I’ve had so much fun this week setting up my new office at Transcendence Behavioral Health in Ferndale. After having had things stored in the basement for over two years, it’s like uncovering old friends. I still need to hang some pictures and organize the shelves above the couch to look nicer, plus find a used armchair to go to the left of my desk, where the beanbag is now, but we are getting there. I’m glad to welcome back clients for in person sessions again, and to be doing telehealth from here too.
Kirsti Reeve, MA LPC NCC CAADC
Woodward Avenue, Pleasant Ridge
West Eight Mile Road
Pleasant Ridge 48069
W. Nine Mile Road, Oak Park
Woodward Avenue Suite:, Royal Oak
Woodward, Royal Oak
Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak
Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak
S. Center Street, Royal Oak
http://www.kjreeve.com Licensed professional counselor currently working at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan in Waterford, Royal Oak, and Auburn Hills.
I am a fully licensed, board certified counselor, and offer psychotherapy for children, teens, and adults with mental health and/or substance abuse concerns. I am also an experienced presenter and trainer on topics including self-injury ("cutting"), s*xual abuse, and eating disorders. For more information about me and the services that I can provide, please visit my website at http://www.kjreeve.com
Operating as usual
We need access to counseling services now! (H.R.432/S.828)
Our last campaign as Michigan LPCs had amazing results. Here is another step for any of my friends to help out with. You may not know that Licensed Professional Counselors are not able to see Medicare clients (mostly due to our profession still being so new when the original legislation was written back in 1965). Every year since I've been in school there has been a bill to try and change it. And every year it has died in committee. Over the time I've been working, I've had to discharge or transfer so many clients in the middle of their treatment with me when their insurance changed to Medicare.
There's now another chance to change this. Please use this link to contact your representatives, and encourage them to pass HR 432/S 828. In a time of growing mental health need, this is an easy way to add thousands of providers to the Medicare network and improve services for our most vulnerable.
We need access to counseling services now! (H.R.432/S.828) The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R. 432) would close the gap in federal law that prevents mental health counselors from being recognized as Medicare providers. This legislation would give Medicare beneficiaries access to more than...
You don’t have to wait until a crisis to see a therapist. Insight, personal growth, better understanding of yourself and others - all of these are great counseling goals.
This cartoon from the Awkward Yeti is so very true. So often, we don’t realize how often our reactions are influenced by all that we are carrying. On this World Mental Health Day, see what you can do to take care of your mental and emotional wellness.
Teen & Young Adult Mental Health Awareness Seminar - Livonia, Michigan (MI) - Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
I'm excited to be presenting (via Zoom) next Monday, May 10th, at 7pm, on teens and their mental health. This is a free event, but pre-registration is required. You can register here: https://www.stjoeshealth.org/classes-and-events/teen-young-adult-mental-health-awareness-seminar
Please do share this with anyone who might be interested.
Teen & Young Adult Mental Health Awareness Seminar - Livonia, Michigan (MI) - Saint Joseph Mercy Health System We all know a teen who is struggling with negative feelings or behaviors. Join us for a free seminar with a licensed professional counselor discusses
Parents can make a plan to decrease su***de risk in their teens. Here’s how.
This is a great article for parents on supporting their teens’ mental health. Movement and time off screens are really important for all our mental well-being.
Parents can make a plan to decrease su***de risk in their teens. Here’s how. What you can do to combat the epidemic of anxiety, depression and su***de in teens.
Licensed Psychologists | Therapy & Counseling - Livonia, Royal Oak
I am delighted to announce that I am now working at Transcendence Behavioral Health in Royal Oak. All my sessions will continue to be telehealth for safety reasons. I currently have a few openings for both clients and supervisees. https://www.tbhpsychologists.com/
Licensed Psychologists | Therapy & Counseling - Livonia, Royal Oak Our Team of psychologists provides therapy/counseling for depression, anxiety, grief, change of life issues. We support individuals, couples & family. LGBTQA+
Join me this Saturday, Oct 10 on a special panel hosted by SOHOMuse. Voices: An LGBTQI+ Conversation for a thought-provoking panel discussion for by speaking about Religion and the LGBTAI+ community. I am honored to be speaking with an incredible group of other leaders in the LGBTQIA+ Community.
