This course is an Advanced Intensive, open for registration to all who have completed the Neufeld Intensive II, the Science of Emotion (Heart Matters) and the Play Series (Play 101, Play & Attachment, Play & Emotion). Highly recommended are also Becoming Attached and Making Sense of Adolescence, as Dr. Neufeld will be building upon some of the material delivered in these courses. If planning to take the prerequisite and recommended courses through self-study, please leave enough time to complete them beforehand. Although the focus is on therapy, the course is not exclusively for therapists. As with all the Advanced Intensives, the focus is not just children but adults as well.

Course Description

There have never been more schools of psychotherapy, more training available for psychotherapists, and more therapy practices to master. Yet despite all this, there is little in the field of psychotherapy that is directly inspired by an understanding of the attachment-based developmental approach. A second concern is that the practice of psychotherapy itself seems to be increasingly divorced from the science of relationship, the science of emotion and the science of human development. This 15-session course has been created as an attempt to address these issues.

This course is also a vehicle for Dr. Neufeld to share the experiences and insights gleaned from his extensive experience as a psychotherapist covering a wide range of syndromes and conditions across the lifespan. He uses this opportunity to reflect back on his journey as a therapist with the theoretical lenses he developed in the process. He highlights cases from his own practice that illustrate the dynamics discussed.


Since the issues of healing and change are universal, this course is open to ALL who have completed the prerequisite Neufeld Institute courses listed above, regardless of the nature and level of their formal education. Rather than being constrained by the contemporary specialized definition of psychotherapy as the ‘treatment of disorder,’ Dr. Neufeld uses the root definition that originally inspired the field of psychotherapy - ‘a cure for the soul’.

Although Dr. Neufeld speaks as if to fellow psychotherapists, he does not assume a formal training in clinical diagnosis and disorder. As most former students will already know, Dr. Neufeld has a well-earned reputation for speaking to mixed audiences in ways that are understandable to all.

This course is for all those who desire to become better midwifes to the healing process, who yearn to help get others unstuck, who are curious about the therapeutic process, as well as those who want to make their therapeutic practice more congruent with their commitment to the attachment-based developmental approach. Although the focus is on therapy, the Intensive is not just for therapists but for anyone who wants to make sense of therapy, including the phenomena of healing, transformation, recovery and resilience.

Some of the material for this course will have been introduced in Becoming Attached as well as Play & Emotion. However, the lens through which this material is viewed is distinctive to this course on Therapy.


The topics/objectives will be posted as soon as they're available.

Course Outline

Part I - Our Modus Operandi

Session 1 - Finding ourselves on a typical treatment map

How should we think of psychotherapy? What is its meaning? What is the history of psychotherapy and what are its main schools? How does one find the attachment-based developmental approach on a typical treatment map?

The construct of therapy is compared to other constructs of deep change, including healing, transformation, self-realization, recovery, resilience, and adaptation.

Therapy is distinguished from counselling, coaching and consulting, as well as other interventions. Twelve practice distinctives are presented, differentiating this approach from other schools of therapy.

Session 2 - Helping emotion do its work

What should be the focus of treatment in therapy? Is it mental illness? syndromes of disorder? behavioural problems? developmental arrest? alleviation of suffering? the reduction of stress? social interaction?

If emotion is how Nature takes care of us, then therapy would be about helping emotion to do its work.

An argument is presented for emotion being the primary focus of treatment, regardless of whether the presenting problem be discipline, behaviour, irrational obsessions, lack of empathy, learning disability, attention problems, insanity, depression, aggression, abuse, addiction, or other syndromes associated with behaviour problems or mental illness. Cases are presented to exemplify this thesis.

Session 3 - Trusting in tears to transform

We cannot heal anyone or cause to adapt. All we can do as therapists is prepare the way and support the process. If therapy is primarily about becoming transformed through the process of coming to terms with what didn’t work in one’s life, then adaptation is the core issue in therapy and tears must be a pivotal part of the therapeutic story line.

Session 4 - Harnessing the natural power of play

Could play be Nature’s therapy? Could it be that different therapies only work to the extent that the characteristics of true play are emulated? Could playfulness be both the primary indicator of emotional health as well as the primary pathway towards it? If play is truly the elusive elixer, the panacea of the ancient gods, the antidote to human suffering, the much-sought-after holy grail of healing, then the implications for today’s therapists are profound. If play evolved to serve emotion, then would it not make sense to employ play to treat emotion?

Session 5 - Treating relationship through relationship

In the attachment-based developmental approach, relationship is both the target and context for treatment. No other factor has the potential to be more wounding or more healing than relationship, whether it is the relationship to a primary working attachment or the relationship between client and therapist. Therapeutic practice pales in comparison to the power of relationship. In this session the focus is on what renders a relationship therapeutic and on how to develop a therapeutic touch. Topics discussed include the issues and complications around the therapist-client relationship. We compare and contrast the typical client-centred approaches to assuming a lead authoritative role. We also discuss the challenges of giving rest to the restless and the concept of treating relationship in order to treat emotion.

