Keynote speakers

Nancy Amendt-Lyon, Dr. phil., M.A.

I was born in New York, NY, and studied psychology in the United States, Switzerland, and Austria, earning an MA and a Dr. phil. Since 1978 I have been in private practice and work in English as well as in German with adults, either individually, as couples, or in groups. My training is in Gestalt therapy and group psychoanalysis. I work and live in Vienna, Austria.

I have chaired the Austrian Association for Gestalt Therapy (ÖVG) since it was founded in 2007, hold membership in the Austrian Association for Psychotherapy (ÖBVP) and the European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT), and draw on many years of experience training Gestalt therapists, group psychoanalysts, and supervisors in Austria and abroad. At the Czech training Institute Gestalt Studia ( and the International Institute for Gestalt Therapy and Psychopathology ( in Turin, Italy, I am an external trainer. My publications include numerous articles and book chapters in both of my working languages on topics relating to Gestalt therapy, gender, and issues of sociopolitical relevance, and I have served on the editorial boards of several professional journals, currently Gestalt Review and Psychotherapie Forum. In 2016 I edited the book Timeless Experience: Laura Perls’s Unpublished Notebooks and Literary Texts 1946-1985, which was published in Spanish and German in 2017; a French edition is in preparation. I co-edited the anthology Creative License: The Art of Gestalt Therapy, in 2003, which was later published in German, French and Italian. My début novel, Case Unclosable, was published in 2013; the German translation, Und niemals ein Ende, was published by Edition Tandem in 2015.

“How can a void be fertile? Implications of Friedlaender’s theory of Creative Indifference for the contemporary practice of Gestalt therapy.”

Fritz Perls’s reflections on Friedlaender’s theory of creative indifference and differential thinking, beginning with “Ego, Hunger and Aggression”, will be discussed. This approach emphasizes working with polarities and the zero-point (pre-difference), the significance of contextualization of our patient’s suffering, and meaning-making. “Not-knowing” is an essential aspect of this attitude, which allows the uniqueness of every therapeutic situation to be explored and encourages experimenting and the re-organization of a dysfunctional field. If we are able to give up what is familiar to us, we may become anxious and uncertain, but then we can enter a “weighty world of nothingness” from which infinite and surprising differentiations can emerge.

Experiencing this fertile void, or phase of pre-difference, is crucial to the creative process of change. Novel insights and realizations are generated, and we become aware of new meanings. This is the “middle mode”, in which we are both active and passive, both doer and done to.

Kathleen Höll, MA

Gestalt psychotherapist, supervisor and coach in private practice.

Living and working in Vienna since 1972.

I was born 1945 in Wuppertal, then Western Germany. I studied Political Science and Sociology in Hamburg and Stuttgart, where I also worked as a programmer in an industrial company to raise my daughter. I graduated in 1973 with a MA in Stuttgart.

Already in 1972 I had moved to Vienna, to complete postgraduate studies of Empirical Political Science at the Institute for Advanced Studies. I made first experiences with Gestalt Therapy with Werner Arnet while working as a research assistant at the Institute of Sociology / University of Vienna.

I started my training in Gestalt therapy 1976 in an Austrian group under the direction the Fritz Perls Institute Düsseldorf, continued by the direction of the Institut für Integrative Gestalttherapie Würzburg and finally – 1987 – graduated from FS Integrative Gestalttherapie / ÖAGG. I have had a lot of experiences with body therapy, with generation work and system constellations.

Since 1982 I am working as Gestalt therapist. 199 I was registered in the Austrian psychotherapist list.

I did trainings und seminars in different fields and led different courses at the university.

1995-2007 I was teaching therapist for „Integrative Gestalttherapie“ (ÖAGG),

2006-2008 for the Akademie für Psychotherapeutische Medizin der Ärztekammer Wien

2008 I was a founding member of the Austrian NOGT of EAGt, since the I am member of the board.

Several times I was a member of the jury at the graduation competition of the DACH conferences. I have held numerous lectures at congresses (ÖVG, DACH, EAGT):

Wien, München, Prag (Keynote), Athen, Berlin, Zürich, Kassel, Taormina, Basel.

I sometimes was member of the organizational committees.

I published numerous articles eg on the political aspects of Gestalt therapy, on the specification of the theory and the contribution of Salomo Friedlaender.

I am married to an Austrian political scientist, feel close to familiy and nature and experience great joy from my two grandchildren.