You can watch the discussion live at 7:00pm EST / 4:00pm PST by signing up at voicessohomuse.com
This may be really helpful for people who are struggling with anxiety during this time of uncertainty. It’s free to download and share.https://thewellnesssociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Coronavirus-Anxiety-Workbook.pdf
Especially during these times...
These are not my words but they echo a lot of what I am talking about with my clients. As a reminder, my practice is open for telehealth services during this time. (Thanks to Nancy Mason Bordley for posting this.)
VERY HELPFUL! Print this and post it in your home!
From a psychologist:
After having thirty-one sessions this week with patients where the singular focus was COVID-19 and how to cope, I decided to consolidate my advice and make a list that I hope is helpful to all. I can't control a lot of what is going on right now, but I can contribute this.
Edit: I am surprised and heartened that this has been shared so widely! People have asked me to credential myself, so to that end, I am a doctoral level Psychologist in NYS with a Psy.D. in the specialities of School and Clinical Psychology.
MENTAL HEALTH WELLNESS TIPS FOR QUARANTINE
1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
2. Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
3. Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.
4. Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
5. Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!
6. Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
7. Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.
8. Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
9. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
10. Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
11. Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.
12. Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
13. Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
14. Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
15. Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
16. Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
17. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
18. Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
19. Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
20. Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!
21. Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
22. Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
23. “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.
24. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
25. Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?
Turning Point, Inc.
We're in this together, moment to moment!
50 Strategies to Beat Anxiety
Some great tips here on how to get through anxiety during this time of the COVID-19 virus. Try a bunch and see which ones work for you! https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201503/50-strategies-beat-anxiety
psychologytoday.com How to handle anxiety effectively.
That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief
As I am meeting with my clients through video sessions, I am finding this to be so true. We are all grieving in multiple ways right now. https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief
hbr.org The coronavirus pandemic has led to a collective loss of normalcy.
During this time of uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to protect the health of my clients, their families, and my family, I have transitioned my practice to entirely online video sessions using Thera-LINK. Please do reach out if you are wanting to schedule an appointment. And keep breathing and stay safe.
Hogwarts House Self-Care Ideas - Blessing Manifesting
Most of my clients will figure out my love of all things Harry Potter pretty quickly (the Honeydukes candy jar is the first give away). So I was excited to see this post on House-Specific self care tips. I’ll be adding it to my toolbox along with ideas for confronting your anxiety boggart or banishing the dementors of depression.
blessingmanifesting.com What's your Hogwarts House self-care? Check out the self-care ideas for Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Gryffindor!
There is real wisdom here. Our feelings exist in our bodies. Learning to connect and feel them - rather than getting caught up in our thoughts about our feelings - is so helpful.
Kirsti Reeve, MA LPC NCC CAADC's cover photo
Sign the Petition
Following from my earlier post about the impact of proposed licensing board changes for counselors in Michigan .. .You can also take action by signing this petition. Although it will have no direct impact on the legislature or licensing board, the more numbers we have, the more awareness and weight is given to our argument: https://www.change.org/p/michigan-state-house-protect-michigan-licensed-professional-counselors-licensure
change.org Protect Michigan Licensed Professional Counselors' Licensure
This is so true. So many times I am working with people who do not know or recognize the trauma they have been through and how it is impacting them today.
The Awkward Yeti
This is beautiful
Addiction doc says: It’s not the drugs. It’s the ACEs…adverse childhood experiences.
acestoohigh.com He says: Addiction shouldn’t be called “addiction”. It should be called “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking”. He says: Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction)…
To paraphrase Brené Brown... the people in her research who had love and belonging in their lives were the people who believed they were worthy of it. We are all worthy of love and belonging.
