My Experience at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference
The 8th Evolution of Psychotherapy (EoP) conference was held in sunny, beautiful Anaheim, California between December 11th to the 18th, 2017. The very first EoP conference was held in 1985, to celebrate the 100th year since the inception of psychotherapy.
Historians suggested that “psychotherapy” became a thing in 1885 when Sigmund Freud conceptualized “free association” (a technique still used in therapy today) as a mechanism to cure mental illnesses. It is now the largest psychotherapy conference in the world.
TIME magazine, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times has referred to The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference as the “The Woodstock of Psychotherapy” and boy, is it ever an appropriate analogy. I’ve never been to Woodstock but I’ve been to concerts and etc. A famous musician is on stage doing their 3 hour set. Thousands of people are intensely focused on this one individual on stage. Replace famous musician with an extremely well-published and respected psychologist, psychiatrist, or counsellor who had either developed the therapeutic approach that your therapist currently uses or has written a international best-selling book. It was just surreal and inspiring to be meters away from industry legends. I wonder if music fans feel this way.
Some of the big names this year included: Aaron T. Beck, the father of cognitive therapy and his daughter Judith Beck, and Irvin Yalom (my personal favourite), author of popular teaching novel Gift of Therapy and his wife, Marilyn Yalom, a social historian author. The love between Irvin and Marilyn is very apparent (read the chapter on Meeting Marilyn in Becoming Myself). It was a delight to hear her mentioned in her talk, that Irvin “was and still is my soulmate”. Other speakers included Dan Seigel, Jack Kornfield, Peter Leving, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Sue Johnson, John and Julie Gottman, just to name a few. Anyone who has taken Psychology100in university will have heard of Philip Zimbardo and Elizabeth Loftus, who were both keynote speakers at this event.
The most entertaining speaker in my opinion, was Scott D. Miller. He had three talks lined up. Scott D. Miller was SO funny in How Psychotherapy Lost It’s Magic, I wanted to see him again at Rediscovering our Magickal Roots in Healing and Psychotherapy, however I left a few minutes into the presentation disappointed because he used the EXACT SAME punchlines. But mostly because the topic of discussion were also exactly the same. Scott D. Miller is a huge advocate of inviting the client’s spiritual beliefs into session, something I have recently become passionate about. More about this topic in another post.
Other speakers who were really funny was Keynote Speaker, Robert Sapolsky and Dan Amen, psychiatrist and multiple NY Times best-selling author. They have given me faith that I do not have to be subjected to a life of seriousness as a counselling therapist. I was expecting Philip Zimbardo to be a grim character, considering he is the man behind the Stanford Prison Experiment. However, I was surprised to find out that he is super jolly and entertaining. He insisted on starting the seminar off with him dancing on stage. “I can’t dance,” he says, “but I do anyways”.
Keeping with the theme of the program, many speakers tried to include a statement about how they think psychotherapy has or has not evolved. For instance, Derald Sue Wing, begged us to question whether cultural considerations in psychotherapy is a concern that requires the concerted effort of all industries that work with human behaviour or whether it is a peripheral issue. Considering that he is the only visible minority in the entire conference, Dr. Wing suggests that perhaps the state of psychotherapy hasn’t quite evolved as much as the title of the conference suggests. Dan Amen, an author, a TED speaker and television personality has long advocated for the recognition of the 7 clinical types of ADD. And yes, he is prompting another revolution by calling the disorder ADD again, rather than ADHD.
If you haven’t attended an Evolution of Psychotherapy conference before and you are an MD, MEd, MA or PhD that conducts psychotherapy or counselling, I HIGHLY recommend it. It is quite costly, but they do have a fairly significant number of slots for volunteers to attend for $150 for the entire week. A total steal if you can put up with a few hours of work before the conference putting conference syllabuses and pens into cloth bags and ushering people in for sessions you are assigned to. Would I attend again in 2020? Absolutely and without a doubt.
Some Tips For Those Who Are Attending In 2020:
01. there were 7,500 people who attended in 2017. This makes lunch line-ups in the local hotel restaurants absolute seriously long. They did manage to pull in some food trucks for the second half of the conference. But if they don’t do the same for 2020, I would recommend eating lunch during a time when everyone isn’t.
02. Attending the whole conference a pretty strenuous endeavor. The day starts at 8am and ends at 6:30pm or even later. Then there’s lining to buy your books to get them signed by your favourite psychologists. Due to the intensity of the conference events, I would recommend the two closest hotels, which were the Marriott and the Hilton in this case. Many of the conference seminars took place in the Marriott and the Hilton. I chose to stay in a hotel which was slightly farther away (a 10-15 min walk) to save some money. A 10-15 min walk may not seem like much but take into consideration that after each seminar, you are walking about 10 minutes to the next seminar in the next structure over. Times this by six to eight times a day, over the course of seven days you will hardly have enough energy to eat at the end of the day…which is what happened to me by day 3. So, If it fits your budget, get the closest hotel possible–you won’t regret it.
03. Following the previous point: if you are planning to attend the full conference which includes the pre-conference and post-conference, make sure you prepare sufficiently before the start of the conference so that you have the stamina the last the whole week. i.e.: eat healthy, work out, sleep well, take your fish oils, and reduce stress. There are 46 speakers at this event. If you are a keener like me and want to be able to see all your favourites, prepare your body and brain to be stretched to the limit. I actually got sick in the middle the conference and was dragging myself throughout the day.