work is to make sense of children to the adults responsible for them, in the hopes that this will lead to providing the conditions that are conducive to the unfolding of their full human potential. These insights on emotional health and well-being however apply universally and so should be of benefit to anyone, in any role.

10:10-11:25 am Breakout Sessions A

A1 Fresh Insights on the Stress Response

Dr. Gordon Neufeld


Much has been discovered since Walter Cannon’s fight-or-flight reaction and Hans Selye’s construct of stress revolutionized our thinking. Their brilliant contributions provided the first corner pieces to one of the most significant puzzles of all time: what troubles us and how. Fast forward to today, and we now have an explosion of information that can potentially enable us to complete their initial sketch. Key puzzle pieces have come from many sources: attachment theory, science of emotion, resilience theory, science of development, and the new science of play. Dr. Neufeld will put these puzzle pieces together in a way that explains everyday reactions that can be applied to both our children’s lives and our own.

A2 Moving Through Emotional Defence

Dr. Deborah MacNamara

Neuroscience has paved the way to support what Freud once posited: we do have an emotional unconsciousness that operates outside of direct awareness. This is not a mistake, but part of the brain’s sophisticated capacity to defend and inhibit emotional awareness to serve survival needs. How does the brain inhibit vulnerable emotion? How can we create the conditions for the defences to come down? How can we become conscious of defences operating when they are meant to blind us in the first place? Developmental science provides answers to these puzzling emotional questions.

A3 Raising the Sensitive Child

Patti Drobot

What is sensitivity and how does it manifest in some children? Understanding and recognizing sensitivity is key when parenting or teaching a sensitive child. If misunderstood, these children are at risk for behavioural problems and failure to mature. Through years of study and personal experience, Patti will help make sense of the sensitive child. She will share her own challenges and discuss the parent’s role in helping the sensitive child mature and realize his or her developmental potential. In this session, she will cover topics such as attachment, discipline, and the risks involved when these children are misunderstood and treated with behavioural techniques.

A4 The Counterwill Dynamic: Understanding Resistance and Oppositionality

Colleen Drobot

A common dynamic that is often frustrating to parents and potentially erodes the parent-child relationship is when a child balks and defies us. It can be as subtle as ignoring our requests or as blatant as telling us, “You’re not the boss of me!” When we ask them to clean up, get ready for school, go to bed, come to the table, be kind to their sibling, etc., we may be met with a “No!” or they may in fact do the opposite. Dr. Neufeld describes this oppositional behaviour as counterwill.  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. We will discuss the meaning of this deep-rooted instinct and the dynamics that control its existence and expression. Colleen will provide strategies to help adults reduce the effects of oppositional behaviour and gain cooperation with children. She will also discuss the role of play in this dynamic, including its amazing power to defuse and circumvent this instinctive reaction.

A5 The Therapist as an Agent of Attachment

Lori Abramowitz

Given emotion is at the heart of the matter and the most troubling and troublesome emotions are triggered by facing separation, the first logical challenge in therapy would be to reduce the separation being faced, if at all possible. When the ultimate client is the child, parents are the hopeful answer. When the clients are adults, there is less control over the dynamics of attachment. Lori Abramowitz will share her experiences of being an agent of attachment with clientele who have little control over their lives. She will discuss the challenges of finding workarounds to reducing separation even when the people and the circumstances are not necessarily amenable to change.

A6 An Ode to Melancholy

Genevieve Schreier

Happiness is easy to yearn for, both for ourselves, and especially our loved ones. Who doesn’t want those they love to be happy? We seek it, strive for it, welcome it – we have even built a multi-million-dollar industry around its pursuit. Yet happiness is but one of many human feelings. By the very same token, its counterpart, sadness, is avoided, escaped, and even feared. By negating sadness and melancholy, are we missing the very key ingredient in the unfolding of human potential? In this presentation, Genevieve will pay tribute to melancholy, making a case for changing our perspective on sadness, and enabling us to come alongside this much-maligned feeling both in our loved ones and in ourselves.

A7 Towards Emotional Health in Adolescents

Robin Brooks-Sherriff, 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. While a certain level of defence or armour is needed to survive in today’s often wounding world, when the defences become stuck, emotional health and true maturation are at risk. Robin and Tamara will discuss what emotional health looks like in adolescence and what we can do as caring adults to step in to foster their well-being.