Sign the Petition
This petition is so important. I see far too many girls and women who struggle with the belief that their body size reflects their value and self worth. I am so proud of the people speaking out against the toxic messages that this program promotes. Please sign and share:
change.org Netflix: STOP RELEASE OF THE BODY SHAMING FILM PRODUCED BY NETFLIX 'INSATIABLE'
Opinion | The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They're Not What You Think
I agree with all that this author is saying and it cannot be stressed enough that depression and anxiety are not reducible to just ‘a chemical imbalance’. The study he references is the ACE study, and you can google to find out more about it and even uncover your own ACE score. If you did experience childhood trauma, talking about it with a good, trauma-informed therapist can make a difference to all aspects of your health and wellbeing.
huffingtonpost.com To deal with depression, you need to deal with its underlying causes.
10 Ways to ‘Reach Out’ When You’re Struggling With Your Mental Health
This article gives some really practical and specific advice on just how to do the “reaching out” thing that therapists always encourage. If you are struggling, please do remember that there is help out there for you.
letsqueerthingsup.com After my friend’s su***de, I realized something: We ask people to reach out. But we never explain how.
Excited to get to present on self-injury to a class of future counselors. I always enjoy getting to share this knowledge with others. Thanks to Dr. Robert Fink for continuing to invite me into your class each year.
On Being Studios
The findings of the ACE study are so important. I hope that more people will understand the impact of early life experiences on how we live and experience the world. And the benefits of therapy in working with childhood trauma.
"The tiny body really remembers. While adults who experience something traumatic are often capable of re-wiring their stress response over time, the severity and stubbornness of the effects of trauma on children are more potent." ~ Courtney E. Martin
Childhood trauma can create anxious, stressed, and depressed adults. By showing up, you can make a difference in a child's life. https://onbeing.org/blog/courtney-martin-the-body-remembers
15 People Share The Best Advice They've Ever Gotten In Therapy
There’s some good wisdom in here. I particularly like numbers two and four. I often encourage people not to compare their insides with every one else’s outsides.
buzzfeed.com H/T Reddit
Really looking forward to this presentation tomorrow night, and working with the teen panel to hear their voices too.
If you are a parent of a teenager or will be soon, this is definetely for you! We need your RSVP's ASAP!
Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?
I have pre-ordered this book and am really looking forward to reading it. The medical model of depression cannot be the full picture. The importance of meaning, value, relationships and connection can not be underestimated.
theguardian.com In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach
Sarah Silverman's response to a Twitter troll is a master class in compassion
I love this story. When you look past a person’s anger and behavior and are able to see the pain inside, amazing things can happen. (Warning for some language - but very much worth the read.)
cbc.ca After a troll lashed out at Silverman, she found him help for his pain.
I love Brené Brown's work and this conversation is so important. This holiday season let us not go around negotiating who we are or looking for evidence of our unworthiness. Whatever your faith, the story of Christmas is about immense worth and value being found in something so small and vulnerable as a new born baby.
Loved this conversation with Marie Forleo on ! We talk , true belonging, and how we can find our way back to ourselves and to each other. You can purchase a copy here: http://bit.ly/2k62eBa
Conference Thoughts from 35,000 Feet
This was my second Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, having attended for the first time in 2013, and been so completely blown away by the experience that I knew I had to make this a regular part of my professional and personal development. In the intervening four years, I’ve made some shifts in my career: trained as a supervisor and taken on the role of running an intern clinic at the agency, started practicing from more of a trauma-informed perspective, discovered that I really don’t like site management, and taken the risk of stepping out to begin my own small private practice.
What inspired me?
In one of those synchronicity moments, a good friend of mine had been gushing about this poet, David Whyte, literally the day before I was due to leave for Evolution. I’m glad that she did, because otherwise I might have stayed at Disneyland on Tuesday evening and I would have missed a real treat in his keynote. David’s words, images and invitation to growth and openness said what we do as therapists without ever using the clinical words. I experienced it as a powerful invitation to allow myself more room to be simultaneously both whole and broken, and to offer all of that possibility to my clients. His approach was reinforced in both sessions I went to by Bill O’Hanlon who demonstrated and taught on the need for stories and the power that they have to stretch us. I’m looking forward to hear how his strengths in this area translate into songwriting as he launches into a new phase of his career.
