DAY 1 | Wednesday, November 21, 2018

1st Keynote  |  9:00-10:15 am

Keys to Resilience: Emotionally, Developmentally & Relationally

Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

The human capacity for resilience is remarkable. It is also somewhat mysterious. Although resilience is spontaneous, it is not inevitable. Everyone possesses the potential for resilience but only some come to realize it.  It cannot be commanded and is not a skill to be learned. Resilience is not genetic and there is no pill that can deliver it. Resilience therefore lies outside the parameters of both of the prevailing approaches for explaining human behaviour – the medical disease model as well as the learning paradigm.

So where does resilience come from and how are we to make sense of it? In this anchoring keynote of the conference, Dr. Neufeld will put the puzzle pieces together to reveal the three pivotal keys to this elusive human attribute as well as the two natural contexts in which these keys are more likely to be found. Once found, these keys can be used to unlock an emotional process that is the very essence of resilience and the bounce-back phenomenon.  This model of resilience has profound implications for school, home and treatment.

This plenary address will provide the theoretical foundations for the 3-day conference, laying the groundwork for all that follows.

2nd KEYNOTE | 10:45 am – 12:00 pm

Keys to Resilience: Emotionally, Developmentally & Relationally (Continued)

Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm

Q&A with Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Hosted by Maria LeRose, M.Ed.

This session provides an opportunity for participants to interact with Dr. Neufeld around the material presented in his morning keynote.

Aggression, Suicide, Adaptation, & Resilience

Patti Drobot, B.Sc., OT, RPC

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.

Alpha Problems, Bullying & Resilience

Deborah MacNamara, PH.D.

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.

Cultivating Resilience in a School Setting 

Colleen Drobot, B.Ed., M.A.

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 working with Dr. Neufeld, teaching in schools, parenting, and counselling families, Colleen will provide strategies for educators to use in the classroom and the school setting to cultivate resilience at school and throughout their lives.


CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 2:50 pm – 4:00 pm


Special Challenges with Adolescents

Tamara Strijack, M.A.

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.

Tempers & Tantrums in Preschoolers

Deborah MacNamara, PH.D.

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.

Resilience & the Oppositional Child

Colleen Drobot, B.Ed., M.A.

Children and youth 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 and disturbing, making life difficult for educators and parents. Resistance can take many forms: disobedience, rebellion, passivity, noncompliance, disrespect, nonconformity, belligerence, and even antisocial attitudes and actions. This dynamic is exacerbated when children or youth have failed to adapt to not getting one’s way and so do not have the resilience to deal with a world filled with restrictions and coercion. In this workshop Colleen Drobot will provide strategies to help adults reduce the effects of oppositional behavior, deepen attachment, and cultivate cooperation with children and youth, at home or at school.

B4Supporting the Anxious Child

Patti Drobot, B.SC., OT, RPC

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 with school and societal pressures, peer interactions, family dynamics, and many other stressors which 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 providing practical suggestions on how to support our children through anxiety and help them cultivate resilience.


DAY 2 | Thursday, November 22, 2017

1st Keynote  |  9:00-10:15 am

Play & Resilience: Why We ALL Need to Play

Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

Building on his keynote of the first day, Dr. Neufeld will elaborate on the surprising role of true play in cultivating resilience, not only in children but in adults as well. Long dismissed as unproductive, play is now being discovered as essential to emotional health and well-being, much like sleep is to mental functioning. A number of academic disciplines are now merging to explore the remarkable healing power of play, rivaling therapy itself or perhaps even explaining why therapy works when it does. Dr. Neufeld will present emotional playgrounds as an ideal context

for finding the keys that can unlock the essential emotional process in resilience. Harnessing the power of play becomes the challenge of every parent, teacher and helping professional.

2nd KEYNOTE | 10:45 am – 12:00 pm

Circle of Courage

Martin Brokenleg, Ph.D.

For thousands of years, North American Indigenous cultures nourished respectful and courageous children without employing punitive discipline.  Now, recent youth development research is revealing the essential elements in raising confident, caring children.  Drawing on his research with Drs. Larry Brendtro and Steve Van Bockern in their book, Reclaiming Youth at Risk, Dr. Martin Brokenleg presents information on the Circle of Courage which offers concrete strategies for creating environments in which all young people can grow and flourish.

CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm

Reaching Deeper

Martin Brokenleg, PH.D.

