This flagship course provides a grounding in the conceptual foundations of Neufeld's formulation of the attachment-based developmental approach. The three conceptual keys to making sense of children are addressed: attachment, vulnerability and maturation. Dr. Neufeld weaves these factors together into a three-dimensional map that can be used to locate children developmentally as well as discover how to get them moving in the right direction. This course is designed for all those involved in raising, teaching and working with children.

The course is structured into 20 sessions. In the continuing education version of this course, each session contains about an hour of instructional video by Dr. Neufeld.

Course Description

The Neufeld Intensive I provides the conceptual foundations of Neufeld's approach. Participants are equipped to use the constructs of attachment, maturation and vulnerability to view children and their problems three-dimensionally and from this base of perceptive insight, to open doors for deep-rooted change. Participants will learn to recognize the signs of stuckness, determine the causes of this condition, and get children unstuck. Course participants are also equipped to use a working model of attachment that can be applied to children of all ages and levels of challenge, to assess for the appropriate depth and development of attachment, and to employ strategies for cultivating a context of connection with the immature. Although the course is focused on children and youth, the material applies to all ages and is applicable across all settings. This course consistently receives outstanding accolades from registrants and many return to reflect on the rich content.

about the model

The model is the result of years of synthesis and distillation and is rooted in depth psychology, grounded in the developmental paradigm, saturated in attachment theory and congruent with current neurological research. It has also been honed by over thirty-five years of professional practice, parenting and personal reflection. The model has been used effectively in a wide variety of venues and settings: parenting, classroom, special behaviour programs, alternate education settings, therapy, correctional settings, aboriginal communities, adoption, counseling, and the foster system.

about Neufeld's approach

The approach is distinctly developmental and thus in contrast to the current cognitive behavioural fare as well as to the medical disorder approach. Many find it a refreshing alternative to today's smorgasbord approach to treatment and to the presentation of strategies divorced from their philosophical moorings. The developmental approach is usually somewhat inaccessible because of the esoteric terminology, confusing constructs and fragmented theorizing that tends to characterize it. Developmentalists do not generally have a reputation for being able to make themselves easily understood; Dr. Neufeld is a notable exception in this regard.

organizing constructs

The material is organized around the constructs of maturation and stuckness that are implicit to the developmental model. Dr. Neufeld's unique and comprehensive analysis of the three separate maturational processes render psychological immaturity much more than just an intuitive insight. In fact, the construct of stuckness becomes a powerful explanatory principle for a plethora of presenting problems and puzzling behaviour.

course accreditation

Credit is granted for the Neufeld Intensive One by some universities and continuing education credit is granted by various institutions, school districts and professional bodies. Please contact the course coordinator for additional information.

access to the Neufeld Virtual Campus

In response to requests for the opportunity for further dialogue with individuals who have completed the Neufeld Intensive I, a virtual campus was created. This campus has now grown to also house the continuing education program, authorization programs and internship program as well as international satellite campuses in other languages. Annual membership is available to those who have completed a Neufeld course. Membership to the campus provides access to discussion forums, supplementary resources, references to supporting research and literature, etc.

access to video recordings of the Intensive I

The video recordings of this course are available through videostreaming via our virtual campus. Members of the virtual campus who have taken the course are given complimentary access to the video material for study and review at any time.

more on STUCKNESS - the organizing construct

Not everyone grows up as they get older. The construct of psychological immaturity has been with us as an intuitive concept for ages, but only recently has developmental science advanced to point where the idea of developmental arrest can be spelled out and employed as a powerful explanatory tool for problems in learning and behaving.

Stuckness is both the least recognized and most common problem of childhood. Many are stuck in a psychological immaturity that prevents them from growing out of such problems as aggression and counterwill as well as any other dysfunction or disability that exists. This condition underlies a multitude of manifestations and a plethora of presenting problems in children: untempered experience and expression, incessant restlessness, chronic impulsiveness, elevated attachment and dependency needs, as well as egocentric and immature relating. Many children get stuck from time to time in little ways. Some children become deeply and chronically stuck. The earlier this happens, the more serious the developmental consequences.

When children are stuck, they will also fail to grow out of, or come to compensate for, any disabilities and deficiencies that exist. These children are also less likely to recover from any damage they may have incurred or trauma they have experienced. As a result, such children are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities or behavioural disorders. The salient issue is not the disorder or the disability however, but rather the stuckness that renders them a victim of this condition. Once this fact is understood, the implications for treatment are profound and doors can be opened for change.

