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Dear members,

Welcome to the May 2019 edition of the USPBSPA newsletter. Allow me to provide a couple of quick updates before the President's report on the recent USPBSPA National Conference. For those of you who cast a vote for Juliet Grayson’s book, unfortunately she did not win the People's Book prize (non-fiction category), but congratulations nonetheless go to her for reaching the finals and for a wonderfully accessible book featuring PBSP in practice.

Also, please don't forget to sign up for the 7th International Conference in Prague this September, if you haven't already. Full details appear further below.

Finally, I wanted to share a short poem that I happened across this month on mainstream media, as it immediately brought to mind the basic need of place. The Duchess of Sussex had posted it following the birth of her son. It's titled ‘Lands’ by Nayyirah Waheed:




my first country,

the first place I ever lived.

Warmest good wishes

Hazel Latoza

USPBSPA Newsletter Editor

A Note from the President:

This continues to be an exciting time for PBSP in North America. The recently concluded 3rd USPBSPA national conference in Asheville, NC was, from the participants point of view, a smashing success. As with the previous conferences, it was held in conjunction with the US PBSP Trainers and Supervisors annual retreat. Currently this group is also the Board of the USPBSPA. Since this group’s main mission is to train therapists and allied professionals in the PBSP method, and to maintain the high standards of certification that were established by Al and Diane Boyden Pesso, most of the Board’s discussions centered around those topics.

The day and half conference was jointly planned and carried out by the Board, with much help from Asheville native and PBSP Supervisor, Pam White. The conference consisted of an introductory lecture, for those attending who were new to PBSP and the rest of the time consisted of experiential training of the method. The hope was that people could take something away that they could use in their work settings right away. This format, experiential, generated a lot of excitement about the PBSP method. Attendees ranged from Louisiana to Vermont with a good showing of people local to Asheville.

One exciting event of the conference was the announcement that Joanna Ware, after 5 years of dedicated work, achieved the USPBSPA’s first stamp of certification as a PBSP Psychotherapist! From Birmingham, AL, Joanna worked closely with PBSP Trainer Robbin McInturff. This may be a strange metaphor for an old pacifist, but I think of PBSP certified therapists as being like the Navy Seals of psychotherapists. The gratification of being in an upper echelon of psychotherapeutic competence makes all the hard work, expense and time very worthwhile.

May you have lives filled with pleasure, satisfaction, connectedness and meaning!

Jim Amundsen

USPBSPA President

The Controlled Approach and the Levang Inventory of Family Experiences® (LIFE)

Curt Levang, Ph.D., PBSP Trainer

I am pleased to say that "Endlessly Becoming" proved to be a wonderful experience: a time of learning, sharing, gathering and continuing in our journey of becoming. Thank you to all for your contributions.

The two training experiences I led at the conference were a "controlled approach" exercise and a presentation on the origins and use of the LIFE instrument. Following is a synopsis of these sessions:

Controlled Approach

Our mind has an intimate relationship with space. This can be seen in our vocabulary and the many feelings words relating to space. We feel close, distant, withdrawn, on top of the world, connected, etc. There are three dimensions of feeling space: expansion and contraction, surface and depth, and the dynamic-frozen dimension.

Expansion and contraction:

When we are feeling good, we are generally more expansive in our thinking, more inclined to move outward rather than inward, and able to take on more of the world without hesitation. However, when we are on the opposite end we feel compressed, small, and even that someone is breathing down our neck.

Surface and depth:

Depth and surface are not two-dimensional. Instead the feeling space can be described as shallow or flat, versus feeling vivid, filled, or substantive.


Dynamic spaces represent feelings about moving, getting somewhere, or advancing. A frozen space is about getting stuck, mired, or getting nowhere.

Controlled approach is a spacial experiential exercise that helps us recognize our physical boundary with others. This exercise is done in pairs, with one person taking the role of “controller” and the other individual the “controllee.” Throughout the exercise there is no dialogue, rather the controller orchestrates all movement of the controllee with hand signals. Also, the pair does not make eye contact so as to ensure that the controller can direct their energy towards the goal, i.e., finding the right boundary or space between self and others.

To start, the pair stands 10 to 15 feet apart from each other. The controller focuses on the controllee and slowly motions for them to come forward, stop, or move backward. The controller continues in this approach and retreat manner until they become aware of what distance feels right and comfortable. Meanwhile the controllee has paid close attention to the hand signals and moved as directed. The controllee does not look directly at the controller, but rather looks above their shoulder.

The controlled approach is just that, a slow, focused effort at determining the physical distance at which we feel comfortable with others. Finding that right boundary or space in the here and now allows the controller to become viscerally aware of their comfort level when relating to others.

The "controlled approach" is one of the many experiential exercises used to teach PBSP theory.

The Levang Inventory of Family Experiences® (LIFE)

I developed the LIFE out of my recognition that there needed to be a mechanism for measuring one's attainment of the 5 basic needs. The process for developing, beta testing, and statistically analyzing several iterations of the instrument took many years. To provide a glimpse of the LIFE, I rely on a video of shape/counter-shape/contra-shape to show how PBSP works, how individuals develop a healthy ego or a fragile ego, and how antidotes provide healing for wounding memories. You can view this at:

The LIFE operationalizes the 5 childhood basic needs so that it can be determined if a need has been met or unmet. From this data, specific words or actions can be employed to help address unmet needs or build on those that have been met. I have constructed a Parent Resource Guide and an Educator Resource Guide to provide examples of words or actions that promote need attainment. The guides can also be used preventatively to promote the values of fulfilling childhood basic needs and, thus, build a family, educational system, organization, etc. culture that embraces the needs of all.

