A Gestalt Approach to Working with Children and Adolescents

April 14, 2024 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
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please contact nyigtevents@gmail.com
A Gestalt Approach to Working with Children and Adolescents @ Zoom

Presenter: Jon Blend


The renowned child and adolescent therapist Dr. Violet Oaklander posited that two common reasons for young people entering therapy are a) difficulty with using one or more contact skills and b) low self-esteem. Many have also experienced difficulties with play and playfulness, especially since COVID. Working with young people requires an awareness of maturational processes and of the changing fields of family, school, and community. Young people differ from adults in terms of their awareness, responsibility, and response-ability. As children develop, some extend their lifespace with relative ease while others struggle with the process of “disembedding” from their family of origin (Mark McConville, 2013).

What helps a nervous, troubled youngster join the relational dance, crossing the threshold into therapy? In answering this, I will first share a memory of an encounter I experienced in therapy as a child. Next, I’ll introduce some “icebreaker” activities that I find help many young clients feel at ease and met in a relational dialogue. Then, a few vignettes from clinical practice will illustrate an arts-based therapy approach. Arts modalities often function as “experience-near” vehicles for children and adolescents, helping them explore issues of complexity and “unfinished business.” The arts may also operate as a “relational third,” enabling therapist and client to find their unique co-regulatory rhythm.

Breakout session – some topic options:

  1. Participants may wish to explore their experience of first encounters with younger clients in therapy. What makes for “good-enough” hosting by the therapist? Are there limitations that such an orientation might bring?
  2. As our younger clients develop and grow, some of the quests they encounter en route to adulthood include searches for identity, autonomy, equality, morality, and intimacy. What issues are most important to the young clients that you work with?
  3. It’s commonly held today (by the World Health Organization, etc.) that the process of maturation extends into the mid-twenties and beyond. What implications does this have for current psychotherapy training and practice?


Jon Blend, MA, is British, of Austro-Russian heritage. He is a UKCP and ECP registered Gestalt psychotherapist, child psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, musician, and Playback Theatre performer (www.londonplayback.com). He maintains a psychotherapy practice in London seeing adults, children, and supervisees.

Jon is a faculty member of the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education and an approved trainer with the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation. Since 2002, he has taught the Oaklander model of projective arts therapy to psychotherapists and other professionals. His career in adult and child mental health began 40 years ago, as a social worker in various hospital and community-based settings.

Jon has delivered Gestalt training workshops and presentations to institutes and organizations in Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Poland, Romania, the USA, and the UK. His interests include animal-assisted therapies, interfaith working, and transcultural and intergenerational dialogue. For nine articles and training information, visit https://www.gacp.co.uk.