Children who are stuck developmentally will also be stuck emotionally. Stuck kids are not appropriately moved, either in affect or behaviour, by experiences that should evoke vulnerable feelings in a child . Losses do not move them to grief, futility does not move them to sadness, inner conflict does not move them to consciousness, fulfillment does not move them to satiation. In more serious cases of stuckness, that which should alarm does not even move them to caution. Such children are unable to learn from consequences, make good their intentions or stay out of trouble.

To the degree that children remain immature, they also remain creatures of attachment by default. Teaching, parenting and treatment needs therefore to happen within a context of connection. Also, great care needs to be taken to preserve the bonds that empower the adults responsible for such children. This approach, while self-evident when understood, is counter to most prevailing practices with challenging children.

Once kids are stuck, the usual ways of dealing with behaviour - including sanctions, consequences and time-outs - actually make things worse. For reasons discussed in the presentations, what works with kids who aren`t stuck will tend to backfire with kids who are. By not understanding this core condition, parents and teachers and experts alike, are bound to engage in interventions that are counterproductive. Part of the challenge in parenting or working with stuck kids is to learn to work around the problem and its symptoms until it can be resolved.

The good news is that most kids can get unstuck but require our help to do this. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of stuckness and knowing the moves to get a child unstuck is the most important developmental first aid any parent or professional could possess.


The Neufeld Intensive One is taken by a wide variety of professionals as well as parents who are seeking a university level educational experience. No previous background or formal education in the social sciences is required. Although the focus is primarily on children and those responsible for them, the intensives have also been found useful by adult therapists and marriage counsellors. Previous participants have included educators of all kinds, parents and grandparents, behaviour specialists, counsellors, therapists, art therapists, psychologists, pediatricians, university professors, psychiatrists, family physicians, nurses, social workers, youth workers, ministers, care providers and foster parents.

Formats & Fees

This course is available in the ONLINE CAMPUS COURSE format only. See Course Format Options for format delivery, access, and content details.

Tuition includes an eight-month Virtual Campus study pass. See More On Online Campus Courses for further information on our two campus course formats (Self-Paced Study and Scheduled Online Class). Visit the course details page to register. If there is an upcoming Scheduled Online Class it will be posted directly above the Self-Paced Study button on the left-hand side. We typically offer this course annually in the Fall in the Scheduled Online Class format.

Groups of ten or more receive extra faculty support if this can be arranged.


primary objective

The main objective is to make sense of the children in our care. Intervention must be based on insight if it is to transform children from inside out and be long lasting in its effects. The aim is do to more than simply modify behaviour but rather to unlock the processes of inner change. By removing the impediments to the innate maturational processes, we can lift the ceiling on functioning and move closer to realizing the child`s developmental potential, whatever that may be. Some problems cannot be fixed but the stuckness surrounding the problem can still be addressed. The goal of this course is to equip the participants with the conceptual tools to make sense of kids and to provide the instruments of intervention that will bring lasting change.

topics covered

  • the role of attachment in personality and behaviour
  • the developmental paralysis that underlies a multitude of symptoms and problems in both children and adults
  • the condition of being defended against vulnerability and the impact on functioning and behaviour
  • stuckness as the most common problem of childhood
  • a three-pronged approach to effect deep and lasting change
  • the foundations of an attachment approach
  • the problem with using consequences and sanctions with stuck kids
  • the role of emotion in personality and behaviour
  • ways to soften defenses against vulnerability
  • three core interventions that prime the maturing processes
  • how to grow into effectiveness as a therapist
  • developmentally friendly strategies for dealing with problems that result from stuckness
  • the problems with, and alternatives to, separation-based discipline

Course Outline

The course is structured into 20 sessions. In the continuing education version of this course, each session contains about an hour of instructional video by Dr. Neufeld.

Session 1 - Distinctives of this Approach

The course begins with an overview of the main tenets, assumptions and distinctives of the attachment-based developmental approach that Dr. Neufeld has articulated. The three conceptual keys to making sense of children are introduced.

Session 2 - The Maturation Factor

Three maturing processes are responsible for moving our children to grow up. These growth processes are identified, together with the theories and theorists associated with each. The construct of stuckness is introduced as the most likely explanation for many learning and behaviour problems. The developmental approach is differentiated from the behavioural or learning approach.

Session 3 - The Emergent Process

If conditions are conducive, a child is moved to become increasingly more viable as a separate being. The emergent process is responsible for a host of wonderful characteristics including curiousity, independence, responsibility, a sense of agency, emergent play and much more. Reviewed are the main impediments to the emergent process, including our typical responses when children are missing the fruit of emergence.

