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SYMPOSIUM BRUNCH-The Sybil Controversy: A Presentation of Her Original Artwork and A Theoretical Discussion

  • 10/08/2022
  • 10:00 AM - 1:30 PM
  • Home of Barbara Lurie, Ph.D., LMFT


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  • UNLICENSED student with valid student ID
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Presented By: Sandy Shuleshko, LMHC and Brian Wheeler

Saturday, October 8, 2022

10:00 am - 1:30 pm

Brunch to follow the presentation.

Home of Barbara Lurie, Ph.D., LMFT

Delaire Country Club, Delray Beach, FL 33445

3.5 CE credits


SEFAPP is pleased to announce the rare opportunity to revisit the Sybil controversy from the perspective of her original artwork courtesy of Brian Wheeler, Sybil’s cousin, who has graciously arranged to have her original artwork on display for this conference. Mr. Wheeler has intimate knowledge of Sybil (Shirley Mason), her family and her history, including the controversies that have surrounded both her mental health diagnosis of dissociative disorder, as well as her treatment. Over one hundred paintings were found locked in a closet in Sybil’s Lexington home when it was emptied after her estate sale. These paintings, often referred to as the "Hidden Paintings," span the years 1943, eleven years before starting psychotherapy with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, to 1965, the year Wilbur declared that her alternate personalities were integrated. Several of the paintings were signed by Sybil, while others remain unsigned, and presumably include examples of artwork created by the alternate personalities.

For decades, controversy has swirled around the assertion that Sybil had multiple personalities as a result of severe child sexual abuse at the hands of her mother who, Wilbur believed, was schizophrenic. Sybil's diagnosis has been challenged. Psychiatrist Herbert Spiegel who saw Sybil for several sessions, believed that Wilbur was manipulating Sybil into behaving as though she had multiple personalities when she did not. Spiegel suspected Wilbur of having publicized Sybil's case for financial gain. According to Spiegel, Wilbur's client was a hysteric but did not show signs of multiple personalities. Later he asserted that Sybil had told him that she was not a "multiple," but rather that Wilbur wanted her to exhibit other personalities.  Spiegel confronted Wilbur, who allegedly responded that the publisher would not publish the book unless it was what she said it was, a case of multiple personalities. Sandy Shuleshko will discuss theoretical aspects of Dissociative Identity Disorders (DID) in general and how it applies to the Sybil case in particular. She will also review the global awareness of trauma throughout the years and the current changes in treatment protocol gained from extensive research into severe trauma.

Attendees might want to read the book Sybil written by Flora Rheta Schreiber.


Sandy Shuleshko LMHC, NCC, CAP, CEDS, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Martin County. She specializes in treating eating disorders, complex posttraumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorders, and substance abuse. She completed EMDR Part 2 training in 2005 through the International Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Institute, Inc., and completed training as a hypnotherapist in 2005; both modalities of treatment are invaluable in assisting the therapeutic process. She is a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, and the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals. She enjoys the challenges of creating a therapeutic relationship with those who experienced severe childhood trauma and traumatization, working together to explore, understand, and create meaning in each person’s experience; and starting the healing journey that includes repairing the ruptured developmental milestones from growing up in an abusive, toxic and dysfunctional family of origin.

Brian Wheeler is a cousin of Shirley A. Mason (a.k.a. Sybil) and was born in the same town in rural Minnesota, Dodge Center, as Shirley. Brian’s father and Shirley were third cousins. Brian became interested in Shirley’s art while helping his father gather genealogy information on Shirley. This led to his meeting Jim Ballard, the person who bought the “Hidden Paintings” collection at auction after Shirley’s death in 1998. Brian partnered with Mr. Ballard to promote the collection and arranged for several exhibitions of her paintings over the years. As a result, Brian acquired seven original paintings from the collection, the full set of numbered prints prior to Mr. Ballard’s death in 2019, and one of Shirley’s self-portraits. Brian was also able to collect numerous stories from people who had known Shirley and contacted Brian through the website, which tells the story of Shirley’s artwork.


"Impression of Aspens" is a dark and haunting painting of an aspen forest painted by Sybil in 1945. Sybil once described this painting to Nancy Preston, a former student and close friend, as a recurring nightmare of being lost in the forest at night, the yellow color piercing through the darkness symbolizing her mother’s screams. Nineteen forty-five was a difficult period in Sybil’s life, as she had been sent home from college due to “illness” and was told she would need to see a doctor, presumably a psychiatrist, before she would be allowed to return. Her first visit with Dr. Wilbur occurred later that year.

“Interpretation of Falkirk Forest” is a painting attributed to “Marcia,” one of Sybil’s alternate personalities. It was painted in the early 1960s when Sybil was several years into her treatment with Dr. Wilbur. Dr. Wilbur had helped Sybil get a job as an art therapist in Falkirk Psychiatric Hospital, 80 miles north of New York City, adjacent to West Point Academy. Sybil often painted scenes from the well-manicured gardens and surrounding forests. This painting provides a start contrast to the earlier “Impression of Aspens.”


Participants will be able to: 

  1. Understand the history of dissociation and the development of the therapeutic process.
  2. Describe the traits of Dissociative Identity Disorder and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. 
  3. Gain an understanding of how disorganized attachment to a caregiver along with severe abuse works in tandem to create Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder.
  4. Gain an understanding of how unconscious dynamics may be expressed through a patient’s artwork.


 This program, when attended in its entirety, is offered for 3.5 CE credits. 

SEFAPP is an approved continuing education provider by the Agency for Health Care Administration of the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (BAP #587, expires March 31, 2023). Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities.  SEFAPP and Division 39 are committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to SEFAPP Administrator at (954) 637-3883.


*In order to receive CE credits for this conference, participants must attend the event in full.  Due to potential unforeseen technical issues that may arise, registration will open 15 minutes prior to the start of the event and we encourage you to connect in advance to avoid tardiness.  Please verify that your name appears in your Zoom window as you would like it to appear on your certificate of attendance.  To receive CE credits, you must arrive no later than 10 minutes of the start time and must stay until the end of the event when a moderator will take a final tally of complete attendance.


*Ensuring the confidentiality of all clinical material presented at our meetings is of the utmost importance to SEFAPP.  Attendance is contingent on an agreement to adhere to the following guidelines: Clinical material must not be discussed outside of the session in which it is presented and furthermore must not be recorded, conveyed, or disseminated in written or electronic form.  Participants must agree to maintain a secure environment to be utilized solely by the registered participant and protected from intrusion by, or exposure to, unauthorized persons.  Presenters of case material must have either obtained informed consent from the patient (or guardian) or taken other carefully considered measures to safeguard confidentiality.  If at any time a participant suspects he or she may recognize the identity of a patient in a case presentation, the participant must leave the session immediately.  Failure to observe these guidelines constitutes a breach of APA’s ethical principles and may be cause for disciplinary and/or legal action

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