Conference Reflections 2017

by   Doris Brothers

Please share your reactions to the most recent conference in Chicago by sending short comments to me at: . Let your colleagues know what worked for you, what didn't, which presentations were most meaningful to you, and what else you would have liked to see.


Andrea Harms & Martin Gossmann

Dear friends and colleagues, We, Andrea Harms and me, Martin Gossmann, are writing to you as the chair and co-chair of the planning committee for the 2018 Annual Meeting in Vienna. Together with Shelley Doctors, Roger Frie, Eldad Iddan, Amanda Kottler, Joe Lichtenberg and Valeria Pulcini as members of the international planning committee we already started the process of organizing the conference and the call for papers will be sent out soon.

At the same time we would want to support the sense of continuity of the yearly conferences and learn from earlier meetings in the aim of further improving our conference experience.

Please, let us know if there is anything you would like us to consider in our plans for next year,

Andrea Harms
Martin Gossmann

Susan Stevens, LCSW

I was grateful for the presentation and discussion of atypical treatment options. I am aware of my own and others' response to individual patients with appropriate but atypical treatment, but rarely does anyone talk about it. It seems we are all afraid of damning response from our community. I was pleased to see this wasn't necessarily so.

I am most specifically relating to the Opening Night Keynote Presentation, The Pilgrims' Progress: A Therapist and Patient Journey to London, Speaker: Jeffrey Stern, PhD Moderator: Andrea Harms, PhD, and Friday's PANEL I: Empathic Depths, Relational Leaps and Therapeutic Action: Where Are We Now? Speakers: Hazel Ipp, PhD and Steven Stern, PsyD Discussant: Joye Weisel-Barth, PhD, PsyD Moderator: Peter Maduro, JD, PsyD.

Barry Magid

Although the conference's title "Empathic Depths and Relational Leaps" offered a vision of an integration of self psychological and relational perspectives, I'm afraid my personal experience of the conference in this regard was quite different. While the plenary panels displayed the professional congeniality and mutual respect one has come to expect, my experience in the small groups and the discussion of my own paper was anything but congenial. There, I was met with the repeated attitude that self psychology had no need of input from Relational analysis. Kohut, despite being constrained by his conservative contemporaries in the way he formulated his theory, was of course, a responsive and affectively attuned analyst, and there are no grounds, I was told, for seeing him as representing a "one person psychology." This, "It's All Already in Kohut," parallels, I imagine, what Kohut himself once encountered regarding Freud. But, precisely because Kohut was constrained in how he wrote about what he did in an attempt to be acceptable and persuasive to his classically oriented contemporaries, it seems appropriate that we, in a new context, update the language of self psychology to reflect our current two person, relational, and dynamic systems ways of thinking. As it stands, classical "one person" self psychology, may, as they say, be fine in practice, but it will never work in theory.

I have been attending Self Psychology conferences since 1981, and was present for Kohut's farewell address. Now, I believe, for Self Psychology, to grow -and indeed to survive -it must come to terms with its broader relationally psychoanalytic surround.
I'm afraid I did not see that happening this year and I worry about what it portends for the future.

Barry Magid

Heather Ferguson

We thank the organizers of the 40th IAPSP Conference-- Empathic Depths and Relational Leaps - for the opportunity to explore our pre-conference topic, How Bodies Speak: Expanding the Analytic Instrument. Building on the seminal work of Jon Sletvold, Pat Ogden, Steven Knoblauch, Gianni Nebbiosi among others, we explored reverie that emerges from intersubjective embodied experience in treatment.
We used a group visualization exercise to explore therapists' imagistic associations to challenging patient moments and were moved by the participants' heart-felt associations.
For us, the theme of analytic love (Davies, Nebbiosi, Fosshage, J. Stern) reverberated throughout, from the poetics of Mendelsohn's long-term treatment, Vanderheide's rich self-inquiry, to the attuned and challenging work of Emanuel.
It was a weekend of "soul" work, as Jody Davies suggested in her work with "heart daughter."

