Why Workshops?

A new awareness and an urge to explore is born in young people from age 13 onwards. They learn to deal with different events and pressures through hit or miss situations. Our education systems are rarely designed to deal with issues that simply do not fit into academic programs. Pressures on educators restrict the energy and time needed to deal with these issues adequately.

Many of the problems that arise during adolescence can be alleviated through providing communication and relationship skills learning for young people. Current research finds that workshop learning ex­periences are the most effective means of providing relevant social skills learning for adolescents.  

The aim of these social skills workshops is to equip young people with skills that will enable them to effectively deal with relationships - with others, and with them­selves - and to encourage them to show responsibility and independence in dealing with the social issues that arise throughout life.




What is the purpose of counselling in the Michaelic Age? Why has this impulse become more and more prevalent and an integral part of our present existence? In the resounding statement, "Humanity, Know Thyself", it can perhaps be seen as the essential impulse behind a new way of discovering the essence of who we are and our purpose of being.  

As we move more into the Michaelic realm of cosmopolitanism and the breaking down of what separates one human being from another, and as we struggle with the letting go of old Gabriellic influences of nationalism and division by race, colour and gender, the place for counselling can be seen as the medium for bringing to consciousness what blocks a person from fulfilling their true potential. These blocks, which stop the recognition and flow of the forces of love, become the limitations to our choices in life, and thus limit the potential for happiness and fulfilment, and the true meeting of one human being with another.  

Reflection of another perspective of the same situation in a counselling situation gives the client the possibility of choosing alternative ways of thinking, feeling and acting.   Unresolved situations that limit insight and the possibility of a different and perhaps more fulfilling resolution may hamper a person's growth and development in becoming a more loving and loved human being, and deprive that person of any real meeting with others. The longer a situation is left unresolved, the more it becomes a part of the individual in its effect on their life choices, and thus this entrenched perspective becomes more difficult to alter. The familiar begins to feel safe, even if it creates unhappiness and difficulty. What is known might seem more secure than the fear of change and the unknown, and we will cling to the safety of the familiar failure of our choices rather than risk an unknown outcome. This might be in the realm of how we think, in what we feel or with what actions we choose in our daily lives.


In working with adolescents, where thoughts feelings and actions have not yet become hardened and rigid, the counsellor can offer a reflective process on choices that can be made, especially at a time when the strong forces of the astral body are strongly in play. In the younger teenage years, these forces might focus the individual into one extreme viewpoint. This developmental stage is part of the experience of adolescence, yet if a teenager becomes fixated on a particular extreme, it might prove detrimental to their further development.

For example, the sense of alienation, aloneness and loneliness might be argued as the normal process that most teenagers experience. If the teenager believes that these feelings are unalterable or permanent, the despair that can arise could lead to the extremes of suicide.

The counsellor's role in this process is not to offer a panacea or dilute the experience, but simply to stand alongside the person and reflect different possibilities of dealing with these feelings. The empowerment of choice allows a blocked situation to be seen as simply one possible way of being.


Recent research has shown that in the area of life skills, teenagers learn more rapidly when working in a group situation. At a time when the influence and opinions of the peer group is more important than the individual, working in groups has more possibilities in assisting young people to strengthen their will forces, come to terms with their strong feeling life and clarify their thinking about the future. The pressures of modern day life make a huge impact on the openness and vulnerability that can be found among teenagers.

The exposure through the media of different forces and influences in the world require of modern teenagers a particular strength in all aspects of their lives in order to make choices that will lead to optimising their potential. When these forces become overwhelming, relief might be sought in drugs, alcohol, sex or violence. Guidance in making these choices and reflection of broader perspective of their possible ramifications when worked with in a group setting might give our teenagers more opportunity to begin their adult life in a more creative, loving and fulfilling manner.


If we examine the different stages of development of the adolescent, it becomes clearer where teaching life skills can enhance and encourage more wholesome growth.  

As the age of 14 is the threshold between the second and third seven year period, the need for building up self-esteem and recognition of the teenager's growing awareness of their individuality can be supported with group work that fosters confidence and ease with peers as well as a growing ability to take on more responsibility. Working on trust building and simple communication skills for expressing new ideas and feelings can help at this stage of development.  

The middle ground of adolescence is entered at the age of 15, with the emergence of the precious and precarious power of soul life, feeling. This is often a time of deep inwardness that can be expressed in the protective cloak of outward hardness. Turning away or experiencing deep embarrassment around parents and family is common, and might be expressed with defiance and aloofness.  

At this delicate stage, where trust in others is hard earned, there is also a great vulnerability and openness to strong influences. At this point, peer pressure might hold more sway than any other influence. Using peer pressure as a theme for group work at this point can give the fifteen-year old more awareness of the joys of belonging to a caring and sensitive group as well as the pitfalls of blindly following into unlawful or life-threatening situations in the hope of being accepted.

At the age of 16, the adolescent begins to discover a growing respect from adults, and for moments the parent-child relationship becomes an adult-to-adult relationship. The inwardness of the 15 year old becomes transformed into a more outward reaching to people in general, as a stronger self-confidence emerges. This is the time when relationships become prevalent, and group work on this theme gives a safe opportunity for the adolescent to explore different aspects of their relationships to peers, parents, the future and the world in general.

