Keynoters and Speakers

Healing Intergenerational Wounds: An Integrative Contextual-Neurobiological Approach

In this keynote, Dr. Fishbane will explore ways to facilitate healing and dialogue in distressed relationships between adults and their family of origin. Informed by both contextual theory and interpersonal neurobiology, she will discuss the neurobiology of intergenerational reactivity, and ways to promote emotion regulation and respect between the generations. Building on Boszormenyi-Nagy’s concepts of loyalty, multidirected partiality, and rejunctive action, Dr. Fishbane will focus on “relational empowerment”—including self-regulation, authenticity, generosity and empathy. She will offer techniques to help adult clients “wake from the spell of childhood,” relating to parents as individuals on their intergenerational journey. Relational ethics is key: helping adult clients “reach for their best self” in family relationships, balancing self-care with care and compassion for parents. Healing old intergenerational wounds often helps clients in their other relationships, as they resolve invisible loyalties and develop relational resilience.

Cultivating Resources of Trusworthiness in the Adult Intergenerational Family

Transgenerational Transmission of Socio-Political Trauma through the Contextual Therapy Lens

“The Parents’ Trap” – Sibling Bond Vs. Rivalry: Parentification and Sibling Relationships”

This presentation looks at destructive parentification and sibling relationships: Defines and distinguishes the pathogenic/destructive parentification in the family system as a fixed imbalance of reciprocity, from the optimal parentification where parents temporarily rely on the child for support and responsible actions. By considering both dimensions of relationships — systemic transactions and relational ethics — Contextual Therapy offers a unique contribution to the understanding of the sibling system in the context of destructive parentification. Contextual theory & therapy address the role assignment aspect and the multigenerational loyalty and commitment aspect. Different forms of role assignments of destructively parentified children (“caretaker”, “scapegoat” etc.) basically serve the same function of maintaining the emotional stability of family members as well as the relational stability of the family as a whole.

Despite the fact that most reports regarding sibling relationships have placed the main emphasis on sibling rivalry, the central emphasis in this presentation is on those aspects of sibling relationships, that promote growth and development — the “sibling bond.”

When, how and under what circumstances will destructive parentification affect the sibling bond? A model is proposed to conceptualize the relationship between parental function and sibling relationships. Three continua were identified within this model: 1) Parentification: optimal parentification to destructive parentification; 2) Parental involvement: optimal involvement to impingement; 3) Sibling relationship: sibling bond to rivalry or cut-off.

Biblical illustrations are offered to demonstrate realities of siblings under destructive parentification (Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Joseph & his brothers). These illustrations are vignettes of compound realities, to enlighten a broader generational context which might have affected the relational dynamics.

A Tribute to Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy and Barbara R Krasner:

My Tale of Gratitude: How Ivan’s insight and Barbara’s intuition enlightened me and transformed my therapeutic work and family healing