Heather Ferguson, LCSW and Caryn Sherman-Meyer, LCSW

Joshua Burg,
Students & Candidates Committee Chair

I found Chicago simultaneously vitalizing and exhausting, what a great conference! From the start with the case of "Drum" to the finish with a panel on psychoanalytic love, the conference certainly stayed true to its purpose of exploring empathic depths and relational leaps. There was so much to love I find myself struggling to distill my favorite parts as I write this reflection. I found Sarah Mendelsohn's and Nancy Vanderheide's case presentations incredibly moving, humorous, and beautiful. Steve Kuchuck's more Relational perspective on these self psychological cases was also fantastic! I found it thought provoking and challenging to my typical ways of thinking to hear Steve's insightful and slightly different take on these two cases. I also believe it was Steve who said something along the lines of "sequestering our subjectivity is impossible and a detriment to ourselves, our patients, and their treatments" - a sentiment that resonated deeply with my own therapeutic convictions. This panel stimulated a wonderful discussion afterwards and I remember musing on the idea of "analytic courage." We ask so much of our patients in treatment and I believe we need to be courageous enough to bring our real and authentic selves to each relationship, making sure not to hide behind the idea of "neutrality" or our beloved theories. And who could forget Dick Geist's heartwarming and hilarious Kohut Memorial Lecture?! Not only did Dick present some of his important ideas and insights about Kohut and self psychology for everyone, but he managed to provide a darn good idealizing selfobject experience for me too! I also feel I would be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful case presentations of the final panel and Jim Fosshage's wonderful discussion of how far we've come in psychoanalysis. I found Jim's outline of the major steps psychoanalysis has taken over the past few decades to be the perfect bookend to a lovely conference. Finally, panels, papers, and theory aside, it was great to reconnect with colleagues and mentors old and new. Each conference I go to I find myself feeling more welcomed and more a part of this wonderful community of people. In short, Chicago was a great experience.

Jean Walbridge, ACSW, LCSW,
Highland Park Illinois

Thank you for asking for reflections on the conference from participants. I attended as a longstanding social work member of IAPSP and as a member of the couples therapy list group.

I have two concerns: the planning of the sequence of the plenaries seemed to have lacked empathy for the audience. We had to sit for three hours, terrible for our bodies and diminishes our capacity to remain in relationship to the speaker in the way we would like. Also, the sequence of very technical, dense-content papers by Scott Davis and Michael meant that it was impossible to follow the content in either. It felt like we were in a classroom rather than at a conference and that the material ought to have been presented as a lecture or even a couple of lectures in order for us to absorb it.

I know my feelings were widely shared by those attendees who were near me. Some fell asleep, some left the auditorium. We also discussed this mistaken planning in one of our small group workshops.

My other main concern was that the attendees' needs was poorly met by the continental breakfast and afternoon snack. I was frankly somewhat ashamed at Chicago's provision of the breakfast compared to other conferences I have been at by IAPSP. Slices of bread with toppings and some fruit. If I had paid to attend the conference from coming from Vienna or other places outside United States I would've wondered if this is the best that Chicago could do. I know my feelings again were shared by other attendees.

The Kohut lunch was truly remarkable and a very nice presentation, and I would have hoped that the rest of the conference could have followed suit. To have cans of soda pop simply sitting on a table somewhere for afternoon snack, not accompanied by bottles of water or fruit or cookies was a disappointment.

Did we have to scale down these amenities because of their cost?

Also, presenting workshops during lunch hour was unwise. We were so exhausted from the morning that we needed our lunch hour and even though we might have wanted to hear what was presented during that time, it was not fair to expect attendees to use the slow elevators to go down to street level to get something, one knows not what, to then bring up to the lunch hour sessions. I would omit these in future.

These problems made the whole conference much more physically and mentally taxing than it needed to be. I was not able to attend the Sunday meeting so I don't know how that went, but these are my reflections from Thursday Friday and Saturday. Again, The same thoughts and feelings were shared by other attendees as expressed to me by people sitting near me and again in my small group discussions.

Jean Walbridge, ACSW, LCSW, Highland Park Illinois

Click here to read the responses to the 2016 Conference

Click here to read the responses to the 2015 Conference

Click here to read the responses to the 2014 Conference

Click here to read the responses to the 2013 Conference

Click here to read the responses to the 2012 Conference

Click here to read the responses to the 2011 Conference

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