Spring 2017


In This Issue:

Violet’s 90th Birthday


Oaklander Model Trainings in California


Jardie:  A Case History


The Oaklander Model Worldwide:  

 Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Ireland   



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Violet celebrated her 90th birthday in April, surrounded by 25 close family members.  Mostly retired, Violet still sees a handful of therapists each month for supervision.  The rest of the time she enjoys reading, going to the  movies, time with family and friends and her beloved kitty, Maydeleh.   Violet lives with family in Los Angeles, California.  





“Since I am no longer giving trainings, I am delighted that Karen, Sue, Lynn and Felicia offer trainings in the Oaklander Model.    They continue my work and the contributions of the Oaklander Model to the practice of child psychotherapy.  Their work is intelligent, sensitive and inspiring. I recommend their trainings to everyone. “ Violet Oaklander, Ph.D.

 Karen Fried’s Training:  West Los Angeles                                   


“I can’t praise Dr. Karen Fried enough! She is intelligent, creative, warm and an incredible person. She has trained therapists to do my work in Europe and here in the United States. I believe it would be a privilege for anyone to participate in her training.”

— Violet Oaklander, PhD

 Karen Fried is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Educational Therapist. After taking Violet Oaklander’s two-week training program in 1995, she then was fortunate to begin consulting with her monthly for the past twenty-one years. A founding member of the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation, she is a current board member. Besides incorporating this model in private practice with children, adolescents and families, Dr. Fried also trains child and adolescent therapists in this model in the US, and Europe.

     May 6-7th, 2017: Issues Regarding the End of Therapy, Termination and Application of Techniques --Self-Nurturing, Sand Tray, Music, Termination

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Karen Fried & Violet Oaklander

For more information and to register go to oaklandertraining.org or Email: karenfried@kandmcenter.com or Call: 310.998.0030

 Oaklander Model 2017 Summer Training

Malibu, California

August 6 to 11, 2017

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VSOF founding members Sue Talley, Karen Fried and Lynn Stadler will give a week-long intensive training in the Oaklander Model from August 6 to 11, 2017.   With the sun and sea as our backdrop at the Serra Retreat in Malibu, we will explore the therapeutic use of creative projective techniques and media, such as drawings, clay, sandplay work, music, and puppets.  Designed for psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors and other professionals who want to work with children and/or adolescents, our program combines theoretical presentation of the Oaklander Model with practical first-hand experience, small group work, demonstration, and case consultation. Topics include: the therapy process beginning with establishing relationship, and moving on to the issues of contact, strengthening the self, and emotional expression. We’ll delve into how to work with parents, teachers, and other adults who care for and about children and adolescents. The Oaklander Model is effective with a variety of behavioral manifestations and symptoms of children, particularly those related to anger, child abuse, loss and grief, divorce and other life events that affect children and thwart healthy growth.  You may check in on Sunday August 6th  if you like; the training begins Monday morning and you may arrive then as well.

Continuing Education Units:  This course meets the qualifications for 30 hours of continuing education credit for MFTs and/or LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. (PCE3177)  For more information and to register oaklandertraining.org   or call 805 962-9992


Felicia Carroll’s Intensive Summer Trainings

Solvang, California


  July 8 - July 16, 2017

  July 29 - August 6, 2017

Felicia’s Summer Training provides an opportunity for participants to enjoy a summer vacation combined with an intensive learning experience. Each day of the workshop will have didactic discussion, experiential practicum with feedback, and case presentations. Video of sessions with children and powerpoint assisted slides will illustrate work with children. If possible, demonstrations with children may be used. Emphasis in this training is on learning concepts and skills that will enhance the therapeutic practice of those working with children/adolescents and not on the personal development of participants. However, participants will find the practicums and demonstrations to be personally and professionally rewarding. Participants are asked to read Dr. Oaklander’s books, Windows to Our Children and Hidden Treasure available through http://vsof.org. Other readings will be made available to those attending the training(s).   More information and registration is available at http://westcoastinstitute.us/training/#summer

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Felicia Carrroll (top row, third from the right) and her 2016 Intensive Summer Training Group


Working with Children: making contact with ‘Jardie’:  

A case history by Foundation member, Jon Blend, London


Children who grow too fast often miss out on vital experiences of mastery essential for healthy development. (Oaklander, 2005).  This can happen when parents do too much for the child or disallow opportunities for exploring and expanding their Lifespace (Lewin, 1957). It can also happen when there is trauma and developmental delay as was the case in  this vignette of an eight-year-old  boy whom I shall refer to as Jardie. .

