Annual Conference

2024 ISSTD Annual Conference Recap

Of all the conferences I’ve attended, the ISSTD’s annual conference is my favorite, and this year was no exception. The first ISSTD annual conference I attended was nearly ten years ago, and I was struck by the warmth, kindness, and dedication of the clinicians present, and within the ISSTD. Since then, I keep coming back for more.

The theme of this year’s conference, held in Frisco, Texas, was “The Healing Power of Dignity in the Treatment and Research of Complex Trauma and Dissociation.” The keynote speakers on Saturday were Michael Salter, PhD, and Heather Hall, MD. Their talk addressed trauma and dissociation on the societal and public health level, and the role of shame in maintaining complex traumatic stress reactions. They explored dignity as the opposite of shame, and how to create more dignifying environments and processes to counteract oppression and social defeat. They further introduced the idea of going beyond the current principles of trauma-informed care, to move towards a more shame-sensitive practice.

Emma Christensen, PhD, LCPC, gave the plenary on Sunday, on the topic “Dignity in Dissociating, Dignity in Treatment.” This talk presented ideas on how, as clinicians, we can use language in a way that is more sensitive and dignifying for those with whom we work. She also explored how we can be more competent when working with members of the plural community. Some suggested language changes included using “trauma cues” instead of “trauma triggers,” “conditioning” instead of “programming,” and “attachment strategy” versus “attachment styles.”

Monday’s plenary talk was presented by Maggi Price, PhD. She presented her work on the impact of stigma operating at different levels (internalized, interpersonal, and structural), and how therapy outcomes are poorer for those within a stigmatized population in places where structural stigma is higher. The presentation focused more specifically on trans folx, and ways that therapists can address the various levels of stigma in the therapy room.

In addition to the wonderful plenary speakers, there were a wide variety of helpful workshops. I walked away with many new ideas, and a long list of articles and books I want to read. But what continued to be the most impactful experience for me, was the experience of being in the ISSTD community and amongst fellow clinicians who are so passionate about their work and so generous with their knowledge. The conference offered many opportunities to socialize; at SIG meetings, at the society lounge, browsing through books at the bookstore, and at special events like the awards reception. I felt the conference helped me to better connect with our wonderful community and feel more a part of it. I highly recommend the annual conference and hope you can join us next March in Boston, Massachusetts, and experience it for yourself!