Person-Centred & Experiential Therapies Conference | Presentation Abstracts
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Presentation Abstracts

Rebecca Smith


Through my presentation, I would like to take you on the therapeutic journey of an anxious, self-conscious pre-teen and myself as her counsellor, as we danced towards wholeness. Using the person centred core principles of unconditional positive regard, congruence and empathy, I will discuss how this long term trusting therapeutic relationship became core to this child’s openness to explore deep, unvoiced and sometimes-painful experiences in a safe and non-judgemental space. I will speak to her initial presentation of a child with anxiety and with deep self-esteem and identity issues and unable to relationally connect to others effectively. In this case study, I will present how my integration of creative and play therapies, with a person centred therapeutic foundation, allowed this work to become an adventure filled with cartoons, colours, dragons, good and evil, laughter and tears and ultimately emotional and relational healing. I will speak to the beauty of being actively invited, through imaginative play into joining this child in her once lonely internal world, making sense of the conditions of worth and disorganised attachments of her young life. The effectiveness of integrating experiential therapies such as creativity and play into work with children, teens and also adults, will be examined with the intention of inviting others to consider how their work can be enriched by tapping into our innate desire to communicate, within a trusting space, who we are in ways deeper than words can express.

Dr Brian Rodgers


This presentation takes another look at the first of Rogers’ (1957) necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Often overlooked in the shadows of the so called wcore conditions’, the condition that “two persons are in psychological contact” (p.96) is usually taken for granted. However, on closer inspection the wording of this condition would seem to incorporate a number of unnecessary limitations as well as overly Western conceptualisations of what is sufficient. This presentation will explore possibilities for extending this condition to be more inclusive on non-Western views of both personhood and contact.

Bernie Neville


Carl Rogers argued in his later writing for a multi-perspectivist view of reality, asking whether we need a ‘reality’ at all, and suggests that it would be desirable to have a society ‘based on the hypothesis of multiple realities’. He certainly brought a multi-perspectivist approach to his writing on counselling, avoiding what the process philosopher Whitehead calls ‘the fallacy of dogmatic finality’.

In this workshop we will explore the work of person-centred counsellors within the framework of archetypal theory as originally developed by Carl Jung and further elaborated by James Hillman. Hillman expounds a multi-perspectivist or ‘polytheistic’ understanding of reality, using the gods of We will look at counselling theory and practice through this lens. The workshop will involve some discussion of archetypal theory and Greek mythology, but the major focus will be on experiential work exploring the archetypal patterns – Zeus, Dionysos, Aphrodite and the rest – which shape and energise our counselling practice. This will involve small group work involving role play, in which participants will explore the extent to which each god has a voice in the assumptions, theory and expectations they bring to their practice.

Sandy Hitchens

(B. Couns), MNZCCAMM


There are many ways to view and label the behaviour of children – we might see that they are deliberately misbehaving to “push our buttons”, we might see that they are lacking in self-regulation and need to calm down, we might describe them as “naughty”, “rude”, “disruptive”, “non-compliant”, “disrespectful”. We might see that their behaviours are so extreme and beyond what we can offer and therefore qualify for a disorder label. What we see determines the language we use and what we do as an attempt to help this child. The rise in many issues amongst our primary-aged children is begging us to use a different lens, a different language and therefore a different way of working – a lens that looks deeper than the behaviour that the child might be exhibiting. A lens that sees the emotion underneath the behaviour and wonders about what problem it might be trying to solve for the child. A lens that looks to the child’s attachments and where there might be separations. Once we have this lens, the language will flow as will the way that we can come alongside this child from a relational, accepting and intuitive position. This presentation will draw on personal experiences as a counsellor in primary schools seeking to offer children an experience of acceptance, understanding and connection as they explore and express their emotional worlds. It will also look at ways we can share our lens and our language with those around us.

I currently counsel in 3 primary schools in Christchurch (one day a week each) as well as a small private practice. I am studying under the Neufeld Institute which makes sense of children and their issues through an attachment-developmental model. Through my study I also facilitate some of the Neufeld courses locally.

Susan Grant


From shamans of ancient times to therapists of the present day, various people in the healing practises have included nature and her elements in their work; acknowledging the therapeutic value of the experiential encounter with nature. Researchers in the field of psychology suggest that the schism between human beings and the natural world has significant effects on psychological well­being and ultimately to emotional problems and ill-health (Kuhn, 2001; Pilisuk & Joy, 2001; Roszak, 2001; Roszak et al., 1995, as cited in Berger, 2009). Nature-Therapy views the natural environment and its elements as “a live and dynamic partner in the shaping of the setting and the [therapy] process” (Berger, 2004, as cited in Berger, 2009). This paper is a review of literature on Nature Therapy, especially the core principles of this postmodern experiential approach developed by Ronen Berger PhD. It includes a reflection on personal applications of these principles with child clients by the presenter, Susan Grant, a counsellor and counsellor educator, in Christchurch New Zealand.

Dr Beverley Flitton


This presentation takes a look at the first of the six conditions to be in psychological con­tact from a neurobiological perspective. Using the theory of Porges (2011), we will explore how our nervous system works in support­ing us to connect or prepares us for fight or flight and disconnection. We will explore a few simple yet effective strategies to support ourselves and our clients to activate the social engagement system thus being able to be in psychological contact.

