As I was reflecting on my experiences at the ISSTD annual conference this year in Louisville, I started to notice and appreciate just how enlivened I feel in my clinical work after returning. I always expect to feel a bit more tired than usual and while fatigue has been present, what has been more noticeable is a renewed sense of passion and connection for the incredible work that we all are doing. I have been more closely attuned with my clients, better able to sense what else might be present and just outside our view, and even better able to articulate to other professionals just how integral an understanding of dissociation is to facilitating trauma recovery. While some of these changes are the result of the wonderful influx of new information, I believe most of the changes are the result of feeling connected, supported and understood by other conference attendees.
Attending the ISSTD annual conference in person can be a transformative experience for professionals in the field of trauma and dissociation. I observed such effort – from leaders at the conference to first time attendees – to make time for genuine conversation. These conversations led to the development of new ideas for research, training, and community outreach. There were several instances where I noticed one member encouraging another to trust themselves enough to take a risk and submit that proposal or sign up to teach a PTP class or step into a leadership role. It still makes me smile to revisit those memories and remember faces lighting up as someone remembered just how worthy and valuable they are.
At the EMDR SIG meet-up, rather than standard introductions, the group used sociometry approaches, derived from psychodrama, to facilitate a more intimate and fun way to get to know one another. I remember a powerful moment when the group was lining up for a spectrogram and decided it made more sense to change the shape from a line to a circle. Getting to see a circle of clinicians, some of whom are experts in EMDR and some of whom are just learning about it, left me an experiential memory of how circular the learning process is. At different points in our lifelong journey as a student, we all are fluidly moving between being an expert and being a newbie. It reminded me how so much of our learning is relational and implicit. And when we learn in this way, we also heal.
I am filled with gratitude for everyone who came to the conference. I left with my cups feeling fuller than they have in a very long time. I know that as life becomes ever more fast-paced and ever more focused on optimal efficiency that it becomes harder to keep these moments of professional connection as a top priority. Spending time with others who understand complex trauma and dissociation is the way that I keep myself whole enough to do this work sustainably. I’m sending a million thank you’s to all who helped give me this reminder through your engagement with the ISSTD Annual Conference.