 Jardie presented with a history of early trauma, attachment difficulties and sensory deficits.  He experienced many foster placements and when his  biological mother   died  he became adopted at age five.  Jardie presented as a bright child who seemed insecure, craving attention yet  unsure  as to how to manage closeness. He seriously underachieved at school and struggled with focusing on tasks and with building relationships with peers and  his teachers.


In our early encounters it was hard to build a trusting place where he might settle. Like a camera lens searching for clear focus Jardie rushed around the room picking up objects and  putting them down again.   Eventually he was attracted by the sand tray   where he withdrew into repetitive play, driving miniature cars around in  a slurry  made by soaking the sand into which they sank.  I watched with fascination as he constructed islands using pipe cleaners to make bridges on the shifting sands – a metaphor perhaps for his life experience hitherto. He resisted all attempts to engage him, however either through joining his play or through verbal interaction. This left me curious as to the meaning of what was happening between us.  Sometimes I struggled with bracketing my frustration when Jardie seemed to revel in treating me as his slave:  ‘–You- get me the dumper truck - and more cars- NOW!’


 One time Jardie surprised me by requesting more participation in his play ; he still wanted me to  serve as his subordinate. He issued commands in a matter of fact voice:

 ‘Make weather sounds now! ’ I started to accompany his sandplay tilting the rain stick- which elicited his displeasure: ‘No more rain!’ he intoned, grabbing the stick from me  – ‘STOP!  Big thunder Now!  He clamoured.  Jardie grinned as I rattled the bellicose -sounding spring drum.   `Jon -that’s enough! ’ he interjected as I increased the sound.   ‘OK, Jardie’ I acknowledged ‘How about something gentler?’   I reached for my guitar and began softly strumming. Many children I see enjoy the sounds of an acoustic guitar, which can be played in a manner that is soothing or enlivening.


 Jardie stood up looking pained and reached across to silence the strings-  ‘Stoppit Jon- no more!’


‘OK Jardie,’ I responded gently ‘did the music remind you of anything in your life?’

He replied sharply: ‘No talking now, Shutup, SHUT UPPP!’   I took this as a sign that he had reached his limit and needed to regroup his energy. So I respectfully heeded his wish.  We continued the last few moments in silence.

‘See you next week, Jardie,’ I said, returning him to his adoptive father in the waiting room.

 Jardie continued to be fascinated by the sandtray though did not ask me  for musical accompaniment again for a long time after. His play continued to involve cars driving into hazards in the sand, being buried and exhumed from graves.  He told me proudly that the cars were ‘dead now’ though wouldn't elaborate or allow further discussion of what this meant. However he began to allow me to offer a  commentary:

‘… In goes the blue car now- and you’re burying that near the dumper truck.. you smile  and seem pleased with yourself...’


Invariably he reached a point when he no longer wanted to hear me, covering his ears or shouting ‘Silence!’   He continued to play in the sand, head down, repeating the movement patterns with the cars, occasionally pouring cups of water over them (which sometimes strayed onto the carpet) until the sandtray and contents resembled a strange, swampy porridge.   He did not want me to sit near the sand tray so I sat at a distance, observing  his play making minimal comment.

Several sessions later, wondering if his rather repetitive play might be enhanced a little, I decided to risk making sound again but in a more participatory fashion.  Could he tolerate my joining him in this way? I picked up my guitar and improvised the following ditty:

‘This is a song about Jardie

 He likes to use the sand tray

He puts the cars in carefully

And then, he....

‘-BURIES THEM- LOOK!!!’ shrieked Jardie with glee.

 ‘Let’s make some burying sounds’ I suggested. To my surprise Jordie reached for two miniature   lions from a box on the desk and made a small roaring sound, which I copied, continuing our duet. He looked happy for a moment, and then turned away.

‘Let’s do that again’ I suggested and he looked blank. ‘Is there someone you would like to roar at in your life?’  I asked softly.  Jardie shook his head and placed the lions in the dumper truck to one side- ‘Hurry up- we’ve got to save the lorries now!‘ he said, deflecting. And the moment was lost.

Another time he placed a car to signify each biological parent (assigning them by name) in the sandtray.   ‘Jon- Go Get the Lions!’  He ordered, glowering, then barked: ‘Lions- Eat Them Up - NOW! ‘And he made devouring noises.   Lifting his head and sitting up, straight on his haunches Jardie looked pleased.   He said stiffly that he didn’t know why his parents had left him and that he wished he could still see his dead mother. For a moment he briefly allowed me into his inner world though when I empathised with his wish he closed off again saying tartly ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’  Adapting a popular contemporary song from the group “Black Eyed Peas” I sang to him: ‘Shut up! Just shut up, shut it up – don’t talk about it – too painful! ’ He nodded, then smiled briefly and returned to the sandtray.

