About the Institute
A Brief History
In 2002, family therapist and Senior Fulbright Scholar Mary Olson, Ph.D. began a research initiative on Open Dialogue in the United States with Finnish psychologist and Open Dialogue developer Jaakko Seikkula, Ph.D. As interest in this approach continued to grow, Mary and Jaakko founded the Institute for Dialogic Practice – a state-of-the-art training facility in Massachusetts that provides a two-year training program in Dialogic Practice and Open Dialogue. The Institute was founded with the help of Belgian family therapist Peter Rober, Ph.D. and Markku Sutela, M.A., a senior psychologist at Keropudas Hospital in Tornio, Finland where Open Dialogue originated.
Courses at the Institute are taught by our core faculty, apprentice trainers, and distinguished guest lecturers, including award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker, Open Dialogue pioneer Birgitta Alakare, M.D., and Christopher Gordon,M.D., a professor at Harvard Medical School and national leader in recovery-oriented psychiatry. Each year of the two-year training course consists of four intensive sessions.
In addition to our training programs, the Institute for Dialogic Practice provides clinical services to individuals, couples, families and groups at our Brassworks office in Haydenville, MA. Our Clinical Associates provide these services, all of whom have completed the two-year Dialogic Practice training program.
Special Projects: New Directions in Dialogic Practice
The Persephone Project
Mary Olson, Ph.D. & Nazlim Hagmann, M.D.
In adolescence, girls are more likely to get depressed than boys. Depression can appear as social withdrawal, eating problems, being bullied or becoming a bully, unsafe sexual behavior, academic struggles, drugs, suicide attempts, cutting, and social-media immersion. The Persephone Project emphasizes responding to these signs as early as possible, as well as involving the family and social network. In a society that overvalues autonomy, we believe in forming a web of support. Central to the process is listening to — and fostering a dialogue with — the girl or young woman so that she can feel heard, respected, and validated. Individual therapy, family-school collaboration, and medication can be added when necessary. We have extensive experience working in college and university mental heath settings, adolescent inpatient psychiatry, emergency and crisis services, and private practice.
Translate Gender Family Group
Shannon Sennott, LICSW
Translate Gender Family Group is a group for families with children who identify as gender creative, gender non-conforming and/or trans*. The group is for entire families – including siblings – and is facilitated by Shannon Sennott, Kellan McNally, Liz Chandler, Cat Lynch, and Luke Woodward. Our aim is to provide a dialogic atmosphere for both parents and children to explore their understanding of being a family with a gender non-conforming member, as well as to aid in the cross-pollination of ideas, awareness, and identity development between families. The hope is that new meanings and understandings of “being a family” will emerge as they strengthen their webs of familial and community support.
Jaakko and Mary, together with Douglas Ziedonis, M.D., M.P.H., Chairman and Professor of Psychiatry, currently lead the Open Dialogue research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The document, “The Key Elements of Dialogic Practice in Open Dialogue” (Olson, Seikkula, & Ziedonis, 2014), will soon be available to download from the UMass website:
The Institute for Dialogic Practice is committed to maintaining a diverse community in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation of differences. The Institute for Dialogic Practice does not discriminate in its educational and employment policies on the bases of race, color, creed, religion, national/ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, size, age, or with regard to the bases outlined in the Veterans Readjustment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Logo design by Lars Myers
The two-year Open Dialogue training I went to in Northampton (or Haydenville) under the instruction of Mary Olson, Ph.D., was the best training I have had the privilege of attending. The realization that my job is the creation of context in which dialogue is generated, rather than “fixing” anyone or anything resulted in both increased confidence and lessened anxiety. In my work and in my life, I now relax as a listener and have developed a level of patience which I cherish. Still, there is more to do, but the doors to Open Dialogue remain open.
Andrea Moynagh, M.A.
Level II Graduate – IDP
Director of Family Services