Annual Conference

ISSTD Conference Testimonial: Experience as a First Time In-Person Attendee

I have attended many ISSTD Conferences, Webinars, and PTP (Professional Training Program) courses online, though this was my first in-person conference. Unless there are extreme circumstances, I plan to attend all future Annual Conferences in person. Why?


The relational component of the conference is one of the most essential reasons I will be returning.

Clinicians talk about the importance of connection with groups of common persons as a component of healing and self-care, the attention to co-regulation in sessions for emotion regulation, and self-care being essential for recovery. As many of us tend to do, I put my own self-care needs aside to fulfill the demands of my profession. Or my self-care is separated from the work I do with clients. I compartmentalize and have more rigid boundaries between my own self-care and my professional self-care. I forget (or dissociate) my need for co-regulation with my professional community specifically engaged in the examination of the treatment of dissociation and its antecedents.

I am an extremely introverted person easily overwhelmed by large groups of people. I am usually the person leaving as soon as the last presentation is over and turning down invitations to join groups for lunch or dinner, but this is the first time I felt (and continue to feel) energized by the interactions with others attending the conference. Being around others who hold a similar belief and worldview about trauma and dissociation was invaluable to my own expansion as a clinician and human.

I recognized some leaders in the field from taking online webinars, both recorded and live, but I met so many more without knowing who they were. I would share a table at breakfast or go to lunch with someone and later learn that they were a presenter and/or a book author. The same individual would be a presenter on one topic and a beginner on another.

It can be difficult (and overwhelming) to narrow down who holds a similar subset of interests among 300+ attendees, but I began to notice who attended the same set of sessions. It helped me narrow down who to connect with out of over 300 people.

Even after five full days of learning, attending evening events, attending SIG meetings, and attending the business meeting, I came back energized instead of exhausted.


At the ISSTD Annual Conference, attendees can ask the author(s) or panel members questions, interact with leaders in the field informally, and become mutually aware of each other as living beings instead of feeling like a disembodied face and/or name when connecting on Zoom or by email.

I can always read a research paper, but I miss witnessing and experiencing the author’s passion, their humanity, and their humility. From reading a paper, essay, or watching a webinar, I can’t hear the experience that drew them to the work, or the question they sought the answer to that was the impetus for their contribution to the evolution of the field of trauma and dissociation. Most importantly, I cannot ask a research paper my questions.

I also gained knowledge about topics I either had a tangential interest in or had never thought about before. I experienced an understanding of how to integrate new information into my practice that I have never experienced at any other conference, whether online or in-person.

Increasing professional confidence, identity, and evolution

In some ways, I feel like a beginner and a seasoned practitioner all at the same time. Attending this conference normalized my insecurities and struggles, raised my confidence in my skills and conceptualization of trauma and dissociation, and provided hope that the field is expanding in many directions in the same way I am expanding as a clinician. I experienced comfort that experts in the field can offer different perspectives on the same topic – that there is respectful disagreement – that the field is still evolving.

I also gained an awareness of how much I already know, areas I have less or no knowledge in that I had not thought about, and a taste of modalities that I have been interested in that I would otherwise have to read a book about or pay for an intensive training for (with the hope it was something that integrated well into my knowledge base and client population).

I came up with so many questions that were not asked or that there was no time to ask (or ones that would have required my very introverted self to stand up and ask in the middle of a room using a microphone). I wrote questions, things to research when I got home, and general brainstorming on a pad of sticky notes I brought with me. I ended up having to buy another pad of sticky notes because I ran out.

Finally, I learned that anyone can share information by submitting a proposal – even beginners can submit proposals which will be taken seriously and given as much consideration as an advanced level proposal.

Why will I make the ISSTD Annual Conference a top priority?

ISSTD is an avenue to knowledge, yes, but more importantly, ISSTD is people – the 2 or 3 paid staff and the volunteers that make the organization possible, students and experts, faculty and learners, clinicians and researchers, members and non-members. ISSTD is everyone reading this, everyone on the mailing list, and everyone in the online forum. My intention is to become more involved in the organization because it will not feel like a chore – it feels more like a privilege.