A8 Fatherhood and Play

Mathieu Lyons

Becoming a father is a journey of emotion and maturation. We want to have a positive impact on our children, but how do we go about this? Many fathers find themselves stuck between what they are being told to do and what comes to them more intuitively. In this session, participants will learn why fathers may have difficulty when facing parenting experiences involving vulnerable feelings. Participants will also discover how playfulness can become their greatest asset in assuming their father alpha-caring role towards their children.

11:25 am -12:25 pm Lunch

(Independently or Optional Add-On)

See Optional Lunch for details.

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

Stop by the Neufeld Institute Conference Store and Continuing Education Table to see what courses we offer.

12:40-1:55 pm Breakout Sessions B

B1 The Natural Roots of Empathy

Dr. Gordon Neufeld

In many ways, empathy could be considered a bellwether of emotional health and well-being. When emotions are in trouble, empathy will be in trouble, as well. On the other hand, if our emotions are working as they should, empathy will be one of the ultimate fruits. When lacking insight regarding the emotional roots of empathy, we mistakenly think that empathy can be taught – a common misconception in both schools and homes today. Fostering the natural roots of empathy in our children and our youth will not only bring lasting results, but will generalize across all aspects of their lives, including their future parenthood.

B2 Bouncing Back from Adversity: The Resilience Response

Heather Ferguson

One of the most challenging and crucial questions of our time is why some bounce back from adversity, seemingly unscathed, while others fall apart and become emotionally distraught and dysfunctional. It turns out that the stressful events we experience are not the defining factor in emotional health and well-being. Emotional readiness for adversity – whether everyday wounds or large losses – is just as important as physical preparedness for a natural disaster. The Resilience Response is a critical player in the alchemy of healing, transformation, and recovery. New insights are coming to the fore as we glean more working knowledge of the brain, as well as the nature of emotion. Heather will discuss how we can help our loved ones and our children, as well as ourselves, not just survive the challenges that inevitably come our way, but flourish emotionally.

B3 Making Sense of Learning & Behaviour: Nurturing Emotional Growth In and Out of School

Marla Klyne Kolomaya, Tamara Strijack

Despite huge advances in teaching practices, pedagogy, technology, and training, the profession of teaching has become more and more challenging. Focusing on why some students are not ready to learn, Marla and Tamara will share insight and knowledge from their experiences working within the education system to help educators, parents, and caregivers understand what conditions are necessary for students to be available and engaged in the learning process. We will look at some compensations and considerations that assist caring adults when students are not ‘school ready.’  Additionally, some students enjoy a positive experience in school while many others find school to be a wounding environment and potentially injurious to their emotional health. In order to make sense of this reality, we will explore various considerations that will assist in nurturing a child’s emotional health, both in and out of school.

B4 Mastering the Couple Dance with Children Underfoot

Michele Maurer

Children change everything, including the relationship between the child’s parents. Just when we have finally figured out how to take care of each other as partners, a child can arrive to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Threesomes are always difficult, even at the best of times. ‘Moresomes’ can be even more challenging. Having a child become the centre of care and attention can throw a couple off balance, never mind have us tripping over each other and stepping on each other’s toes. Michele will provide some insights on the dance of couplehood, as well as provide suggestions on how couples can master the transition to an enduring and fulfilling parenthood dance. This workshop is suitable to parents, grandparents, caregivers, and helping professionals.

B5 Facilitating Emotional Play through Movement and Dance

Hannah Beach

Emotion is meant to move us. With young children, this movement is quite literal, even physical in nature. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that movement and dance are primordial playgrounds for emotion. Unfortunately, in today’s society dance has become more about performance than expression, more about technique than feeling, and more about form than spirit. Dance, like art and music, is in our bones. But like art and much of music, we have lost dance as a natural everyday playground for our emotions. Hannah will use her rich history in dance to help us seize back the territory for our children, restoring dance to its original use as an accessible instrument of emotional health and well-being for everyone, regardless of talent or training.

B6  Right from the Start: What Do Infants and Toddlers Need from Us?