Those familiar with the song will real how the command ‘Shut up!’ here is sung fast; the notes are all semi -quavers and switch from on the beat to the off –beat, varying its accentuation- playing with meaning through playing with the beat.  As the reader will have noticed Jardie often deflects from staying with his emotions. Through my light hearted musical parody I sought to encourage him to stay with and play with his angry feeling a little longer. In the event his nod and smile suggested he remained receptive to this idea, albeit briefly.              

Soon after this Jardie’s sessions with me reduced to fortnightly , enabling him to attend complimentary sessions with an occupational therapist during alternate weeks.  She designed a package of physical exercises to help increase his neurological integration of sensory experiences.  Jardie’s need to keep pushing the toy cars against a resistance (the sand), to experiment with pouring water, to feel the textures of sand between fingers made increasing sense to me as a result of her observations – an example of how inter-disciplinary working can be beneficial to all concerned.

Months later Jardie asked to use the instruments, ignoring the sandtray.  He rattled, shook and struck some of  the  ‘instant access’ percussion  but didn't appear to find anything that engaged him.   Instead, to the tune of Frere Jacques, he began singing:

‘ I am Jardie, I am Jardie…’

‘ Yes,  you are!’ I continued his refrain:  ‘ How are you? ‘

 ‘I am very happy – ‘he began, then broke off from his song to instruct me-

 ‘Add some drum now, Jon- and I’ll do the bell!’  . “Quicker-no, louder- do it again! Bing, Bam, Bong! Bim, Bam Bong!!’

  ‘What makes Jardie happy?’ I sang and he hesitated. Undeterred I continued:

‘Is it…..?’  I began to engage him in a gently teasing musical ‘peek-a-boo’ song.  (I imagined he might have missed out on such engagement during his interrupted early years).  I listed in my song a litany of possibilities- potentially pleasurable or otherwise, including pepperoni pizza, having his own bedroom, homework, strawberries, wash night- all of which he responded to with an emphatic yell: YES! Or NO.!  

Each time I posed the question he smiled- and with a look of triumph shouted out his response.  I sensed that had I spoken the words they would have felt persecutory; singing them instead appeared to lighten their impact, to soften my touch.   In confirming his likes and dislikes Jardie seemed to be making some elementary yet important self-statements.

When Jordie appeared to experience separation anxiety and sought to delay leaving my room I mirrored this in song, offering some comfort: ‘You don’t want to go – and it’s time to stop - so see you next week, have a good weekend!’1  On hearing this he cheered up and eagerly returned to the waiting room.

 Jardie’s difficulty around separating often reappeared when his session was about to finish; sometimes using a ‘count down’ helped him manage this transition.

 Reflecting on my response to his singing I could have remained silent (speech, like music, consists of rests or pauses as well as sound). Instead I chose to join him in a duet. Many children and young persons feel uncomfortable, even overwhelmed by silences, more so perhaps than adults do.  In extreme cases this can feel like falling into an abyss’ (Blend, 2008).  At such times it helps if the therapist can act as a conduit, ‘carrying the conversation’ (Oaklander, personal discussion, 2014).

 To be continued… © Jon Blend MA, 2017

[i] I am indebted to senior music therapist Donald Wetherick whose case illustration involving responses sung to a troubled youngster inspired me to sing to Jardie.





 Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Ireland  


VSOF Founding Members Felicia Carroll, Jon Blend, Lynn Stadler, Sue Talley and Karen Fried will offer trainings in  Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Ireland   in the summer of 2017.  Please check our calendar listing for details and registration.  Here follows Jon report on his recent training in London.  http://vsof.org/tbdate-nl.html

 Jon Blend’s Training in Goole, England

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A lively weekend spent teaching on use of  creativity in the therapeutic relationship to a keen group of Gestalt therapists and trainees in Goole,Yorkshire, UK on March 11 & 12. Participants were introduced to the inspirational Oaklander approach initially through working with materials- principally drawing and clay. The group explored some safe, effective ways of expressing and channeling angry feelings and later enjoyed creating haiku poems and making ‘instant music’ together.  Jon Blend  AND    the Gestalt Centre London. The eight participants, all women this time, were really inspired to learn something of the Oaklander approach.  They came from Australia, Greece, Spain, Norway and of course UK.

They also wanted to join me in saying Happy Birthday to you, Violet!

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