Letter From The President

Increasing Diversity: ISSTD Rising to the Challenge

September is Student and Emerging Professional Month here at ISSTD, a month where we highlight and celebrate the work of this important member component. I am particularly proud of the work done by incoming President Christine Forner in establishing and developing this vital group. Today this group is an active part of the ISSTD landscape with 200 Student and Emerging Professional Members. After many years of dynamic leadership, Christine has invited Christianna Flynn-Christianson to serve as co-chair of the Student and Emerging Professional Committee. Many members of this group are contributing to our Society in numerous meaningful ways.

Abigail Percifield and Stergio Skatharoudis contribute regularly to our Annual Conference Committee helping to plan and shape the future of how ISSTD educates and encourages new clinicians and researchers. Shelly Hua and Rachel Friedman are vital parts of the team transitioning ISSTD into the 21st Century with our move to a new, more accessible website and the more flexible and dynamic Higher Logic Community platform. David Seagull and Abigail Percifield are active on our membership committee, with Abigail now serving as co-chair. Most committees and task forces now actively seek out student members to contribute to the dialogue. The dialogue on the Student and Emerging Professionals Forum is among the most active discussion groups ISSTD has running.

This year, 2018, we begin to have a bit more balance with a significant drop in the average age of Board Members. Where did this all begin? Many years ago, serving as the ISSTD Vice-President, I had the honor of attending a special luncheon held during the annual conference. The luncheon was a gathering of Past Presidents invited to share their wisdom and insights as to how to face the challenges confronting our Society. In the middle of the luncheon, Rick Kluft stood up and asked us to look around the room. He asked us to reflect on what was wrong with the scenario laid out before us. Several long seconds of silence passed. He pointed out, in the quiet, most articulate language that Rick is so well known for, that the average age in the room was well past the age when most people retired. No one in a leadership position was under the age of 55. He noted that we had no input from anyone coming up in the field. We were deaf to the needs, concerns, and issues confronting anyone seeking to enter into the study of trauma and dissociation.

A few short months later there was an unexpected opening on the Board of Directors. Recognizing the validity and value of Rick Kluft’s observation, a young, relatively new member of ISSTD was appointed to fill that opening: This was our incoming President Christine Forner. As I’ve already described, one of Christine’s first suggestions was the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee and ISSTD has been richer for this ever since. However, I am mindful of Rick Kluft’s comment still. It was echoed by Catherine Classen at our last Town Hall Meeting when she looked around the room and noted the lack of diversity among attending members. We still have work to do in growing and developing our Society. We are recognizing and responding in some important ways. The theme of our 36th Annual Conference, held in New York City from late March to April 1st 2019, is the World Congress on Complex Trauma. To address and heighten awareness of international perspectives on trauma and dissociation, we have assembled a panel of experts from around the globe to broaden our understanding. The distinguished panel includes:

  • Argentina – Sandra Baita
  • Spain – Dolores Mosquera
  • India – Adithy
  • Turkey – Vedat Sar
  • South Africa – Christa Kruger
  • Canada – Gabor Mate

Adding further insight into the need to embrace diversity in our field is the work of Heather Hall, MD and Michael Salter, PhD, co-chairs of the ISSTD Public Health Task Force. They will present a pre-conference workshop focusing on treating and hopefully preventing complex trauma and dissociation. They examine how “the risk and impact of Complex Trauma and Dissociation (CTD) is shaped by a range of social, economic and political inequalities.” They go on to note that “access to treatment and opportunities for recovery from CTD are also inequitably distributed” across similar socio-political and economic lines. Their findings and recommendations will shape ISSTD efforts and hopefully find their way to informing policy makers at all levels. And… We still have work to do in growing and developing our Society. How can we expand our network of clinicians and researchers to be more inclusive and embrace diversity? How can we extend our ability to reach and teach others so that quality mental health care informed by the understandings of complex trauma and dissociation that ISSTD brings can be available to more people in all the corners of the world and at all socio-economic levels? We saw one area where we needed to grow. We rose to the challenge and now have an active and growing group of students and emerging professionals. We see our next challenge. Will you help us meet that one too? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thanks, Kevin

LAST MINUTE SHAMELESS PLUG: Please help support our $35 for the 35th campaign. This important campaign raises funds to grow and support student member opportunities and activities and to provide for our much needed website updates and improvements as well. You can help by making a donation of any size by visiting the 35 for the 35th webpage on the ISSTD website. One time and monthly installment payment options are available. Thanks for helping grow ISSTD!