Transforming the way you live and work in the world

Roots VII Conference

Gestalt and Social Activism, Roots & Branches

This is the seventh Roots Conference. Beginning in Paris in 2003 with “The European Roots of Gestalt Therapy” conference, and continuing with Roots II in Antwerp, 2005, in Rome in 2007, Budapest in 2009, and Bommersvik, Sweden, in 2012, these conferences have provided an opportunity to focus on Gestalt therapy theory, its roots, development and the rich diversity of

its application. Roots VI took place in Belfast, Ireland, hosted by Gestalt Centre Belfast. Roots VII will take place in Mati, Greece, in April 2016.



Gestalt practitioners, whether therapists, coaches, consultants or educators, have long had a deep and shared commitment to changing the world we live in.

This commitment to social activism has deep roots, beginning with Fritz and Laura Perls in Berlin. Even before the Perls’ arrived in New York such people as Paul Goodman and Elliot Shapiro were already acknowledged as influential social activists. Both Goodman and Shapiro were members of the original training group which became the founding members of The New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy. They were joined there later by such people as George Dennison (First Street School) and Patrick Kelley (New York Street Gangs) and many others, amongst them active supporters of the LGBT community up to the present.

As the Gestalt approach spread throughout the world, impacting the environment became a fundamental, though usually underacknowledeged value wherever Gestalt institutes were founded and Gestalt practitioners lived and practised.

For example, Paul Goodman was a leader amongst those protesting the war in Vietnam, and his book Growing Up Absurd influenced a whole generation of social activists. Our Children Are Dying, Net Hentoff’s account of the work of Eliot Shapiro, a trade union activist and superintendent in the New York school system is as much an account of social activism as it is about education.

Deeply imbedded in their work is the belief that rather than changing individuals in order to change society, working with change within society will support and maintain change in individuals.

At this conference we hope to honor this commitment by sharing and discussing our work. We invite you to join like-minded Gestalt practitioners in sharing our thoughts, practices and projects to influence the world in which we live and work, and which our children and grandchildren will inherit.




- Dr. Trevor Bentley, UK - Rosie Burrows, Ireland
- Angelos Derlopas, Greece - Dagrun Dvergsdal, Norway
- Sean Gaffney, Sweden - Joelle Gartner, UK
- Brid Keenan, United Kingdom - Melissa S. Kelly-McCabe, USA
- Burt Lazarin, USA - Joseph Melnick, USA
- Eugenio Molini, Spain - Katerina Papanikolaou, Greece
- Konstantin Pavlov, Russia -Sari Scheinberg, Sweden
- Lia Zografou, Naoum Liotas, Iliana Kinigopoulou, Kostis Koutroubis, Antonia Vrondou, and Magda Pantelidu, Greece  


Please check this web page for updates on topics and presenters.




Dr. Trevor Bentley, UK


The Gestalt Leader: Relational Gestalt Leadership


After spending many years working as a leadership coach and consultant I have taken on two leadership roles as chair of the board of trustees for two charities; one an adult education college and the other a community hospice. In these roles I have used my Gestalt training to move both organizations forward into new periods of growth and development, including recruiting new CEOs for each organization. My proposed talk and paper will describe these situations, their similarities and differences and from these practical case studies will draw out a theory of relational Gestalt leadership.



Rosie Burrows, PhD, BACP, SEP, Ireland


Embodied ‘Support’ for Those Engaged with Social Change and Social Activism: An Exploration


In this presentation I explore the concept of ‘support’, acknowledging Laura Perls (1992) and other Gestalt writers on support, relating ‘support’ to social activism and change processes. My intention is to explore how to pay nuanced and balanced attention to social activism and personal support, a ‘both/and’ orientation. Holding both in the ground of our being and our meetings is likely to offer increased sustainability and integration of resources for activists and Gestalt practitioners.


I will use a chart that summarizes phenomenological data related to themes of support in social activism in the field of group and organizational practices in Ireland, the Netherlands, South Africa and the Tamil community in northern Sri Lanka. In this I will focus on the reported shifts that occurred at group, organizational and field level with the intention of contributing to the Gestalt concept and practice of ‘support’. An experiential activity will be offered and feedback sought.