I only saw Harriet Lerner on a panel last time around, and wanted to rectify that this year. I’m so very glad that I did. I’ve treasured her ‘Dance’ series of books since my twenties, and in person, Harriet was all that I hoped she would be: warm, humble, kind, generous and with some incredibly practical things to say about apologizing. I also appreciate how she used her talk to raise some of the issues around the current abuse allegations and the responses of the abusers as their conduct gets brought into the open. And I had a total fangirl moment when she liked and re-tweeted some of my quotes and summaries of her session.
In 2013, I think I practically camped out at every single one of Dan Siegel’s sessions. This time around, I made one panel discussion and his last talk on Interpersonal Neurobiology. I’ve been using his Brainstorm book so much in my work with adolescents and their families, and the course and the workshops I’ve been giving on teens, so it was a good balance for me to hear this other side of his work: the importance of knowing who and what we are. I was moved at a gut level as he wrapped up his session with a plea for us all to recognize that we are a ‘mwe’ - that we only exist between each other and this planet. That love is what connects us all. There is no ‘other’. It seemed as though mystic theology and neurobiology kissed in that moment.
I went to several of the presentations on trauma, since it is a large part of the work that I do. And across presenters and approaches, the same themes kept emerging: the importance of finding flow, the way that trauma creates rigidity and stuckness. The need to work with the body but in a gentle, slow, titrated way so that the client is not flooded with abreactions. I’m not sure I will ever be as “hands on” with my clients as Peter Levine is, but seeing him work and watching how things shifted for the people in his clinical demonstrations was a joy.
I also made a point of attending as much as possible of the three sessions on multicultural issues, even though two of them were scheduled against each other, as well as conflicting with the only workshop on gender issues. I admire the courage of both Derald Wing Sue and Patricia Arredondo in using their sessions to speak up about the lack of racial diversity on the Evolution faculty, their own frustrations in being scheduled opposite each other, and the need for more conversations around race and gender and s*xuality issues. Derald’s unpacking of microaggressions and the unintentionality behind many of them felt particularly poignant given his experiences as one of the two speakers of color there, and although I very much hope that he reconsiders his decision not to return to future conferences, I can understand the reasons for it.
Overall throughout the week, I was struck by the graciousness of the speakers in their interactions with questioners, the time they made available to talk to attendees, their willingness to stop for selfies, sign books, and in Yalom’s case, stay for three hours after his talk to make sure that everyone who wanted could have a moment of interacting with him. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have hundreds of people all wanting something from you - as an introvert, that terrifies me - so I appreciate them finding the inner resources to do this. When Jean Houston, well into her 80s, gives up her seat for a person with mobility issues, it sets a tone of humility that I hope will continue to spread.
What challenged me?
The major drawback of a conference such as this one is that you always have to make very hard choices when there are six sessions going on in any one slot and you want to go to all of them. It may be because I chose to stick with presenters and topics that I knew (Motivational Interviewing, trauma) that I missed an opportunity to really stretch and challenge myself with some of the ideas around quantum theory, hypnosis and magick that were being offered. So perhaps I played it a little safe.
The main question that I kept coming back to was similar to the one I had in 2013 - how many of these theories, techniques, “new” ideas work primarily because of the personality of the one developing or teaching them? How many people found insight or relief in the clinical demonstrations because they knew they were working with an ‘expert’ or a hero of theirs, and so they were more easily able to shift than with another therapist using exactly the same words and techniques. If, as Scott Miller and Bill Miller pointed out in their session on evidence based practice, it is accurate empathy that creates change in therapy, perhaps all the faculty members are simply expert empathizers.
I am also going to spend time pondering the way that certain themes appear to be coming together across fields and theories and disciplines - what Dan Siegel referred to as concilience (though I have no idea how he spells it). There appear to be common factors that lead to mental and emotional health and wellbeing which we can promote in our clients regardless of our theoretical background or tool box of techniques: the importance of accurate empathy; the focus on the relationship; the need to connect the mind, the brain, and the body; the movement from tension and rigidity into flow. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that I’m not Bill Miller - I will have my own approach and way of meeting my clients and that will be enough.
