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Dear members,

Welcome to the Fall 2019 edition of the USPBSPA newsletter, where we approach the year's end with renewed energy and excitement following the highly successful 7th International PBSP Conference in Prague last month and the announcement of a new 3 year PBSP training program in North America to begin next year. USPBSPA President, Jim Amundsen, provides a full report below.

More conference pictures are available for viewing at:

Warmest good wishes

Hazel Latoza

USPBSPA Newsletter Editor

A Note from the President:

For me personally, and I’m pretty sure for everyone else in attendance, the 7th International PBSP Conference was a real shot in the arm. For one thing, it’s not often that I’m in a group of 160 or so professionals from 14 different countries who are all familiar with PBSP. Most of the time the professionals I’m with aren’t familiar with PBSP and I have to spend most of my time explaining the system. It is a wonderful feeling to be immersed in a group that is already familiar with PBSP, not to mention enthusiastic about the method.

The international conference also represented the first time the worldwide community got together without the presence of our founders, Al and Diane. PBSP certified Trainers met for a day retreat which included a very productive conversation with the President of the PBSP Institute, Tasmin Pesso. We informally dubbed ourselves “the Trainers Council.” I was excited to experience first hand how all the countries with a PBSP presence were organizing themselves to carry the PBSP method into the future.

I want to point out a few additions to our website, First is the announcement, with more details to follow, of a new 3 year training program in the USA. For the last 15 years the only training in the USA has been “modular” training, which means trainings that covered different topics but no training that followed an organized curriculum from beginning to end with one cohort class. The locations for this training are in the southeastern US. In addition, discussions are under way to start a second 3 year training program based in the San Diego area in the fall of 2020. With these two programs the USA will be experiencing more training in PBSP than has been available in 20 years! Of course, various modular training experiences, such as the five day training experience I’ve been conducting in the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior will continue.

Finally, there are a couple of additions to the “resources” section of our website that I’d like to highlight. First, thanks to the efforts of Kimberly Murphy in San Diego, there is now available a working version of Al Pesso’s slide show that he put together in the early 1990’s. Although he made this before his holes in roles theory, to my mind this slide show represents the most complete presentation of PBSP that he ever made.

Another addition that you will find fascinating is the complete one hour YouTube presentation of the infant development researcher, Beatrice Beebe’s, talk on “Decoding the language of babies.” Her research films of mother-baby interactions illustrate the bodily, emotional, right brain to right brain communications that are the foundation of what the PBSP method is designed to access. That is, the mother–baby interactions depict in real time the formation of the “maps” that we are working with in our clients in the PBSP method.

Check into our website frequently as the PBSP scene is starting to really heat up in the USA!

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

Jim Amundsen

USPBSPA President

A Variation on the ‘Voluntary Patterns in the Service of Interest and Curiosity’ Exercise

Gus Kaufman, Ph.D., Senior PBSP Trainer

I had previously taught the ongoing group I lead with Stephanie Ezust, Ph.D. Conscious Voluntary Movement, including the four steps of Decide, Plan, Carry Out, Check.

This time I taught the Voluntary Patterns exercise adding “we are going to do an extra step to look at how what you do in the exercise applies in your life.” (Stephanie helped me come up with this variation.) We had everyone complete the four steps of the exercise (look around the room, see what arouses the most interest and curiosity for you, figure out what you want to do with it, go do it, come back to your spot and check what happened.) I then asked them to look at something important in their lives and see if the pattern of what they did in the exercise carried through there. I gave them three minutes to sit with this and then asked them to debrief.

One client, a complex trauma survivor, abused by both parents, told me it was very useful. (We did some of this processing in our individual session.) She said, “It’s how I react. I get immobilized, don’t want to do anything. (She was the last one to move.)

I think ‘what difference does it make? I’ve got to do it anyway.’ Then I want to hide (she did in the exercise, behind the leaders). Then I started to touch the tree tapestry behind you. The tree was rough; I didn’t like it. I’m always looking for something soft. There’s nothing soft in your office. So I’ve brought something.”

She had brought me a small stuffed swan, (she knows I am a birder.) She also tends to take care of others. For much of the session she held it on her lap, or to her cheek, and stroked it. She said, “you know it doesn’t matter if you were born in a duck yard, if you hatched from a swan’s egg.”

This was a step forward I think for this client in developing a pilot, activating a part of herself that could envision, allow and create a positive possibility sphere for herself.

An additional step that could be added would be to have the clients report each meeting where they are with going toward their goal. Work could be done with the obstacles encountered.

Please click here to share your experiences and comments with the writer 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 the relationship between holes in roles, omnipotence and incompletions?

