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Faculty of the ’85 Evo Conference (top row)Bruno Bettelheim, James Masterson, Jeffrey Zeig, Ronald Laing, Ernest Rossi, Erving Polster, Salvador Minuchin, Lewis Walberg (middle row)Rollo May, Arnold Lazarus, Judd Marmor, Aaron Beck, Carl Whitaker, Murray Bowen, Thomas Szasz, Paul Watzlawick, Jay Haley, Joseph Wolpe (bottom row)Albert Ellis, Mary Goulding, Robert Goulding, Zerka Moreno, Cloe Madanes, Virginia Satir, Miriam Polster, Carl Rogers

by Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD

The first conference I organized was the 1980 International Congress on Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy. Shortly thereafter, I conceived of organizing the first Evolution Conference, which was held in 1985. This was in keeping with the philosophy of the newly formed Erickson Foundation since Board members agreed that we did not want to establish a school of Ericksonian therapy. Rather, our goal was to present and advance Erickson’s teachings to promote effective treatment.

In late 1984, a steering committee for the first Evolution Conference was appointed, which included experienced Arizona clinicians who met monthly to suggest policy. The Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona School of Medicine agreed to become nominal cosponsors. The final faculty selections were made and it was decided to limit the conference to schools of therapy that were currently influential. Biological approaches, or “body therapists,” and research methodologists would not be included. The administration of the conference was handled by Sherron S. Peters, Administrative Director of the Foundation, and her staff. Publicity was sent to members of major professional organizations.

The response was incredible. In the original proposal to the faculty, it was predicted that attendance would range between 3,000 and 6,000. On September 2, 1985, approximately three months before the conference, we were sold out with 7,200 registrants. Unfortunately, several thousand were turned away for lack of space. We even received reports that registrations were being scalped! Registrants included approximately 2,000 doctoral practitioners, 3,000 master’s level practitioners, and 2,000 graduate students. Professionals from 29 countries and every state in the U.S. registered for the event.

The conference was a grand success, even though it snowed the first day of the meeting –the first measurable snow in Phoenix in four decades! Many of the sessions were packed, but most attendees could get into the ones they wanted. There was a palpable spirit of camaraderie that developed amongst attendees. One example of this took place immediately following a workshop demonstration in which Miriam Polster worked with a young black woman whose mother was seriously ill back home in South Africa. The woman was deeply torn between returning to South Africa to be with her mother (living under intolerable conditions) and remaining in the U.S. and continuing her graduate school education. A great source of sorrow for the woman was that she could not easily keep in touch with her mother because her mother did not have a telephone. Attendees spontaneously collected over $2,000 as a gesture of support for the two women and not only did this make it possible for the mother to install a phone, but there was also enough left over to help pay for her medical expenses.

In 1985, the Evolution Conference was the largest meeting held in Arizona. Attendees were housed in 19 hotels and there was a bus system to bring people to the downtown conference location. The conference occupied the entire Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center, which spanned two city blocks, so a shuttle service of golf carts transported the faculty between hotels and meeting rooms. The two largest meeting rooms seated 3,500 and 7,000. Two other rooms seated 2,000. The smallest room seated 450. To enhance visibility, large screen projectors were used in three rooms. A staff of 160 graduate student volunteers monitored rooms and assisted attendees.

With the understanding that attendees would want to attend more sessions than was physically possible (up to seven were held simultaneously), tapes of the sessions were made available for purchase. Much of the conference was videotaped and all of it was audiotaped. And because it was such a unique conference, many commemorative items were sold, including large posters with the conference logo and names of the faculty. Faculty members were regularly asked to autograph posters. The profits from the items sold were used to endow graduate students with scholarships.

A special evening event featured the grandchildren of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in a conversation hour entitled, “The Masters.” Each discussed what it was like to grow up in their respective households. The panels were meant to symbolize the mending of old rifts and the move toward integration, which was a philosophical underpinning of the conference.

Sophie Freud, PhD, Professor of Social Work at Simmons College, and Dieter Baumann, MD, in private practice in Zurich, agreed to attend. Alfred Adler’s son was also invited, but could not participate. At the last minute, Adler’s only grandchild, Margot Adler, agreed to join the panel. Margot worked for public radio and happened to be covering the conference as a member of the press! Held on two consecutive evenings, the event was moving and inspirational. The first night, Sophie Freud could not attend due to an airlines delay, but Bruno Bettelheim participated and discussed Freud’s Vienna.