At 17, in the process of becoming an adult, an inner tension may arise between `what I am' and `what I am becoming'. This is a time when idealism may be nurtured or crushed and turned to cynicism, and may be helped when the adolescent no longer looks for an outward authority, but looks for it inwardly. It is a time of strong sexuality and romantic love, which can be hardened by cynicism into basic physical sex and lust. Using sexuality as the theme for group work at this point, a greater awareness and respect for the nature of love as well as a greater tolerance and understanding of the nature of one's own and others' sexuality can be encouraged.  

Around the age of 18, the search for ideals and philosophy on the meaning of life begin in earnest. It is a time for preparing to leave the safety of known structures and institutions. Personal love and pain are more prevalent, and life decisions with more far-reaching effects on the future have to be taken. Working with the group on preparing for these new steps out into the world can greatly support this process and engender courage in order to face this unknown future.


 In an educational system using the principles of Rudolf Steiner, these stages of development are consciously worked with, and the curriculum is designed to meet and assist the adolescent along this journey. With the pressures of modern life creating greater stress and more damaging influences on the quality of adolescent experiences, counselling and life skills group work add another dimension and support for the emerging free-thinking individual that this education fosters.  "Humanity, Know Thyself" is a process that begins at birth and will continue throughout our lifetime. Assisting young people on this path in a manner appropriate to their stage of development through the use of counselling and life skills by building self esteem, trust and faith in our essential humanity, needs to become an integral part of our education. It is the clarion call of the Michaelic Age that cannot go unheeded.



By David Garb

It is not an easy thing to find real ways of connecting with people around us. For young people, their ways of connecting are usually governed by what is acceptable among their peers, or what they have learned or had modelled at home by their parents or guardians.

Learning to feel safe in a group, safe enough to express ourselves without fear of ridicule, humiliation or judgment is rare. When it is able to happen, transformation of a sense of self begins. An expansion of expression, feeling heard on a deep level and feeling truly seen and accepted for who you are then becomes possible.  

My work in this area began with my own dismal teenage years, where the basic skills of communicating, dealing with conflict and learning relationship skills would have been considered a foreign language. Struggling with my these areas led me to discover ways that worked for me, forced me to confront edges of fear I would not have thought possible to deal with, and helped me to realise that we don’t have to wait until we have stumbled through a dozen relationships and heartaches to learn how to feel seen and loved.

I discovered the value, challenge and enormity of group work when I began directing summer camps in Canada with a Canadian psychologist. I was teaching in a Waldorf school in South Africa at the time, and would fly out to Canada each summer. Our first year was geared for children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. Every picture of idyllic camping possibilities were quickly blown out the water when children began chasing each other with firewood axes or discovered pyromaniac tendencies. After vowing not to EVER do that again, requests from campers for more the following year led to expanding the age limit, and after 7 years, we had campers from the ages of 6 to 20 years old. By balancing artistic, physical and fun activities, we soon discovered we had an enormous family in which everyone’s needs were catered for. Teenagers did not have to be ‘cool’ all the time, and they would often have little ones on their laps in the evening when stories were told. The final camp was geared to teenagers in particular, with focus on communication skills.  

I had now moved to New Zealand, and was taking my second class of children through the seven years of Waldorf education. Some high school teachers approached me to help them with a particularly difficult Class 9. We arranged an afternoon to do some basic communication games. After the session, a group of students grabbed me and asked when we were doing more of this. I told them that this was it, as I was teaching full time with the little ones and there was no time allocated for it. As a safe aside, I suggested that the weekends were the only possibility, feeling smug in my belief that no teenager would give up weekend time for school activities. I was then asked what time and where, and the first group was born.

I met with this group of 15 students every Saturday of that year, culminating in a weekend workshop at the end of the year. Big shifts had taken place in their group dynamics, confidence and ability to express themselves. The following year, students from other classes began to demand workshop time. We began holding workshops every second weekend for students between the ages of 15 to 18, covering topics such as family dynamics, conflict, dealing with anger, depression, grief etc. The group sizes varied between 20 to 30 students. These workshops were free to students, and I considered them a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I had a female facilitator working with me, and had a supervisor with whom I discussed topics and approaches beforehand and would debrief with afterwards.

With merely having a psychology degree, a Waldorf training and special education training, I began further counselling and psychotherapeutic study in the next few years, ending with a Masters in counselling and a four year psychotherapy training in Gestalt psychotherapy. My role as school counsellor began to expand, and workshops were gradually introduced to all high school classes as part of the curriculum.

The demand for workshops gradually spread to other schools around New Zealand, and then into Australia and South Africa. I visit certain schools regularly each year in these countries, and have designed a program for each year group, focusing on specific themes relevant to that age. Starting with Class 8 (around age 13-14) with basic communication skills, Class 9 (around age 14-15) on pressure (peer, family, school), to Class 10 (around age 15-16) dealing with conflict, relationships and friendships, to Class 11 (around age 16-17) dealing with sexuality, relationship and intimacy, and finally with Class 12 (around age 17-18) looking at self expression, what has been gained from their education and moving into the world. There are also workshops for parents and for teachers.

This journey is an ongoing one, from which I am constantly learning, and having any fixed ideas and beliefs profoundly challenged. The depth at which young people allow themselves to be met by their peers and me is something that continues to awe me. The feedback from students, teachers and parents reminds me that creating this window of opportunity for allowing young people to get real and connect on a deep level can profoundly change and enhance a person’s life. There is then often a request that their parents and teachers be given the same opportunity so that deeper and more real relationships can be forged with the youth.