Nicola Richter

MA, PGDipHE, MBACP (Senior Acc), UKCP Reg, MBPsS, Fellow HEA


Each year, more people die through suicide than in the annual wars raging the world. Strangely, many people have similarly shocked responses to those dying through suicide, as to those dying in war. Vast amounts of money go into warfare; very little money is spent on suicide prevention. Suicidal clients are at times regarded as ‘crying for help’, ‘just needing attention’, and being ‘selfish’. Some therapists make contracts with their suicidal clients; they ‘should’ call the therapist when they acutely want to kill themselves – thus introducing a very imbalanced power-relationship. What are the alternatives, and which in particular have person-centred ways of relating to offer?

I am proposing that we walk alongside our clients and ‘get our hands dirty’ by doing some soul-searching within ourselves, about our meaning in life, our ideals and realities of living, our relationship to death and our relationships with ourselves and each other. To truly meet our clients where they are at entails – going with them deep into their despair without ourselves getting lost in it – requires a self-awareness. It may require a fearlessness from us as practitioners to be open, vulnerable, touched at the door of death, and relating in healing ways.

In this workshop we will explore together what this means for ourselves, the client and our therapeutic relationship. We will watch challenges and opportunities emerging. What makes person-centred suicide intervention the opportunity to connect deeply? Any personal material shared amongst us will stay in our group, within a warm and safe space of being together. We will have time for reflection by ourselves, exploration in small groups and discussion in the larger group.

I am very passionate about the topic and endeavour to inspire us to think and to challenge ourselves and others, in an empathic way of relating.

Nicola Richter is a German psychologist, studied under Professor Reinhard Tausch, a professional colleague and friend of Carl Rogers and she has over 20 years of experience in our profession. Nicola lectured for over a decade at London Metropolitan University and Regents University, London. She emphasises integration and inclusiveness, culminating in being the founding director of a successful academy, training students in spiritual attitudes and awareness, on the background of person­centred psychology. She maintains a thriving practice, near London, UK.

Nicola has been on radio in Germany and Britain, published on education and personal growth, and presents at international conferences within Europe, USA and now New Zealand. Her research interests are concentrating upon: improving of treatment for people with emotional and mental issues; and improving of clinical & counselling psychology and psychotherapy training, including supervision. Nicola’s Masters research on ‘Meaning in Life’ is cited in various publications. She is currently furthering her findings with a PhD study on ‘Meaning in Life, Relationships and Well-Being’.

Dr Ruth Lawson-McConnell


“I learned shame in a relationship, now I do it all by myself” said one client to me recently. Shame is, in essence, intrapsychic self-attack. It originates in an interpersonal experience of unbearable pain (early attachment wounds) and has the power to split the psyche, leading to a disintegrated sense of self. In this seminar we are going to explore what Carl Jung, the 1 9th century Swiss psychoanalyst whose work bridges the gap between psychology and spirituality, understood as our shadow:  “where we hide all the bits of ourselves we think are shameful”. Shadow-boxing uses up huge amounts of emotional energy, according to Karen Armstrong. We see this in the lives of our clients, who either experience ‘devel­opmental stuckness’ (Neufeld, 2014) due to early attachment wounds or are circling in self-destructive patterns due to addictions or attempts at self-soothing. We will examine shame from an inter-personal neurobiology perspective in the work of Daniel Siegel, around shame and integration of the self. Becoming a resilient therapist when working in the realm of shame, involves being com­fortable with our own shadow. Unless we have embraced our own shadow, we will not be able to take your clients to the place their shadow scares them. This seminar will give an overview of the dynamics of shame, outlining how to detect shame’s shadow, in our client’s and our own stories, then will move to an exploration of our own shadow-work, in order to expand our capacity to be with our clients in the face of shame.

Dr Ruth Lawson-McConnell is a counsellor with more than 28 years’ experience. She trained and worked in Scotland and Canada before moving to New Zealand. She has recently worked as a Senior Lecturer in Counselling at Laidlaw College but currently is a free-lance professional counsellor/supervisor/trainer. Ruth completed her MA (Honours) in Social Anthropology and Psychology (Aberdeen University, Scotland), followed by a PhD (Counselling Psychology), Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen, Scotland). She is a Professional Associate of the Neufeld Institute having trained with Gordon Neufeld in his Attachment-based Developmental paradigm which she applies to her parent consulting on behavioural and emotional difficulties in children and teens as well as dealing with attachment traumas in adulthood. She also specialises in Neuropsychotherapy and has trained in the Partners of Sexual Addicts Trauma model of therapy (APSATs). She has authored several journal articles and book chapters, delivers conference papers, and has presented professional development training for counsellors in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Dr Melissa Harte



Primary emotions are hypothesised to be biologically adaptive responses that reflect basic human needs and promote surviv­al-oriented action tendencies. An emotional injury occurs in situations where the biologi­cally adaptive response of primary emotion is inhibited or restricted; and, when this occurs, the fulfilment of basic human needs to be loved, validated and safe, are prevented or violated. An injury of this kind has an endur­ing quality experienced as emotional pain that burdens a person long after the event as though an injury has not healed. In Emotion Focused Therapy (EFD the marker for the task of Focusing is typically used for pro­cessing an unclear felt sense. Harte (2012) proposed an expanded version of Focusing to include the reprocessing of the emotional pain caused by painful/traumatic events. Harte (2017) used Task Analysis to investi­gate that model. This workshop will provide participants with introductory knowledge EFT and the expanded Focusing model. If the person is able to express the appro­priate primary emotion and articulate their needs within the remembered experience, the associated painful emotional charge is lessened. Practical skills taught include grounding, developing a safe place to pro­mote self-soothing and simple but effective methods to assist with hyperarousal. Partic­ipants will be able to apply knowledge from this workshop into their work with their clients who have experienced emotional injuries. No prior knowledge of EFT is required.

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