Where I want to challenge back
Derald Wing Sue mentioned in his presentation that among certain groups, this conference is referred to as the Evolution of White Psychotherapy, and it really would be hard to disagree. I had a growing sense, first formed in 2013, that the conference is stuck in the 1980s at best and more like the 1950s at times. The faculty was primarily white men in a field that is predominately female. From a faculty list of 49 people, I counted 17 women. Of those, five were there with a male co-presenter, which leaves 12 women who were invited in their own right (and I’m including Judith Beck as one of those 12). From the best that I can tell looking at the faculty list, only two of the presenters were non-Caucasian. None of the sessions had a primary focus on issues that arise in my clinical work today: LGBTQ counseling, or intersectionality, or social justice, or racism, or .
I don’t intend to frame this as just an ‘anti Trump’ thing - in fact, that is the very thing that it it cannot spiral into. I have clients who are terrified by the current socio-political climate and are feeling very triggered and unsafe. Equally, I have clients who are delighted about the election results, and who have been feeling just as scared that their world view is crumbling with the possibility of a female president, and with same s*x marriages becoming legal. As a clinician, I need to explore how do I work with both those groups of clients, how can I be present to all of them, without compromising my own identity and beliefs?
It seems as though a key opportunity for opening up the conference to more diversity would be during the keynote sessions, where the speakers are not necessarily psychotherapists, but are brought in because they have something of interest to say. So it is worth reflecting on whose voices are we platforming and whose voices are not being heard. There were ten keynote sessions during this year’s event. Only one was a single female presenter - Tipper Gore. One woman co-facilitated the Minuchin tribute (which would otherwise have been given by Minuchin himself), and Judith Beck interviewed her father Aaron.
This felt sad to me, like a missed opportunity to bring in a woman of color as a keynote speaker - how about the women behind the movement for example? They certainly have something important to say to us at this time. Again, to paraphrase Derald Wing Sue, the people who are put on stage, who are made visible, say a lot to the audience about who is welcome at your event and who we want to listen to as a therapeutic community. I hope that this net is cast a little wider in selecting speakers and faculty for 2020.
What stands out?
There is something unbelievably interesting about the experience of being surrounded by thousands of other therapists. People-watching at Evolution is an experience in itself. Even though I came to the conference alone, I was glad to make new friends through Twitter, and I hope that those connections can continue through the next three years until the next conference. I decided to let go of my usual shyness and hesitation, so I was “one of those” attendees who went around snapping selfies with my clinical heroes. It seemed only right - the first two days before the event I did exactly the same with Disneyland characters. I’m working on a series of side by side collages. There is a comfort in knowing that there exists this community of people who want to heal suffering, who want to make the world a better, more equitable, happier place.
I’m not feeling the same “wow” and overwhelm that I did after the 2013 conference. Perhaps it’s that I was traveling on my own for this one, so had more introvert time to reflect and process as I went. Perhaps it’s that I had a couple of play days before it all started. Perhaps it’s that I gave myself a little more space to skip a session here and there, to take a break when I needed to, and even escape to Disneyland on Friday night to see Fantasmic rather than feeling the push to attend every keynote and see as many different speakers as possible. It may also be that with the way I am feeling about the current social and political climate, I came to the conference with greater needs for conversations that were not had in formal sessions. I am grateful for the Twitter community that spoke up and boosted the signal and came together around the diversity issues, and very much hope that the Erickson Foundation organizers do take note.
I hope that the 2020 anniversary conference is able to look at the world as it is. Not to ignore the injustices and struggles and challenges we are facing, not just in America but with the rise of protectionism, “me first”, alt-right nationalistic movements around the globe. To borrow from Harriet Lerner’s ideas on apologies, I hope that the conference has a strong enough platform of self esteem to stand on that will let it look at its own behavior and take responsibility for where it fell short and where it needs to change. As David Whyte challenged us on the opening night: have the hard conversations, the ones you don’t want to have. Go just a little bit outside yourself. Take the next step. I am looking forward to being a part of that continuing conversation.
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This page is to provide information about psychological services provided by Stephanie Williams, Ph.D.
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