Session 6 - Using words as an instrument of change

Words serve a multitude of purposes and are a therapist’s primary instrument of change. The challenge for us is to find the right words to help others connect, feel, see, and access inner experience. But even more important than our words are the words of those we are trying to help. The cathartic and cleansing effect of self-disclosing words formed the basis of the psychodynamic discovery of the ‘talking cure’, which in turn, as been the mainstay of most conventional therapies ever since. In this session we review the therapeutic power of the words spoken by the client and why we must not lose sight of this powerful instrument in the treatment of emotion.

Session 7- Navigating the dark side of the talking cure

What most practitioners of the ‘talking cure’ are still primarily ignorant of, is the power of words in creating attachment. The sense of closeness when understood or when sharing one’s secrets can be more binding than sex. This renders the talking cure, as well as trading in secrets, fraught with hidden dangers that a therapist would be wise to be cognizant of.

Part II: Some Special Applications

Session 8 - Treating adults through expressive play

The most exciting and ground-breaking development in therapy is the application of play therapy to the treatment of adults. This session covers how to harness the power of play in formal therapy settings as well as how to help adults discover and develop their own therapeutic emotional playgrounds.

Session 9 - Treating children through play in natural settings

Although there are several schools of play therapy for children, there is still lacking a more comprehensive understanding of the therapeutic nature of play in children’s lives and how this can be fostered informally under the informed facilitation of parents and teachers.

Session 10 - Treating children through their parents

Given the role of attachment in development as well as in treatment, it makes good sense to treat children when possible through their most significant working attachment. This can be done in one of two ways: treating the child-parent relationship or helping a parent develop a therapeutic touch. The attachment-based developmental approach is quite unique in its value of putting parents back into the driver’s seat with their children. This session not only covers the ‘whys’ and ‘how to’s’ of treating children through their parents, but also on how to discern when treating children through their parents will be most helpful or when direct treatment with the child is called for.

Session 11 - Treating adults through their children

Do parents need to grow up before they can effectively grow their children up? Do parents need to address their own unfinished business before applying themselves to the raising of their children? Dr. Neufeld presents his arguments on how becoming the parent a child needs is actually the best medicine for the parent as well. These realizations fundamentally transformed his therapeutic work with adults, especially when children were involved.

Session 12 - Special challenges in treating adolescents

Should adolescents be treated as children or adults? Should the focus of treatment be attachment or individuation? Should the sharing of secrets with the therapist be encouraged or discouraged? How should parents be involved? Adolescence is certainly a critical time for identity issues, eating issues and attachment issues as well for a vulnerable time for the crystallization of a number of syndromes. Intervention is critical but how best to approach this?

Session 13 - Making sense of marriage

Marriage is probably best conceived as an exclusive sexualized primary working attachment with all of the challenges and dynamics that this involves. Marriage is viewed through the lenses of attachment, of emotion and of maturation. The challenge is not only to make sense of marriage but to make sense of ourselves in the context of our marriages.

Session 14 - Helping couples to love and hold on to each other

How do we help spouses to hold on to each other when apart, bridge anything that could divide, take care of each other through thick and thin, master the alpha/dependent dance, deal with attachment wounds, keep defensive detachment from tearing the relationship apart, handle divisive secrets, and achieve psychological intimacy? How do we help partners preserve their capacity to be fulfilled by each other? How do therapists keep from getting involved in awkward triangles, from being used as fodder in marital conflict, or from inadvertently serving the function of a spouse?

Session 15 - Concluding reflections

In this session, Dr. Neufeld explores the dubious origins of helping, including how ‘rescuers’ come to be made. He shares some reflections on the wounded healer and reviews the main constructs and themes of the course.

Registration Details

Depending on the time of year and our event schedule, this course will be offered in one or more of the following study formats:

  1. Making Sense of Therapy is being offered as a Scheduled Online Class for the first time in February 2020. For details and to register, see Scheduled Courses section on the left-hand side of this page.
  2. Making Sense of Therapy is not available in a Self-Paced Study format. Course registration, when available, will be shown under "Self-Paced Study" in the left-hand margin of this page.
  3. Making Sense of Therapy is offered occasionally as a destination learning opportunity which includes all fifteen sessions taught in-person by Dr. Neufeld over five days. Previous destinations include Acapulco, Mexico and Parksville, British Columbia. We begin at 8:30am in the morning and end at 1:30pm in the afternoon to allow participants to spend time with their families, or to utilize the time for reflection and contemplation. Course registration, when available, will be shown under "Offered By" in the left-hand margin of this page.

Tuition for all online versions of this course is $750. Tuition for on-site destination offerings of this course may be higher.

Course Coordinator

This course is co-coordinated by Tamara Strijack and Darlene Denis-Friske. Darlene has been a member of the Neufeld Institute Faculty since 2010, and is the Director of our Practitioner Program. Tamara has been a member of the Neufeld Institute Faculty since its inception and is currently the Academic Dean in charge of all course offerings. Both come to this role with a strong academic background as well as a professional involvement in treatment.

© 2020 The Neufeld Institute
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