Laina Clugston

How do we fulfill the greatest need of our youngest children, which is to be in relationship with those who need to take care of them? This includes their parents, caregivers, and the larger village. How can we take pleasure in being together with them and convey our delight in their existence? In this session, we will look deeply into the practice of “coming alongside” our youngsters’ emotions, creating “right relationship,” and fostering an environment of play as we build attachments that will nourish and support healthy development in our youngest children and in ourselves as caregivers and parents. This session is appropriate for all those who take care of infants and toddlers: parents, grandparents, caregivers, and helping professionals.

B7 Family Rituals for Emotional Health & Well-Being

Jodi Bergman

In our fast-paced world, performing simple family rituals helps us pause for a moment and reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. Daily, weekly, and seasonal rituals can assist us as we identify and carve out time for what matters most in our family unit. In this session, we will explore what it means to put our core values into practice in a fun, meaningful way and how to create family rituals that are in service of our emotional health and well-being.

B8 Addressing the Emotional Roots of Aggression

Mathieu Lyons

Aggression is one of the oldest and most challenging of human problems. What grabs our attention are the more violent acts of aggression, but what is truly alarming is the groundswell of attacking energy within and between our kids that erupts in their interaction, their music, their language, their play, their games, and their fantasies. It is the rare parent or teacher who does not encounter aggression in one form or another – be it tantrums, tempers, fits, abrasiveness, abusive language, rude gestures, hostility, racism, taunts, put-downs, bullying, fighting, shaming, belittling, name-calling, or the more serious self-attacking forms including self-deprecation, suicidal thoughts, and impulses. The most violent period of development is actually 2-4 years of age, but many fail to grow out of this problem. Aggressive children are unable to benefit from traditional methods of behaviour management. Key to making sense of aggression is to get past the violating behaviour to the emotional experience of the child. Special attention will be given to the pivotal role of play in addressing the emotional roots of the problem.

B9 Indigenous Healing Rituals as Emotional Playgrounds

Denise Findlay

Ceremony has always been part of our First People’s pathway to emotional health and well-being. Ritual and remedy were woven together into a fabric of everyday culture. Only lately have some of these rituals become the object of research in the scientific community. Denise has a unique vantage point as a member of the Squamish Nation, a native participant in ancient healing rituals, and a recognized western-based healer among her people with a university education in critical thinking. It is from this place that Denise will apply Neufeld’s attachment theory and fresh understandings of emotion to unlock the secrets of some of the more common healing rituals that have been depended upon for millennia.

1:55-2:15 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.

2:15-3:30 pm Breakout Sessions C

C1 Special Challenges with Hypersensitivity, including Autism Spectrum Disorder

Jule Epp

Achieving emotional health and well-being is especially challenging for children whose brains are bombarded by more sensory input that they can manage. Children with such “hypersensitive” brains, who may be diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, often display either a disturbing absence of emotional engagement or an extreme, explosive emotional intensity that can lead to complete meltdowns. Although both of these states are no doubt challenging for caregivers, they are particularly threatening to the child and his or her emotional development. In this seminar, we will try to understand the emotional world of the hypersensitive child from the inside out so that we as caregivers can respond in a way that compensates for difficulties and removes impediments to emotional maturation. We will explore the particular emotional challenges that lead to problems with aggression, anxiety, or “addictive” stereotypical behaviours in hypersensitive children, as well as why play & attachment are the answers. The solutions for the hypersensitive child are not fundamentally different than for all children, but these solutions demand a sensitive “tailoring” from us so that the hypersensitive child in our care can truly flourish.

C2 Addressing Bullying as an Emotional Problem

Dr. Deborah MacNamara

We cannot make headway on the bullying problem until we make sense of the emotional roots that drive it. Our challenge has been that prevailing approaches to bullying assume it is the result of learned behaviour or failed social skills acquisition, eclipsing the role of emotion altogether. To make sense of the bully is to deeply understand the vulnerability inherent to the human condition and to realize that no one is immune from this insidious dynamic. There is a way to render the bully fully human and humane again, but it begins by first understanding the dynamics of attachment and emotional vulnerability. Once we understand what is really going on inside the bully, we will be in a better position to put into place interventions that can make a real difference.