Contact: Josefstädterstrasse 14/15, 1080 Wien, 43 1 9421951

Friedlaender: The polarity principle and the “revolution of egoism”

The lecture deals with the connection of the three main aspects of the topic: the methodological, the existential and the social aspect.
The methodological aspect of Friedlaender’s principle of polarity is about how the individual can cognitively and emotionally orient him/herself best in the world. The basis is the realization that we can only recognize what is different from something else. Therefore, we describe the world through pairs of opposites and also capture our feelings through pairs of opposites. We can be neutral by staying in the middle. This indifference creates a fertile emptiness. It helps us as humans and as gestalt therapists to look for solutions without getting lost in one of the two opposites. The Tao states: do not cling.

The existential aspect means that by this we can connect with the deeper levels of ourselves and of life. By attaining an inner attitude that does not cling to opposites and extremes, which leaves behind the outer layers of judgment and prejudice we can turn to the deeper layers of feeling and consciousness. Here we find the deeper concerns of being human. It’s about a devotion to humanity and the world as a whole. Here, the individual and the world also turn out to be polarities. The dualistic separation of what belongs to me and what does not can be overcome. Friedlaender called this a “revolution of egoism”.

The social and political aspect results from this: to recognize the social and political problems as a result of the convictions and intentions of all past and present people. Instead of wrong and dangerous thinking in opposites, understanding the polarities can provide new solutions because reconciliation is in the middle.

Lynne Jacobs, Ph.D

Lynne Jacobs, Ph.D., lives in two psychotherapy worlds. She is co-founder of the Pacific Gestalt Institute and also a Training and Supervising analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. She is co-author (with Rich Hycner), of The Healing Relationship in Gestalt Therapy: A Dialogic / Self Psychology Approach (1995). She and Hycner co-edited Relational Perspectives in Gestalt Therapy (2010). She has also written numerous articles for gestalt and for psychoanalytic publications. She has abiding interests in furthering our understanding of relational factors in the therapy process, and in understanding the centrality of Euro-ethnicity and its implications for clinical work.

Ideas such as the fertile void and creative indifference are complex and rife with paradox. When we speak of the fertile void, do we forget the polarity of the complex ground from which such a moment emerges?
There is not one without the other. And when we speak of creative indifference do we ignore the polarity of such things as therapeutic intention?  The therapeutic intention is the ground that makes creative indifference meaningful in the therapeutic situation. The humility of a dialogic attitude, one in which the patient and the therapist learn from each other is an ethic that provides a background support for flexible responsiveness to these polarities.

John Leary-Joyce

Co-founder and thought leader of Systemic Team Coaching, Executive Chair and Founder of the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC), and Author of Fertile Void: Gestalt Coaching at Work

John worked for 18 years in psychology and group facilitation – having a clinical practice and training Masters level psychotherapists at the Gestalt Centre London. From being Managing Director at the Gestalt Center he moved into the business arena working as a Gestalt consultant, trainer and later a coach with senior leaders, directors and partners providing leadership development.

In 2000 he set up Academy of Executive Coaching, to provides a route for coaches to develop advanced level coaching mastery. He has rapidly establishing the AoEC as coaching brand of excellence accredited by ICF, EMCC, AC and Middlesex University. The AoEC delivers many coaching programmes inside companies as part of developing a ‘coaching culture’ initiative. John works regularily in Europe, Asia, Africa & Americas to pioneer Individual, Team and Gestalt Coaching and as a result AoEC has developed licensed partners in a many countries that now deliver their programmes.

Alongside growing the AoEC with his team, John continues his coaching / facilitation work, supporting leaders and managers in a wide range of companies to develop their leadership and team skills. He is a Professional Credentialled Coach with the International Coach Federation and is a highly regarded and qualified supervisor.

„I was 19 when I first experienced Gestalt and this has been an underpinning philosophy in my life, my work as a psychotherapist and now an executive coach. Over the years I’ve honed my style and approach to include many other methods but working in the moment in relationship to my coachee is the most exciting and creates powerful change.
My book ‘Fertile Void, Gestalt Coaching at Work’ has given me the chance to pull together 40 years of experience in this field and share my learning with those enthused by this enlivening approach.”  I’m now studing and practicing Buddhism as a route to deeping my experience of the ’here and now’ and the richness of the fertile void.

The Fertile Void – Gestalt in Action

From the age of 20 when I first encountered Gestalt I was captivated by this notion of the Fertile Void: the paradox that someone or something could be simultaneously both empty and full.
I had an intuitive grasp that this was feasible, fleeting experiences where I felt totally at peace doing nothing yet everything was alive and possible. At night, lying under the stars, looking with awe at the vast emptiness of space and knowing it was so full of energy.

Then seeing and experiencing over and over again in Gestalt groups, that ‘trusting the process’ and staying-with the ‘not-knowing’ of the void allowed the space and time for something new and amazing to emerge. It links to the Buddhist notion of emptiness or nothingness from which springs a new awakening and creative energy, which I’m currently studying.