I will highlight the contextual insights and convictions that most transformed my clinical work and family healing, illustrating with clinical and personal vignettes.
In my first meetings with Barbara and Ivan, I was moved by their concerns for social justice and the larger contexts of family life within cultural and national legacies.
Reading Invisible Loyalties: I labored to comprehend while I felt understood.
Ivan called inviting me onto the staff of the Family Psychiatry Department at Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I was immediately expanded by multidirectional partiality, everyone counts, everyone has a side. The therapist is to be “accountable to everybody who is potentially affected” by therapeutic interventions. This challenged me to begin imagining the side and context of those with me in the therapy session and those not present but intimately related. Even when I was seeing an individual, I was accountable to consider the humanity of all who might be affected.
I was challenged to understand the roots of loyalty in indebtedness and to see the evolution of loyalty expectations generation to generation as burdens and blessings are passed forward.
I was especially liberated by the freeing of loyalty expectations and obligations from the culturally held notion of nonnegotiable, death dealing constraints, by understanding that due consideration frees entitlement to self-delineation. One’s obligation to inquiry and consideration of fairness and just due to others necessarily includes, or is balanced by, finding one’s own voice, being present with one’s own truth.
Gradually ledgers of fairness, context as “the sum total” of one’s ledgers of fairness, parentification, revolving slate, earned entitlement, destructive entitlement, consequences and particularity, earned trustworthiness, etc. became working concepts, a lens, with practical therapeutic applications.
I am amazed today that as I reread Invisible Loyalties, what was difficult to comprehend when I was 33 is now all so clear at 81.
I have received. I am indebted. I am grateful.
From Ivan I received ‘sight’ for the reality and motivational priority of relationship ledgers and their multigenerational life. My analogy is the experience of snorkeling on a coral reef. When I look down into the water, I enter another universe. Seeing contextually through Ivan’s eyes opened my vision to a whole universe of ethical relatedness, the impact which I had felt and by which I had been moved but which I had not previously seen. I shared Ivan’s passion for inclusion, for the welfare of each person and people group. He taught me to attend to the relational resources and justice essential for well-being. The beauty of his mind and heart as he followed the threads of his insights through clinical cases, corresponding philosophies and theological perspectives, awakened my imagination. He penetrated psychological and relational pathologies, revealing hidden ethical stagnation and resources, exploitation and parentification, contributions deserving credit, and the liberating potential of dialogue, of equitable give and take.
Ivan expressed his concern with imposing religious interpretations onto these ethical relational dynamics. He saw these dynamics as empirically evident, as revealing what was inherent in all relatedness. To me Ivan’s insight begged for theological expression. I was coming from inner experience of God’s living, now, presence and care. The reality of asymmetry and a relational ledger in my relationship with God, therefore, made empirical sense to me. In fact, praise and gratitude and passing forward God’s love for me do liberate entitlement for self-delineation through due consideration. What a gift of understanding.
From Barbara I received a sustained commitment to my well-being and to our mutuality. I found a deep resonance with the mystical ground of contextual work that she knew and lived. I treasure her frequent challenge to see another’s side, to view the humanity and Real (context) of another while holding my ground, tending my Real (context) and speaking my truths. Her questions expose options, potential relational actions and possibilities. I have borrowed her trust in the trust-building process of fair consideration and risking uncertain outcomes. I respond to her example and her challenge to me to consider returning to strained and stagnant relationships, to imagine the humanity, the Real (context) of another, to harvest residual trust where possible, remembering former giving and receiving, to own my dignity and then initiate attempts to rejoin.
Together we forged a friendship and partnership spanning 50 years.
Together, with Karen Krasner Allen and Greet DeBruijn, we authored a memoir of Barbara’s contextual journey, Lifeblood of Trust for Real Relationship (ACCO, 2019), and brought to fruition a long-held desire to put contextual work into everyday language.

Healing Seven Generations: Lessons from a Multigenerational Healing Journey

This workshop will illustrate the healing of seven generations of the Schoeninger-Purvis family through the application contextual work. Each of us stands in the present, between the past, the legacies received, and future generations, living and yet to be born. My task is to, “take what has been given in the past, assess its merit, and, finally, recast it into more effective modes of offering future care.” (Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy and Barbara Krasner. 1986. Between Give and Take. New York: Brunner-Mazel. p. 145-146.)
The title, Healing 7 Generations, formed within me in July 2017 as I stood, with my four living generations on Neues Strasse in Schwabisch-Hall, Germany, at the address where my grandfather was born and raised. I was standing with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren on the street where my grandfather had walked and played as a child. I was aware that here in this place he had lost his mother when he was just shy of 5 years old. Here my great-grandfather had grieved the loss of his wife, my great-grandmother, and my grandfather had felt the loneliness and lostness of missing his mother. And here I am standing with my great-grandchildren who are just shy of 5 years old. As I recounted to my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren my grandfather’s loss of his mother, I became aware that we were healing 7 generations, the three that precede me through the three that issue from me.