Angelos Derlopas, PCC, CMC, Greece
Melissa S. Kelley-McCabe, MCC, GPCC, USA


Finding Me in the World of Possibility


An individual in Athens, Angelos Derlopas, became involved in Greece’s "Indignant Movement." This social change began in 2011 and ignited a transformation that brought a political party having 4% in the 2009 election, to rise in power and form the country's government in 2015. Involvement in the Indignant Movement sparked transformation in Angelos. “My whole sense of identity has been transformed.” With a generative system model, we describe the Indignant Movement and then focus in on the characteristics and drivers that ignite an “awakening” in the individual ~ an awakening that causes the person to step in, become involved and potentially, be transformed and help others transform, in the process


Presenters: Melissa S. Kelly-McCabe, MCC, GPCC™, from Naples, New York, President, Clear Intent Strategy, Inc., and faculty at Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Angelos Derlopas, PCC, CMC, from Athens, Greece, President of Positivity Coaching. Melissa and Angelos will host this session in English, with Greek translation if requested.



Dagrun Dvergsdal, Norway


Developing Leaders' Character - Powerful Social Action


During the last 30 years I have created development programs that help powerful leaders to become value based building blocks in their society. On the basis of gestalt and system theory, I will present examples of how leaders when receiving appropriate support move
towards a more collaborative and relational form of leadership. I will also present examples and describe how this impacts big organizations, contributing to fundamental changes in people and systems.



Sean Gaffney, PhD


"Education as Social Activism - A Gestalt tradition"



Joelle Gartner, MSc MBACP(Accr) SEP, United Kingdom


From “I don’t count” to “Together we can” - Tracking the development of individual and collective agency in a Gestalt process group


Using illustrations from the Gestalt training groups I have worked with for years in Belfast, I will track the development of participants’ awareness of their own influence, passively or actively exercised, and I will examine through illustrative vignettes the development of a sense of one’s own influence, and of collective influence on the process. I will also consider the impact of the ideology of the trainer or therapist on the development of an ethos of social activism.

The context of this work is that of Northern Ireland, a society emerging from armed conflict, where social action was for years marginal to armed struggle. It is also that of an economy increasingly wedded to the neo-liberal model. My aim is to open a discussion on the contribution of Gestalt to an understanding of the current sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in social activism and the impact of participation in a Gestalt group on learning or relearning about collective action.


Brid Keenan, Northern Ireland


Political Practice and Gestalt Therapy


It is impossible to separate my political practice from my practice as a Gestalt therapist.  When Gestalt is the focus of practice my politics influence my practice.  When my focus is political action, my experience of Gestalt practice influences that work.
My presentation will focus on my work with a number of  specific organisations and from my private clinical practice in Ireland to illustrate the integration of  politics and Gestalt practice.



Burt Lazarin, USA


Identity House: A Gestalt Experiment Reexamined*


Over 40 years ago, in the political enthusiasm past Stonewall, a number of mental health activists launched a peer counseling center of and for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Identity House emerged from the turmoil of the first years. Its founders were mostly gestalt trained and members of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy. The first clinical director was Patrick Kelley. Nothing like Identity House had ever been attempted. Its very nature challenged the established ways of knowing and being with gay people. It was envisioned that the process of peer counseling would assist both the counselors and those coming for counseling to see themselves as actors in the building of new personal and political perspectives.


In supporting self-discovery in a widening group setting, Identity House aimed to change the social nexus within which LGBT people lived. Internally the organization had little initial structure and grew as needs emerged to be met by creative solutions. Decisions were made by consensus. Identity House functioned as a community and socialfocus for many of its members as well as a service providing organization. Many gestalt practitioners first developed their interest in psychotherapy at Identity House and went on to training with members of the NYIGT. The "experiment" sustained itself in this form for a good 20 years. Today much of what it had struggled to achieve is at hand and the organization operates removed from its gestalt roots in a political environment changed in no small part by the thousands of people touched and involved with Identity House.


* Patrick Kelley wrote the first essay on Identity House and it is he who named it a gestalt experiment.



Joseph Melnick, Phd, USA


The Role of Vulnerability and Contempt in Resolving Social Conflict



Eugenio Molini, Spain


The Experiment of the Trojan Guild


All the interesting people I have met during my career have been driven by an inner voice that compelled them to change the world they had access to. In their striving, most of them got hurt themselves and/or hurt other people. A couple years ago I decided to devote myself to promoting the emergence of the Trojan Guild, a "communi-net” for these agents for change, so that they can support each other to increase the impact of their efforts while at the same time diminish the pain they cause others and pain they suffer themselves.