Session 4 - The Adaptive Process

If all was unfolding as it should, children would become transformed when up against that which they cannot change. The fruit of adaptation includes resilience, recovery, resourcefulness and much more. The key to this basic growth process is uncovered and discussed, as well as what gets in the way.

Session 5 - Adaptation, Aggression and Discipline

Aggression happens when adaptation doesn’t. This insight to aggression fundamentally changes our response. Because conventional discipline assumes the ability to change when futility is encountered, it is rendered ineffective and even counterproductive when used with nonadaptive children. Alternative methods of discipline are proposed.

Session 6 - The Integrative Process

What moves a child to become civilized and considerate is the capacity to experience conflicting thoughts and feelings. This could be called Nature’s finishing school of maturation. The role of the prefrontal cortex and its development is reviewed.

Session 7 - The Tempering Effect

In this session, we take a closer look at how the integrative process leads to a mature temperament, including the capacity for courage, patience, work, morality, balance and much more. Also discussed is the role of the integrative process in closing the door to impulsive behaviour, including aggression.

Session 8 - The Vulnerability Factor

Every human brain is equipped to defend against a vulnerability too much to bear. The three basic mechanisms of defense are outlined. Also discussed are the factors that lead some children to be more vulnerable than others. The impact of defendedness on learning and behaviour is reviewed.

Session 9 - Vulnerability and Maturation

Emotion is the engine of maturation, but for the engine to work, a child must be capable of feeling his or her tender emotions. The problem with feeling is its vulnerability and therefore what is most likely to be defended against. The implications are reviewed and discussed.

Session 10 - The Attachment Factor

The most powerful factor in maturation is introduced, along with the key theorists and constructs that form the puzzle pieces of attachment theory. Nothing impacts a child more than facing separation. The separation complex is introduced as being at the core of most common childhood problems.

Session 11 - How Children are Meant to Attach

Dr. Neufeld introduces his signature six-stage model of how the capacity for relationship develops. Participants learn to recognize how children are primarily attaching. Also discussed is the impact of a child’s flight from vulnerability on attachment.

Session 12 - How Attachment Empowers

The context for raising children is their attachments to the adults responsible for them. This insight would change the practice of parenting and education in today’s society. Attachment is the most powerful force in the universe but needs to be harnessed to do its work. The construct of counterwill is introduced, along with its implications for parenting and teaching.

Session 13 - The Alpha Dynamic

Attachment is not only hierarchical in nature but needs to be so in order to serve its purpose. An understanding of alpha instincts as well as the alpha complex is absolutely essential to making sense of children and to cultivating right relationship. The alpha complex has many manifestations and is at the core of some significant childhood problems, including the demanding child, the competitive child, and the bully.

Session 14 - Shyness and Detachment

We cannot truly make sense of children without an understanding of the polarization of attachment. Shyness is introduced as an attachment instinct meant to protect existing attachments. Defensive detachment is introduced as a powerful attachment defense that can be at the core of a number of troubling symptoms and syndromes.

Session 15 - Attachment and Maturation

A child’s primary attachments create the womb in which maturation is gestated. Rest and satiation are the keys to the fruitfulness of attachment. How to provide these conditions is the topic of this session.

Session 16 - Collecting our Children

Introduced is a three-pronged approach for working with stuck kids. Since stuck kids require a context of attachment within which to work, cultivating a working relationship should be our number one priority. We must begin by engaging a child’s attachment instincts. How to do this is the subject of this session.

Session 17 - Bridging and Matchmaking

Children won’t hold on to us unless we hold on to them. Maintaining a healthy working relationship involves bridging anything that could divide. Stuck kids aren’t usually receptive to forming relationships cold. Using existing attachments to beget the attachments a child needs, is key to matchmaking.

Session 18 - Compensating for Stuckness

Battling against the symptoms of stuckness is futile. Before we can get children unstuck, we must find a work around for the developmental deficits and behavioural symptoms that exist. Six ways of doing this are presented and discussed.

Session 19 - Softening the Defenses

When children get their tender feelings back, attachments deepen and maturation unfolds rather spontaneously. Reversing defendedness should therefore be our ultimate yearning. This session focuses on natural ways to help make this happen.

Session 20 - Priming the Maturing Processes

The course concludes with three powerful catalysts for growth that can also double as effective substitutes for conventional discipline. These instruments of maturation are relatively easy to use and can bring deep and lasting results.

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