Strengthening Connectedness in Close Relationships

This keynote is about a reconstruction of the contextual theory of Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy.
The contextual theory is a rich, but also complex theory. Many contextual professionals struggle to understand and fathom this theory, which hinders the accessibility and applicability of this valuable approach. Therefore, I present a reconstruction of the contextual theory, starting with the foundation of the theory, followed by a new, clear structure, highlighting the cohesion of the core-elements of this theory.
Starting from the perspective of the contextual axiom encompassing the human innate sense of justice and care, it will be elaborated in the contextual anthropology, the contextual pathology and the contextual methodology. This reconstruction of the contextual theory may improve the accessibility of this complex theory and facilitate the applicability of contextual theory in practice.
If possible, I will also briefly consider the model for contextual therapy, developed as a guideline for contextual professionals.
Finally, the core of this family therapy approach appears to be true to its axiom: people are interconnected because of their being human, including their innate sense of justice and care. This innate sense is considered the strength and resilience of people and thus ‘the motivational layer in which hope resides for repairing the hurt human justice’.

Dr. Jaap van der Meiden MCH is system and contextual therapist, senior lecturer and researcher at the Christian University of Applied Sciences Ede (CHE), and founder of the CHE Institute Contextual Approach.

Dialogue, Antidote to Disruption in Families, Societies, and Countries

This presentation, based on the 2019 biography and reflections of Barbara R. Krasner, is focused on insights and tools to repair stagnant relationships. The development of Barbara’s biography comprised a journey of 4 years dialogic writing across the ocean, along with pictures, video’s and personal stories.
Our world has no shortage of stagnant relationships on a variety of levels: divorces, issues in compound families, migration conflicts, trust gaps or e.g. fundamental differences in upbringing, culture and beliefs. Contextual thinking stipulates that a person develops, grows and becomes him or herself in a relational, intergenerational reality. Which questions and topics are essential for a good relationship? Is there reliable contact, do you and I matter, are we being heard, are we connected and is our relationship in balance? Without satisfactory answers, loneliness, depression and illness lurk around the corner. So:

How to stay connected in a world that seems to be disintegrating?

Applying Contextual Therapy to working with populations experiencing Social Injustice

In this panel discussion speakers will examine the application of contextual therapy theory to working with issues of social injustice. Through a discussion of clinical work and research on various marginalized and underserved populations, speakers will address considerations for working with: immigrant and refugee populations, those with experiences of complex trauma, transgender/gender expansive populations, and clinical supervision. The presentations will examine opportunities in and relevance of contextual therapy constructs while working from a social justice perspective.

Discussant & Moderator:
Rashmi Gangamma, PhD, LMFT
Associate Professor, Dept of Marriage and Family Therapy
Syracuse University


1. Manijeh Daneshpour, PhD
System-Wide Director
Professor, California School of Professional Psychology
Alliant Interntational University

2. Jennifer Coppola, PhD MFT
Private practice

3. Linda Stone Fish, PhD LMFT
Professor, Dept of Marriage and Family Therapy
Syracuse University

4. Cadmona Hall, PhD LMFT FT
Associate Professor, Couple and Family Therapy Department
Adler University

Title:War Grandchildren – The Legacy of the Children of War Children

Are We There Yet?: Positioning Social Justice at the Heart of Therapy

Contextual Family Therapy is an effective theory for intervening justly with families. Specifically, its commitment to exploring fairness, justice, and entitlement lends itself overtly to incorporating a social justice perspective. The aim of this presentation is to discuss a framework for integrating social justice in the therapy room.

Differentiation as a Relational Process

Both contextual theory (Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy) and Bowen Family Systems Theory (Murray Bowen) consider that the lives of individuals move in an undulating balance between freedom and lack of freedom. That is to say, every step towards emotional maturity, towards autonomy, differentiation and ultimately towards everything that implies the development of an individual who decides his own life; entails undoubtedly an encounter with antagonistic movements of autonomy vs. bonding. These dilemmas are between the accomplishments and commitments towards meeting the needs and desires of oneself, and those of other significant people with whom they are in relation. Who is one to satisfy? Themselves or the other? Can one’s satisfaction be compatible with the other? What responsibility is there to assume? How can one connect with others without losing their sense of self?

