New ISSTD Member “Finds Her Tribe”

As a therapist I have always felt like “the only trauma person in the village.” But at the ISSTD Regional Conference in Sydney last year, I felt like I had finally found my tribe. It was a delight and a comfort to come to San Francisco, my home-away-from-home, for the Annual Conference. I arrived a little late to day one, and got to chat with Na’ama Yehuda in the hall. What a delightful start to an incredible week of trauma and attachment goodness. I had high hopes, but I had no idea how much magic was about to unfold in those hallowed halls. My first introduction to a few of the committee members was through some sidesplitting storytelling, with the tale of the haunted house at Long Beach. Each of the characters (and their trauma responses — flight, freeze, align with the perpetrator, etc.) was acted out so hilariously well that I could pick them out on sight when we met in person later that day! The “improv jazz trio” plenary of Mary Main, Erik Hesse and Dan Siegel was a life-changing delight. Such warmth in person, all the giddy intimidation of being face to face with the attachment superheroes who have shaped so much of my professional world started to fade (well, at least a little). Their connection with each other and with the depth of the multigenerational patterns of disorganized attachment and dissociation were equally spellbinding. To only be topped by Dan’s dancefloor antics later that night, indulging us with the hula and a little Western Swing! There was an incredible range and depth to the presentation sessions. I’m often the only therapist at neuroscience conferences, and it made the conference so much richer to be surrounded by and dining with other research-savvy clinicians who are focused on putting what they have learned into practice with their clients. One of the highlights was the preview screening of the “Resilience” movie: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope. I honestly cannot wait for this movie to come out in September this year. I’ve probably talked more about this than any other aspect of the conference. My friends and colleagues who know about trauma and attachment and the ACE study already get it, but don’t know how to convey all this to the laypeople in their world. This movie is a brilliant synthesis of research, intrigue and storytelling, and it seems to be a stellar starting point for any conversation with patients, clinics, schools, researchers, governments, anyone. Many sessions, friendships and conversations have followed me home, from a new appreciation for the subtleties of adolescent dissociation, to emotion focused family therapy and the power of a vicarious trauma prevention program for counselling staff. It’s confirmed, this is my tribe, and it’s such an honor to be part of this brilliant community. I think it was Frances Waters who said she has never missed an ISSTD conference since her first one, and I’d wholeheartedly love to do the same.