This course is an Advanced Intensive, open for registration to all who have completed the Neufeld Intensive II – The Separation Complex as well as Heart Matters: The Science of Emotion. If planning to take the prerequisite courses through self-paced study, please leave enough time to complete the courses before the next scheduled Therapy Intensive begins. 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 a beginning attempt to address these issues.

This course has also been created as 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 will use this opportunity to reflect back on his journey as a therapist with the theoretical lenses he now possesses. He will be highlighting cases from his own practice that illustrate the dynamics being discussed.

Plans are already in the works to create a sequel which will build on the foundations laid in this course but focus more specifically on the assessment and treatment of various specific syndromes. In addition, this sequel course will include sessions on treating identity issues, treating self-esteem issues, treating insecurity issues, treating the wounded, treating the suicidal, and treating the survivors of loss and lack. The Therapy Intensive I will be a prerequisite to the sequel course.


Since the issues of healing and change are universal, this course is open to ALL graduates of the Neufeld Intensive II, 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 will be using the root definition that originally inspired the field of psychotherapy - ‘a cure for the soul’.

Although Dr. Neufeld will be speaking as if to fellow psychotherapists, he will not be assuming a formal training in clinical diagnosis and disorder. As most former students 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.

For students of the other Advanced Intensives, this course was created after the Becoming Attached and Play & Emotion Advanced Intensives and so there is some material in these Intensives that will be re-appropriated for this course, namely the material around the role of words and the role of play in healing and therapy. The Play & Emotion course has now been revised accordingly.


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

Course Outline

DAY ONE - Therapy distilled to the essence

Session 1 - Therapy in perspective
How should we think of psychotherapy? What is its meaning? What is the history of psychotherapy and what are its main schools? We will compare the construct of therapy to the other constructs of deep change, including healing, transformation, self-realization, recovery, resilience, and adaptation. We will also distinguish therapy from counselling, coaching and consulting, as well as other interventions. We will also discuss the distinctives of an attachment-based developmental approach to treatment, differentiating it from other schools of therapy.

Session 2 - The focus of therapy: getting to the heart of the matter
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? The argument will be made that emotion should be 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 will be presented to exemplify this thesis.

Session 3 - The healing power of relationship
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 we focus on what renders a relationship therapeutic and on how to develop a therapeutic touch. Topics to be 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.

DAY TWO - WORDS versus PLAY as therapeutic instruments

Session 1 - The healing power of words
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. Some of this material will have been introduced in ‘Becoming Attached’ and in the Acapulco version of the ‘Play & Emotion’ course.

Session 2 - The hidden pitfalls 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. This material will also have been introduced in the original Acapulco version of the Play & Emotion course, but is now exclusively dealt with in this course.

Session 3 - Play as the ‘secret’ active ingredient of therapy
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?

DAY THREE: Tears and play across the life-span

Session 1 - The healing power of tears
If therapy is primarily about becoming transformed through the process of coming to terms with what didn’t work in one’s life, than adaptation is the core issue in therapy and tears must be a pivotal part of the therapeutic story line. The challenges of being a professional tear-jerker are explored along with the challenges of getting tears unstuck. Also discussed will be Dr. Neufeld’s idea of the ‘law of the conservation of tears’ and the reasons why therapists themselves need to find their tears.

Session 2 - Treating children via play
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 both formally in a play therapy context as well as informally under the informed facilitation of parents and teachers.

Session 3 - Treating adults via play
The most exciting and ground-breaking development in therapy is the application of play therapy to the treatment of adults. We will discuss 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.

DAY FOUR - Treating adults, children and adolescents

Session 1 - Treating children through their parents
Given the role of attachment in development as well as intreatment, 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 drivers seat with their children. In this session we focus not only on the ‘whys’ and ‘how to’s’ of treating children through their parents, but also upon discerning when this indirect approach is most helpful or when direct treatment is called for.

Session 2 - Treating parents through parent consulting
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 will present 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 3 - 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?

DAY FIVE - Treating marriages / a therapist’s reflections

Session 1 - Treating attachment problems in marriage
Marriage is probably best conceived as an exclusive primary working attachment with all of the challenges and dynamics that this involves. 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 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 2 - Treating fulfillment problems in marriage
We most often get married for reasons of romance and to hold on to the sense of fulfillment we have tasted. Unfortunately, making good experiences last is as futile in marriage as it is for the toddler. In addition, we get frustrated with those we want most to be fulfilled by. In this session we explore the challenges of helping marriage partners preserve or recover their capacity to feel fulfilled by each other as well as to express their frustration without wounding each other or doing damage to the relationship.

Session 3 - Concluding reflections on being a therapist
Although Dr. Neufeld will be sharing his experiences as a therapist throughout the course, he will use this windup session to touch upon his reflections on a variety of diverse topics such as: on being an accidental therapist, the role of will in emotional defense, on not being able to help everyone, on having dual roles with clients, on the requirements to report to the authorities, on being ‘distant’ as a therapist, on helping clients ride the waves of primal emotion, on when to fire oneself as a therapist, on how therapists themselves become transformed, and most importantly, on being a wounded healer.

Registration Details

This course is currently only available in live format. It is not yet available to be taken as an online course through Continuing Education. Please check the Events page for future offerings.

Course Coordinator

Tamara Strijack has been a member of the Neufeld Institute Faculty since its inception and is currently the Academic Dean in charge of all course offerings. She comes to this role with a strong academic background, experience in university teaching, and a professional involvement in treatment and parent consulting.

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