This study aimed to explore the relationship between the central constructs of both theories; Relational Ethics, and differentiation of self. Gaining a deep understanding of each theory as well as their connection is essential in order to guide people towards genuine and deep relational experiences, which play a vital role in the achievement of psychological health and the maturation of individuals.

Consequences of the Neurobiological Findings for the Healing of all Sorts of Relationships

We know that at least 95% of our behavior is automatically, subconsciously driven. Only 5% of our behavior is consciously chosen in a goal-directed way (Lipton, 2015; Szegedy-Maszak, 2005). What is fair in the relationship – over the generations and between cultures – and what we want to achieve in the direct address between people or between groups, is often biased by the triggers, attached to the amygdala (Levine, 2015). These triggers are the result of earlier misunderstandings, loss of control and trauma (Nader, 2003). During the contact people have with each other, these triggers result in subconscious fear reactions (fight, flee and freeze) which can lead to difficulties during the direct contact.
All those triggers of past traumatic events and fear reactions resonate in the actual thinking, dealing with and possible contacts between the people involved. This can be a burden for direct address, the open dialogue that is needed to build up constructive living together.

Because the addressing of the conscious mind only affects about 5% of the person’s behavior, conscious contextual counseling can be seriously enhanced by including the inhibition of the subconscious triggers (95%) that might affect the relationship(s).

During this lecture and demonstration, I will explore and demonstrate how we can inhibit the subconscious triggers. I will show what is needed to address and change the subconscious in order to erase the load people are experiencing after misunderstandings, trauma, neglect, abuse, and other loss of control. Contextual counseling can be enhanced by including the creation of subconscious impulses that generate fair giving and receiving in the relationship. Taking care of subconscious connections is an optimal preparation for direct address in partner- and family counseling.

Touchpoints for Relational Ethics with Application to Education

Contextual Therapy’s relational ethics were intended by Nagy to become part of every therapeutic modality. This presentation demonstrates how relational ethics are also applicable to the process of education whether in a supervisor/supervisee relationship, a mentor/mentee relationship, or a professor/student relationship in a formal classroom. Buber claimed that true education prepares the student for real relationship and authentic engagement. It is more than delivering knowledge to a student. When teacher and student develop trust between them, and open to one another, genuine meeting can occur and formative processes flourish. In this way, students do not simply pass exams, but grow in personhood and relational freedom. This allows them to sit in their therapy rooms or their own family contexts in new ways.

Contextual Therapy’s relational ethics will be distilled into five touchpoints and applied to the relationship between teacher and student. Results of a pilot focus group study on MFT education as dialogical engagement will delineate a process as well as share examples of the outcomes for students.

Historical Transgenerational Trauma in Hungary – Restorative Opportunities Through Psychodrama.

Building Trust: Couples Therapy and the Challenges of Fairness and Justice

Trust is seen as the core value in couple and family life, and as humans, we all deserve trustworthy relationships. Contextual family therapy was among the first models to claim that family therapy and moral questions are inseparable. We cannot overlook the importance of affection or the ever-present element of power, but we should hold trustworthiness as the critical element in holding relationships together. The Hallmark of the contextual family therapy model is based on the conviction that all family members gain from trustworthy relationships, which are the outcome of (1) giving credit to those in the family that deserves it, (2) responsible responding, and (3) care about a fair distribution of relational burdens and benefits. However, in some situations one member of the couple claim to some relational resource out of need, while another feels entitled to it on the basis of merit and the therapist has to help them agree on whether the justice is ultimately need or merit-based. Justice in this sense is not a straightforward matter that will be recognized by all involved if they simply hear one another out. Thus, this presentation will focus on relational ethics and trust-building to help couples reappropriate individual responsibility and accountability within a systemic context of couple therapy. It will highlight several clinical strategies for working with couples and discusses how trust accrues for the couple if there is a fairness of exchange, reciprocity, and equitable give and take.