About the Conversational Model

The Conversational Model was established in the United Kingdom and has a contemporary home in Australia and New Zealand.

In the 1960’s in the United Kingdom psychiatrist Robert Hobson, a Jungian analyst, and a young Australian psychiatrist, Russell Meares, began working in a different way with clients who were typically unresponsive to standard treatment. This group is now described as experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder/Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Hobson and Meares recorded and analysed their own psychotherapeutic practice with this group of patients. They began to notice a patient's self – how their unique sense of personal being – came alive and developed, or was destroyed, in the conversation in the consulting room. Hobson called this process ‘The Conversational Model”.

Since 1983 Russell Meares and colleagues continued to refine the Conversational Model at the Psychotherapy Unit, Westmead Hospital, University of Sydney, research its effectiveness and train therapists to treat borderline personality disorder. 

ANZAP was established in 1987 in Sydney by a group of clinicians under the leadership of Meares to train therapists who did not meet the medical criteria for entry to Westmead. The ANZAP training was developed by the same faculty has the same content and is at the same level as that provided at Westmead.

The Conversational Model has an established research base making it one of the best validated of all contemporary psychotherapies. 


In Newcastle, Carla Walton and others undertook a randomised clinical trial that compared treatment by Conversational Model VS Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for people with Borderline/Complex PTSD. This was the largest trial in the Southern Hemisphere, and is published in Cochrane Review of Psychotherapy 2020. The researchers concluded the Conversational Model produces beneficial effects and is a cost-effective treatment of people with Borderline/Complex PTSD.  

Joan Haliburn, 2017, developed an abbreviated version of the model that has been manualised as ‘Psychodynamic – Interpersonal’ Psychotherapy. The Psychodynamic – Interpersonal form has been shown to be effective in depression, in certain psychosomatic disorders and to be cost-effective in treating repeated users of clinic services. The Psychodynamic – Interpersonal form of treatment is useful in reducing repeated episodes of self-harm.

A Conversational Model Adherence Scale was developed in 2016.

In the first study of its kind in the world, in 1992 Janine Stevenson published evidence of the effectiveness of treatment with the conversational model for patients diagnosed with borderline personality. Later research found the model is applicable for effective day-to-day psychotherapeutic practice.

The research has been undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere (Australia) and has local and cultural relevance.  

Contemporary advances in the fields of trauma, developmental theory, linguistics, memory and neurophysiology are continually incorporated into our theoretical framework and it is now known as the Conversational Model of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy.


ANZAP Community

The Conversational Model is an evidence-based approach for experienced practitioners working with complex trauma and personality disorders.


PO Box 3595

Key Contact: Anne Malecki. 
Ph: (02) 8004 9873 from Australia
Ph: (04) 887 0300 Toll free from New Zealand

First Point of Contact

Anne Malecki is responsible for the ANZAP Secretariat. She is the first point of contact for all matters. 

Telephone: AUS (02) 8004 9873