C3 Challenges of Coming Alongside Troubled Students

David McFall, Adrienne Wood

More and more educators and their administrators are seeking to integrate the Neufeld approach into their districts, schools, and classrooms. Ottawa Elementary School Principal David McFall and New Zealand researcher Adrienne Wood combine key academic research with real-life stories to investigate how to engage our most troubled learners. As educators, we are often sidetracked by the disruptive behaviour of a few, whilst trying to focus on academic outcomes. What we see determines what we do, and what we do creates school culture. Adrienne and David will discuss how insight allows teachers to make room for the emotional well-being of the child and engage even their most challenging of students, creating a safer learning environment for all. Time will be given for educators to ask how this approach might work in their own schools and classrooms, drawing on David’s rich experience as both a principal and a Neufeld facilitator. This workshop is appropriate for administrators, teachers, and staff members who work with children pre-K to grade 12.

C4 Making Sense of Anxiety

Colleen Drobot, Patti Drobot

There is currently an epidemic of anxiety affecting children and teens, which can take many forms including clinginess, obsessions, compulsions, phobias, panic, sleep issues, physical illnesses, as well as a host of perplexing behaviours. Today’s world can create many challenges for children and youth with school pressures, peer interactions, family dynamics, negative self-image, perfectionism, and many other stressors that can impede a child’s ability to learn and mature. Whether it’s the natural, episodic worries or more profound and crippling versions of anxiety, registered counsellors and parent consultants Colleen Drobot and Patti Drobot will help make sense of the roots of anxiety using Dr. Neufeld’s approach and will suggest ways in which parents can help foster their children’s health and well-being.

C5 Softening the Heart of the Adolescent

Darlene Denis-Friske

An adolescent is neither child nor adult, and therein lies much of the difficulty as we seek to anchor them through transition, turbulence, confusion, and frustration. We are their best bet, yet their instincts are to resist us. As parents, how do we face such resistance in a way that seeks to support them and keep their heart soft?

C6 Emotional Health and The Brain

Eva de Gosztonyi

Sometimes finding out what is going on inside of our brains and our bodies helps us to better understand and accept our somewhat messy psychological processes. This session will introduce participants to the neuroscience of emotional health, including resilience and adaptation. Why must the brain move us from mad to sad? How does the brain do this? What role do bio-chemicals play in whether we become defended or truly resilient? Then we will look at how we can create the space in our interactions with our children so that we can help them to become deeply resilient. When we support the work of the brain, it can do the work it was meant to do.

C7 Creating Emotional Playgrounds – at Home, in School, in Therapy

Tamara Strijack

When emotions stop moving, we start to see the signs of problem behaviour. Expression of emotion is the first step in emotional development, and yet many children, adolescents, and adults can get stuck here. We all need safe places to express the emotions that are stirred up within us, as well as release pent up emotional energy. The challenge is finding those safe places. In this session, we will explore natural playgrounds for emotion to come out and play, and how we might facilitate this process – for our children, our adolescents, and ourselves.

C8 Emotional Health in the Preschool Years

Geneviѐve Brabant

The preschool years are a foundational season of growing, unfolding, exploring, and discovering. These early years are also a season of tantrums and tears — emotional storms that are surprisingly crucial for healthy development. Like the caterpillar before it becomes a butterfly, certain conditions are needed for the preschooler to become emotionally healthy. This process takes time and patience, as it cannot be rushed or forced. In this session, Geneviève will explore the reasons why the emotional turbulence of preschoolers often gets them into trouble. From this place of insight, she will shed light on what they need from the caring adults in their world to help emotion do its necessary work.

C9 Dancing with Defences as a Therapist

Terry Warburton

Our relationships with clients provide us with the profound experience of coming alongside their struggles and pain. Human vulnerability often leads to experiences of defendedness, and the same is true for our clients. Rather than viewing defences as obstacles to get through or around, insight can help us to find ways to honour them, take up a relationship with them, and dance with them.  This can enhance the therapeutic relationship and set the stage for a client to experience an invitation towards healing.

3:45-4:30 pm Plenary Session

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Maria LeRose

The ending plenary session will feature the award-winning media personality, Maria LeRose, interviewing Dr. Neufeld with regards to some of the key themes of the conference, providing an opportunity for final reflections and review.