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APA 2009 Conference in Las Vegas, Part 1

I just returned from Las Vegas where I attended the national conference of the American Psychotherapy Association.  The parent organization of the APA is the American College of Forensic Examiners and the group at the conference also included the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security and American Association on Integrative Medicine – a fairly diverse bunch.  This year’s popular keynote speaker was Frank Abagnale, of “Catch Me If You Can” fame.

I enjoy this annual conference.  It’s an opportunity for me to catch up with fellow therapists from across the country that I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see face-to-face.  I’ve developed valuable ongoing relationships that have benefited me professionally and personally.

I’ve also watched the organization transform over the last two years.  In 2007, the conference focused more on psychotherapy.  Last year, I began to see a significant shift in emphasis to homeland security and forensic science.  This year it was no surprise to see military, police, security, and terrorism specialists outnumbering the therapists in attendance.

The keyword for 2009 was trauma.  Almost all the professionals I knew, as well as the new people I met, are focused on trauma.  They’re working to understand trauma better and find new and better treatments for their clients.  A lot of very sincere and committed professionals are contributing a piece to the overall picture of dealing with trauma or trauma victims, especially military personnel returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

I was very impressed with some of the individuals I met who have real abilities to identify and understand trauma.  They recognize the great need for trauma treatment, particularly for military, police, and emergency workers.  The effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on military personnel, and the effects of emergencies and catastrophic experiences on first-responders and the public, are far-reaching and not always well understood

I was encouraged by presentations at the conference which outlined ways for multiple agencies, both public and private, to work together better.  No one can meet the coming needs in this field alone.  Large, bureaucratic groups, like the Department of Defense and VA, and smaller providers need effective ways to coordinate their efforts.

The conference also showed me that I’m not alone.  Our work is hard, and professionals in my field can sometimes start to feel isolated.  It was good to be reminded that I am part of a sort of brotherhood and sisterhood of professionals who are working diligently to find answers and approaches.  I think one of the things that struck me at the conference, though, is that I saw nothing there that was more effective than our treatment for trauma.

I was touched by how many people acknowledged the excellence and value of our work.  These were people who had a lot of expertise in the field and were drawn to us and what we’re doing.  They were sincerely grateful that we’re so committed to helping emergency workers, military veterans, and police – people on the front lines who have really experienced a lot of pain, trauma, and fear and whose personal lives are so disrupted.  The acknowledgment for my work from these professionals meant a lot to me.

But what matters most to me – and to every other professional at the conference – is that the people who put their lives on the line for us get the help they need.  At the Bernstein Institute, we’re excited about our new program for veterans to help them heal from their trauma issues and PTSD.  I’ll be writing about our Veterans Program, and more about the Las Vegas conference, in upcoming posts.