I will share what I have learned so far about the process of promoting the Trojan Guild and what works best for these self-led peer-support “communi-net”.



Katerina Papanikolaou, Greece


We need to unpack and then repack when asking for more Or how we move from individual systems to networks in social and political activism

Social and political activism gains ground and more popularity when in crisis. We get more familiar to the "strange" activists and more NGOs appear to fight for human rights, social justice and political liberties. Can we say that we have moved towards a more fair community? It's time to step back, take time and reconsider what we have done so far. We have to unpack, see our actions and their results, rephrase our vision if necessary and repack with a new mission and altered procedures shifted to reality. It's time to move towards a more open and enlarged field, meaning that we, as activists, have to create effective networks rather the co-working systems. Systems tend to forget the whole and direct their capabilities and initiatives towards certain goals that meet their limited vision of rights and liberties, i.e., the systems are particularly interested in meeting their cause of existence, bracketing off the other systems that are also fighting for a similar incentive.

Katerina Papanikolaou runs the "no fight for your right" campaign, has run as candidate congresswoman in former elections with the political party "To potami" (a center reformative party of cause/not ideology), is a member of party's congress committee for human rights, the chair of sub-committee in the Hellenic Republic National Committee for Human Rights (NCHR), an individual member of ALDE party in Greece (liberal party), and a founding member of ALDE Gender Equality Network chapter Greece.



Konstantin Pavlov, Russia



Sari Scheinberg, Sweden


Growing Old with Dignity as a Refugee in Sweden



Lia Zografou, Naoum Liotas, Iliana Kinigopoulou, Kostis Koutroubis, Antonia Vrondou, and Magda Pantelidu, Greece


The experience of Gestalt training within the context of a country in crisis: How Gestalt training is impacting me as a Greek citizen


The Greek crisis started in late 2009. Greece entered an era of reforms after 30 years of borrowing and spending, EU subsidies, minimal structural reforms, gradual state control of 75% of all business assets, anti-market bias, while favouring the politically powerful. Greek citizens have low levels of trust to government, courts and the education system and most detrimentally, in each other and in expressions of philanthropy and volunteerism. Despite the impasse, a bloated, inefficient welfare state persists, tax evasion thrives as a social right, a hugely ineffective public sector exists, corruption is tolerated if not decriminalized, powerful public sector unions and closed professions are the norm.
Since 2009 Greeks have endured an atmosphere of extreme economic and political upheaval. Subjected to tough austerity measures, without any plans for growth to the real economy, repeated elections and changes in government, Greece is also facing an unprecedented refugee humanitarian crisis, as the crossroad to the rest of Europe.
This presentation comprises of narratives of the lived experience of Greek citizens who have had Gestalt training or are currently completing one. The presenters share their individual accounts of making contact with the crisis and assess the impact of Gestalt training and philosophy during these turbulent times.






Dates and Fees:

Dates April 7, 2016 – April 10, 2016
1pm Thursday
1pm Sunday

$550 USD / Approx. 460 EUR (accommodations and meals not included)
GISC Members: $500

CE Hours 20
  Seán Gaffney, PhD
  Joseph Melnick, PhD
Location Mati, Greece

The Roots VII Conference will be held at the: Aquamarina Hotel. Participants are responsible for making their own accommodations.

  Aquamarina Hotel
All reservation bookings can be made via telephone or an e-mail to the reservations department.
Phone: 22940-77555

Read more about the Roots Conference and its history in this Seán Gaffney interview.
For further information or details about the conference, contact:
Gestalt International Study Center
Phone: +1 508-349-7900


ROOTS has developed a specific format: all presentations are in plenary and followed by small group work to process the content, and then a plenary report-back session. Our aim is that all participants and presenters are fully involved in all aspects of the conference. Our hope is to generate collective knowledge.

In addition, our intention is to encourage all presenters to develop their presentations as journal articles, including the comments and inputs from the plenary sessions.

Gestalt International Study Center
1035 Cemetery Road, P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 508 349 7900