From Parker Palmer to the Dalai Lama to the brain science of neurobiology, adults are pondering the importance of tending the inner world of children and youth. Native peoples have traditions which enhance and explore the inner world of youth regardless of that youth’s values. Current resiliency strategies create inner strength in children and youth. This session develops a theory of creating inner strength in children and youth and explores specific activities adults can use in classrooms and residences to help children grow on the inside.

A3A4Hypersensitivity & Resilience: Special Challenges with the Autistic and the Gifted

Gordon Neufeld, PH.D.

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.


CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 2:50 pm – 4:00 pm

Discussion with Martin on Strength-Based Resilience

Martin Brokenleg, PH.D.
Hosted by Maria LeRose

This session provides an opportunity for participants to interact with Dr. Brokenleg around the ‘Circle of Courage’ model and the material presented in his morning keynote and his afternoon session on ‘Reaching Deeper’.

B3B4Discussion with Gordon and Neufeld Faculty on the Journey of Tears

Gordon Neufeld, PH.D.

Feelings of futility – in all their various manifestations – play a significant role in the story of human resilience.  Yet impediments abound in a tear-phobic society. Neufeld Institute Faculty will share some stories of resilience that highlight the role of tears, as well as give participants a chance to ask questions about the journey of tears.


DAY 3 | Friday, November 23, 2017

1st Keynote  |  9:00-10:15 am

The Real Roots of Empathy / Strengthening Heart Knowledge

Gordon Neufeld, PH.D. and Martin Brokenleg, PH.D.

Is empathy a skill to be taught or is it a fruit of healthy development? Can we reward caring and compassionate behaviour and still preserve its essence? Is trying to make children nice to each other the best way to keep them safe? Is consideration an innate human potential, and if so, how is it to be cultivated?  These questions are timely as so many schools are contemplating on how best to bring a consciousness of emotional and relational needs into the curriculum. Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Brokenleg will share their perspectives on how we can best help our children become fully human and humane.

Panel with Gordon Neufeld and Martin Brokenleg

Maria LeRose, M.ED.

This is a rare chance to see the engaging Maria LeRose do what she does best – get to the heart of the matter in her interviews with her subjects. She will also facilitate discussion and dialogue between the participants and the keynote speakers, as well between the two speakers themselves, all in the quest of shedding more light on the secrets of resilience.

CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm

Culture and Helping

Martin Brokenleg, PH.D.

Human service providers know clients inside and out… or do they?  Cross-cultural skills are crucial for youth workers, and yet there is a mystery to culture.  Learn what research says about helping professions and hear what suggestions might support your work with diverse populations.

The Road to Resilience: An Everyday Path towards Softening Defenses in a Child

Darlene Denis-Friske, MA(CP), RP, (Cert)OACCPP, CYW, CYC(Cert)

In this workshop, we will explore everyday ways of being with children that seek to gently soften defenses. Whether one is hoping to maintain or even, to restore a child’s soft heart, this workshop will strive to inspire participants in cultivating simple yet profoundly meaningful moments and interactions.

Resilience & Discipline

Geneviève Brabant, MSW, RSW

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.

Practical Applications in Schools: Safe Eruption Rooms and More

Eva de Gosztonyi, M.A.

When students arrive in our schools with deep emotional needs, we are often at a loss of how to help them, especially with limited time and resources. Working with schools in Quebec and Alberta we have successfully implemented safe spaces where these children can express their emotions and come to their tears. Safe Eruption Rooms and Nurturing Support Centres can make a big difference in the lives of students.


CONCURRENT SESSIONS | 2:50 pm – 4:00 pm


School, Stress and Resilience: How Teachers and School Culture Can Make a Difference

Gordon Neufeld, PH.D.

There is no doubt that school is a significant source of stress for many students. Part of this stems from the pressure to learn when not truly engaged. The most significant causes of stress however have to do with the attachment problems faced by many students, at least in part because of how we do school in today’s society. Reducing these sources of stress would significantly contribute to the emotional health and well-being of our students. In addition, by cultivating a school culture that fosters right relationships and soft hearts, we would be creating the conditions to thrive and to flourish. Dr. Neufeld will share his thoughts on how best to do this from within our educational systems.

Resilience: Special Challenges with
Divorce, Adoption, and FosteringGeneviève Brabant, MSW, RSW

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.

Resilience in Motion: A Journey of Stories and Pictures

Darlene Denis-Friske, MA(CP), RP, (Cert)OACCPP, CYW, CYC(Cert)

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

Resilience & the Brain

Eva de Gosztonyi, M.A.

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. How does the brain move us from mad to sad? 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 more deeply resilient.