Fertile Void also captures the aspect of Gestalt which is about embracing polarities. To speak and be heard we need silence, to be energetic we need rest, to feel full we need to experience being empty.
Four decades later I have gradually found how to integrate this concept in my life and work. Trusting that the flat and empty periods are the precursor to something new and unknown. In this keynote I want to focus us on this aspect of Gestalt, to share my learning and experiences; to invite you to be in the ‘here and now’ and see what emerges in the fertile void together.

As it was with writing this book, many times sinking into apathy and flatness and rising again with different ideas and perspectives. The temptation is to keep adjusting and refining, but the time has come for the gestalt of this book. I hope you will find within the covers the confidence to believe in your fertile void.

Robert W. Resnick

Robert W. Resnick, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, has been a Gestalt Therapist and Couples Therapist for over 50 years and an international trainer for 50 years. Trained (1965-1970) and personally certified by examination (1969) by Drs. Fritz Perls and Jim Simkin, he was chosen by Fritz Perls to introduce Gestalt Therapy to Europe in 1969. He has been doing training in Europe and worldwide several times each year now for the past 50 years. Along with Fritz Perls and Jim Simkin (and some others), Bob is a founding member and first president of the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles (1969). Since 1997, he has been Core Faculty of GATLA (Gestalt Associates Training Los Angles) along with Todd Burley, Ph.D. and Rita Resnick, Ph.D. He is also a founding member of AAGT.

Bob’s interest is in integrating, distilling and evolving individual Gestalt Therapy and, expanding Gestalt Therapy (from a field theoretical and dealing with difference point of view) to building (along with his wife and colleague, Rita Resnick, Ph.D.) a Gestalt Therapy informed Couples Therapy – reflecting our field theoretical, phenomenological and dialogic pillars.

In addition to his 30-minute Gestalt Therapy Theory Synopsis (free on and eight Individual Gestalt Therapy Demonstration Films (with subtitles in 9 languages with 7 more to follow), he and Rita have recently produced a series of contemporary Couples Therapy Demonstration Films.

Rita and Bob, along with their international faculty, run the premier GATLA European Summer Residential Gestalt Therapy Training Program which is now in its 48th year – the oldest annual psychotherapy training program in the world with 100 participants from 30 different countries – where 80% of participants return for an average of 5-6 years.

Some thoughts on the theme of the conference:

In recent years in some pockets of contemporary psychoanalysis and Gestalt Therapy, there has been much about the “relational turn”. In actuality, one of Perls’s self identified three most important theoretical contributions (some eighty yeas ago in the 1930’s) was that in order to understand any living organism, you must look at that organism’s relationship to it’s environment – what he called “the organismic/environmental field”. This is essentially Ecology “the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.”

Biology, Field Theory, Phenomenology and Existentialism, all contributed to the dialogic relationship occupying a fundamental place in Gestalt Therapy. Dialogue embodies the co-creation of experience (and awareness through difference) with the therapist surrendering any strategic stance (e.g. fixing) to the “fertile void” of not knowing – and not attempting to contour the outcome. Honoring the “not knowing” of the fertile void allows for the discovery of new organizations of meaning making and understanding, the awareness of which, can dissolve interruptions (obsolete formerly creative adjustments that have become fixed, i.e. character) to healthy self-regulation within the person’s present environment

Gordon Wheeler, Ph.D

Gordon Wheeler is known internationally for his teaching, training, and writing in relational psychotherapy, coaching, developmental theory and education. His written work, including more than a dozen books and over 100 articles in the field, has focused on the evolution of Gestalt theory as the basis for relational and developmental self theory, integrating the body of Gestalt psychology research with the Gestalt therapy tradition, attachment theory, and contemporary neuroscience.

In this context he has focused particularly on relational development, self and shame, trauma and support, couples and intimacy, multi-cultural issues, gender and men’s issues, leadership and coaching, and lifelong integral education, as well as post-Holocaust issues and Systemic Constellations work.

His most recent book is Gestalt Therapy, (APA book series Major Theories of Psychotherapy).

Gordon is longtime President of Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where he also served for some years as CE0. His current writing projects develop the potential of the longevity revolution to provide new cultural capital through a new vision of later life stages; and in models of manhood and society reflected in Homer’s Iliad.

Gordon served for many years as CEO of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur California, continuing to serve now as longtime President of the Institute, a fertile center for fifty-plus years for the development of relational Gestalt theory and practice, lifelong personal growth and education, spiritual practices and spiritual activism, and the evolution of consciousness studies. With Nancy Lunney Wheeler, Gordon has developed Gestalt Relational Constellations as a client- and challenge-centered method for understanding supports and constraints in human systems. Nancy and Gordon have a large blended family and make their home in Santa Cruz and Big Sur California.