PBSP is such a robust theory I believe it has great value with non-clinical populations. To that end, I have developed a Christian version of the LIFE and am developing a resource guide to be used with drug addiction. I continue to engage in further research to promote PBSP as a scientific based theory and would welcome your comments and feedback.

Please click here to share your experiences and comments with Curt on our Newsletter Forum page.  

While there, do also take a look at our General Discussion Forum (link here).  All member levels are free to create and initiate posts on the General Dicussion Forum.  Don't forget to subscribe!

Your questions answered by experienced PBSP practitioners. 

(All Q&A topics appear in our website Forum where you will have access to the full response and opportunity to join the dialogue.  Please send your questions, ideas and topic suggestions for our next publication to:

Reader Question:

What is micro-tracking in PBSP?

Answer from Curt Levang:

In Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) micro-tracking is a unique skill for therapists and the starting point of all structures. There are two responses that we track: affect and voices. The therapist begins by introducing the idea of a witness figure, someone who would be in the “present” or “here and now” to name and validate the client’s feelings. The therapist can use their hand and arm to point to a space in the air close by. This could be a space next to the therapist, behind the therapist, etc. The client can then begin to imagine a witness figure that is actually in the room, yet separate from the therapist.

As the client begins to share, the therapist watches the facial emotions and physical motions of the client moment by moment. Whenever someone speaks there are feelings that are tied to the subject matter. As the therapist observes such a feeling, the therapist will say, “If there were a witness here, a witness would say, I see (name the emotion emanating from the client) how sad you feel when you remember your dad not being there for you. Here the therapist is putting in the feeling word and repeating exactly what the client just said. (dad was not there for me). The more accurate the therapist names the feeling, the greater the therapeutic alliance. The more accurate the content, the more the witness statement connects to the exact part of the client's brain where the thought originated from.

As the therapist micro-tracks the client, the client will make a cognitive statement that reflects a set of beliefs about how the world works and how they are to live in the world. For example, a negative predictive voice could say, “nothing ever works for me.” The therapist would then say, “that sounds like a voice of negative prediction that says, “nothing ever works out for you.”

Successful micro-tracking demands that the therapist have a broad and deep vocabulary of names for emotions and a strong memory. The process requires the therapist to quickly and accurately identify a feeling word to feed back to the client, and a strong memory so as to repeat back the exact words the client used. This is important as it keeps the flow of the conversation moving along.

Here are two common misses in micro-tracking.

1. Inaccurately summarizing or theorizing what the client said.

For example, saying, "You weren't happy because being with your dad was upsetting. Is that right?" rather than, "A witness would say, I see how sad you feel because your dad wasn't there for you. Is that right?" Precise witness statements elicit more responses from the client and their "truth" becomes clear to you and to them.

2. Incorrectly focusing on the content statement that includes a feeling word.

A therapist can lose their present moment antenna and overlook the content in the client's face and/or body. For example, failing to notice that the client appears to be angry, pissed, or put out, and instead getting caught up in the client's words. For example, the client might say, "I was so worried that Suzie was not texting me back. Incorrectly the therapist might zero in on the word "worried." Yet the correct micro-tracking statement might be, "If a witness were here, a witness would say, "I see how put out you feel as you remember being worried that Suzie was not texting you back."

The point here is to keep micro-tracking the face and body no matter the feeling words used by the client as these words alone may not tell the full story.

Micro-tracking is a complex and exacting process. My aim in this short piece is to provide you with a greater understanding of this technique, rather than overloading you with new concepts. I will continue explaining the topic of micro-tracking in future newsletters and hope this first installment is helpful.

To track our reader question, head to our Forum page, where you will have the opportunity to ask additional follow up questions.

Please refer to our Events page for full details on this year's training programs outlined below.  There maybe more events added in the 2019 calendar year so do check the Events page for updates. 

Five Day PBSP Training (Lutsen, MN)

"Embodied Memory Reconsolidation"

June 10 – 14

PBSP Trainer, Jim Amundsen, PhD, LP, will once again offer a 5 day PBSP training retreat on the shores of Lake Superior in northern MN.  Last year's attendees were unanimous in their praise for both the training and the location for this training retreat.  All therapist of all disciplines are welcomed, from expert PBSP practitioners to those brand new and perhaps curious about PBSP psychotherapy. 

Continuing education credits will be available from the Minnesota Boards of Psychology and Social Work (25 hours).  

To register, contact Jim Amundsen directly at: or, 651-649-0984 (voice only).  Register early as group size will be limited.  Cost $550. 

Lutsen Resort will offer rooms at 3 nights for the price of 2.  There are also condominium type units for rental.  Contact the resort separately to reserve a room. (

4th Annual USPBSPA Conference (San Diego, CA)

April 25 & 26, 2020

Save the dates! 

Please join us in beautiful San Diego, CA for the annual USPBSPA National Conference. For the fourth consecutive year, the PBSP community will gather for a day of learning and connecting. People with all levels of PBSP knowledge are welcome to attend – from those just beginning to learn to advanced practitioners.

For more information, contact Maya Heffernan at

7th International PBSP Conference 

On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the birth of Albert Pesso and Diane Boyden Pesso, the 7th International PBSP Conference entitled "Science and Good Practice" will be held in Prague.  This event is being organized by the Czech Association of Pesso Boyden Psychomotor Psychotherapy. 

Click here to download the full conference invitation & information in PDF. 

Visit or contact for more details.

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