Answer from Jim Amundsen Ph.D.:

I first heard Al Pesso talk about incompletions as being a symptom of holes in roles in 2005 at the 5th International PBSP Conference in Minneapolis. He said, “If you see someone having trouble with completions, look towards holes in roles.” At the time he didn’t explain what he meant, and I spent several years thinking about what he meant. First off, what’s a completion? Probably most of you are familiar with the “voluntary movement” exercise. In this exercise we first explain how a voluntary movement is comprise of three steps: make a goal, executing a movement toward meeting the goal, and then checking to see if you met the goal and noticing what adjustments must be made, and repeat until the goal in accomplished. Meeting a goal would be an example of a completion. So, Al was saying that if you have clients that can’t finish meeting their goals (losing weight, cleaning house, putting together a resume, and so on), expect that the person will need to do holes in roles structures.

Omnipotence is the felt experience of, “I’m the only one, there is no other.” Omnipotence is a fantasy of self-sufficiency. In holes in roles problems, there is an omnipotent fantasy that “I am the only one who can relieve the suffering of another.” This fantasy forms at a young age when the child/infant is exposed to the suffering/unhappiness of someone around them, like a parent, sibling or other extended family member. It’s not any suffering but suffering that appears as chronic and never ending. Because of mirror neurons and the innate sense that all humans are born with compassion and justice, the young child can feel the suffering of another as if it is their own. Think of seeing someone running to catch a bus and they fall, badly scrapping their hands as they catch themselves on the sidewalk. All of us would grimace with pain, knowing how it would feel, and most of us would want to go to the person and see if they were alright. When young children, especially before the age of 5, are exposed to suffering they feel the same kind of thing. If the pain they are exposed to is never ending, like a depressed parent who isn’t doing anything about it, the child will be overwhelmed (vicarious trauma) with the suffering of the other. To get over this, since there is no interpersonal help (they can’t turn to the depressed parent for help) the infant mind can exercise its imagination and picture that he or she has the power to take away the suffering of the parent. This is like dealing with being cold in the wintertime by fantasizing that you are on a warm tropical beach. While I’m having the fantasy, I may feel relief from the cold. However, the minute I engage in embodied interactions with the real world, the fantasy doesn’t work. Outside of my fantasy world, it’s below freezing.

To put this all together, if I as a child/infant am trying to make myself feel better by fantasizing that I am the one that can fix my mommy or daddy’s depression by my interactions it means that now I have to maintain a fantasy about my healing powers. You could say that the child has a fantasy goal that outside expert judges would say is impossible to meet; it’s an unattainable goal. As a therapist, think of what it takes to help someone out of a depression! A one, two, three, four, five, or even ten year old child is not going to be able to achieve that goal. And yet, the child’s mind thinks that it must be able to in order to stop the pain that he or she is vicariously experiencing. This leads to the avoidance of engaging the interactional world with actual completions of meeting goals. This is because to maintain the omnipotent fantasy I can’t allow the fantasy to engage in actual feedback loops with reality. Because the mind seems to be incapable of “pin-point bombing,” i.e., it can’t just repress and/or disassociate from just one completion, the whole category of completions must be repressed.

There are many more details to this picture, but in general, this is how I’ve come to think of the relationship between holes in roles, omnipotence and the inability to make completions.

(For a more detailed discussion see Jim Amundsen's paper, “Holes in roles from the perspective of affect regulation,” available for download under “resources” in this website.)

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. 

Three Year PBSP Training Program

The Board of Directors of the USPBSPA is pleased to announce that there will be a new PBSP training program starting in 2020!  Not all of the details have been finalized as yet however the website events page will be revised with additional information as we have them.

There will be four 3-day trainings as outlined below:

Cost will be $2600 per year ($650 per three-day training weekend).

If interested, or if you have questions, please contact Robbin McInturff at: (205) 933-9276 ext. 113 or email:

4th Annual USPBSPA Conference (San Diego, CA)

PBSP: Creating new memories to transform the future. A dynamic therapeutic model for complex times

April 25 & 26, 2020

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

Five Day PBSP Training (Lutsen, MN)

"Memory Reconciliation in Psychotherapy: PBSP Training"

June 15 – 19, 2020

Jim Amundsen, PhD, LP and certified PBSP Trainer will be offering 5 days of PBSP training. The location will be in the Lutsen Resort in the spectacularly scenic north shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Some researchers are proposing that the process of memory reconciliation is at the heart of all successful psychotherapy. PBSP has developed and employed techniques designed to use memory reconciliation for over 60 years now.

This training seminar is open to all psychotherapists of whatever discipline. It will be a combination of lectures, discussion and will be especially weighted towards hands on experiential practice.

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

Please contact the Lutsen Resort separately to reserve a room. (

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