The first Evolution Conference celebrated the 100th anniversary of psychotherapy. (Some historians traced the birth of psychotherapy to 1885 when Freud first became interested in the psychological aspect of medicine.) The media recognized the importance of the psychological goings-on in Phoenix and covered the event in local and trade papers, on television, and national radio. Feature articles later appeared in TIME, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. A thought-provoking critique was published in The Fessenden Review, a literary magazine. The New York Times called the conference, “…the Woodstock of psychotherapy.” Press conferences were also held with Bruno Bettelheim and Virginia Satir on “Children and the Family” ; R.D. Laing and Carl Whitaker on “Schizophrenia and Mental Health” ; Carl Rogers on “Psychotherapy and Social Issues: South Africa”; and Albert Ellis and Judd Marmor on “Human Sexuality.”

The faculty for the 1985 Evolution Conference included: Aaron Beck, Bruno Bettelheim, Murray Bowen, Albert Ellis, Mary Goulding, Robert Goulding, Jay Haley, R. D. Laing, Richard Lazarus, Cloé Madanes, Judd Marmor, James Masterson, Rollo May, Salvador Minuchin, Zerka Moreno, Erving Polster, Miriam Polster, Carl Rogers, Ernest Rossi, Virginia Satir, Thomas Szasz, Paul Watzlawick, Carl Whitaker, Lewis Walberg, Joseph Wolpe, and Jeffrey Zeig.

This December the Evolution conference will be held in Anaheim, California. Many of the original faculty will be joining us for this 8th incarnation of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. Click here to see who’s presenting in 2017!

Dr. Philip Zimbardo

I first met Philip Zimbardo in the mid-1970s at Stanford University when I was a volunteer researcher one summer at the hypnosis laboratory of Ernest Hilgard. Just as I was then, I continue to be mesmerized by the scope and depth of his genius.

Philip is a great supporter of the Erickson Foundation, and has presented at many our conferences. His offerings have always been fresh and vibrant with entertaining audio and video clips. His topics have included heroism and his Time Perspective Therapy for the treatment of PTSD.

Philip Zimbardo is the architect of the many seminal experiments in the field of social psychology, including the Stanford Prisoner Experiment. He implores us to realize that all of us can be caught in the trap of antisocial behavior. But it’s not so much that there are “bad apples,” rather a bad apple cart that creates aberrant behavior.

The following are seven social processes that contribute to a person’s decline — spiraling toward moral disengagement, which can lead to evil behavior.

Mindlessly taking the first small steps of disrespect Dehumanization of others De-individuation of self (anonymity) Diffusion of personal responsibility Blind obedience to authority Uncritical conformity to group norms Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference

The author of introductory psychology books, college textbooks, and other notable works, Philip has written: The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox, and The Time Cure. He is also the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project and has appeared on many television specials.

The scope of Philip Zimbardo’s wisdom and experience is vast, and we will certainly be edified in December when he presents his keynote: My Journey From Creating Evil to Inspiring Heroism. I look forward to seeing you there.

Learn more about Dr. Zimbardo, as well as the many other speakers at our upcoming Evolution of Psychotherapy conference here.

Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD

I have studied hypnosis for more than 40 years and it has changed my way of thinking about communication, both professionally and personally. In fact, I recommend fundamental hypnosis training to every aspiring therapist. It makes therapists better, more effective communicators, regardless of their theoretical discipline.

Hypnosis can be thought of as a way of amplifying the response to therapeutic directives. One of the problems that clients unknowingly bring to therapy is compliance. Most clients know the right thing to do to solve their problem, but they may not act as agents on their own behalf. This is where hypnotic strategies can help. These methods can be applied “naturalistically,” without the application of a formal induction.

Fundamental training in hypnosis provides the therapist with important perspectives, including effective ways of altering states. Clients are often stuck in maladaptive states and need a method to transition into adaptive states. Learning the basics of hypnosis orients practitioners to hone their observational skills and present directives in such a way that compliance is more likely achieved. Practitioners will also learn the power of focus, imagination, down regulation, and much more.

Michael Yapko

This year, at the upcoming Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, we are fortunate to have Michael Yapko, PhD, one of the world’s outstanding practitioners of hypnosis, lead a pre-conference program on hypnosis, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified to teach hypnotic fundamentals.

Michael Yapko is the author of 15 books and the editor of three additional volumes, and he is especially renowned for his pioneering work in applying hypnosis to the treatment of depression. He has taught hypnosis in 30 foreign countries and throughout the United States and received awards from the American Psychological Association, the International Society of Hypnosis, and The Milton H. Erickson Foundation. He is an outstanding and entertaining teacher.

To learn more about Michael Yapko’s pre-conference Evolution workshop, see:


Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD