Lost in conferences (Lost in translation, part 2) by Helena Colodro

I was lost in translation (well, I still am)  – what I didn’t know is that I was also going to be:

Lost in Conferences


IMG-20170623-WA0042 - copia
Isabel Lopez Chicheri & Helena Colodro at Seville ACBS  Conference

Hello again! In my previous post I introduced myself and explained a little bit about what is bringing me to the UK this summer along with the first contacts with my own language barriers. Today I´d like to write why I´m enjoying so much participating in some cool and fulfilling  professional meetings that have certainly reinvigorated my passion for my work and for ACT.

My “trip” began attending the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science World Conference in Seville in June. This was a good opportunity to switch on to “ACT mode” and get to know other people’s work. This was the first time I attended an international ACT congress, everything was new to me, but the main things kept in my mind as highlights are these:

  • Big sense of community: Lot of different countries’ people united by Contextual Science. Professionals from around the world united around a basic and applied model, with a solid present and a promising future.
  • Values: I had the sense of everyone being committed psychologists willing to learn and be helpful to others. Speakers and attendants seemed so honest to me, I really could see they were trying to teach and share their knowledge but also some relevant personal experiences, which is not what I was used to when comparing with other non-ACT related conferences and professional meetings.
  • Processes: Such a beautiful pieces of therapist and client interactions/ demonstrations, along with subsequent analyses of the main processes involved in these therapeutic movements. This was so important for me and such a generous thing to do from those who let us see them performing either through videos or live.
  • Interesting emphasis on the basic model that supports the 3rd generation therapies: Relational Frames Theory. One of my aims was to update my knowledge about basic language and behavior mechanism and I felt that I achieved it. Well done! .
  • Few options for beginners at the conference: understanding RFT can be hard if there are no introductory theory workshops. Some initial ideas about how to deal with specific clinical situations could have been helpful too for those who are starting to approach ACT and want to know more about how they could use it at their own work settings.
  • Few options for advanced levels: If ACT professionals are mainly being trained through workshops and conferences, there should be also some advance skills/theory training within an international conference like this. I found some of the workshops a little bit broad and general for people who were quite fluent in ACT
  • Steve Hayes’ talk: Sometimes, when you attend workshops, magic happens. There are speakers that really raise our level of understanding and analysis, and Steve Hayes’ talk on why Science needs Contextual Science was a great example. I believe this is one of the greatest gifts you can get of a conference: to get to see beyond the known and lead you to new future challenges or new relationships between constructs with wider perspectives.
  • Being an observer of FAP processes at Bob Kohlenberg & Mavis Tsai conference: the importance of therapeutic relationships and interactions to validate, to model, point out and influence client behavior through observation and identification of clinically relevant behavior’s. How to identify a difficult situation and use it for the benefit of therapy instead of avoiding it for the relief of the therapist. (https://functionalanalyticpsychotherapy.com/)
  • The moment I realised how I lucky I was when I found out that the colleague I was going to spend the two following months with (Joe Oliver) was such a skilled and smart clinician and trainer. Joe Oliver and Eric Morris presented their work on psychosis and the way they did it has really changed something about the way I want to do presentations from now on (thanks guys!). Cool reflections and further discussions on significant aspects in an animated and funny way. All trainings should be like this!
  • “American style”. Do any American colleagues share the feeling that there was a large predominantly American character conference rather than international? This is making me think a lot about the power structures and the historical hierarchy of the system, maybe this would need to get some further attention in following post. Hopefully, professionals from Asia, Europe or South America among others, will soon take a step forward and show more of their work and projects to increase the conference’s diversity and be even more representative.

In July, I was invited to join Joe Oliver to one of the places where he was going to talk about ACT and RFT. That was at the British Psychology Society DCP East of England Conference  in Cambridge and it sounded so good to me! Combining learning and travel is one of my favorite ways of spending a day (and a life). I´d never been to Cambridge and was also a great day for knowing the therapist´s work in the UK.

Girton College, Cambridge
Girton College, Cambridge

Again, many people from different backgrounds, working in NHS settings, got together within a proper Cambridge college : ) – listening and discussing concepts such as acceptance, compassion and the foundations of behavior and language from an ACT / RTF perspective.

It was so nice to observe myself there, noticing and experiencing my own communication and understanding limits and barriers, trying to absorb everything that was being said.  When I felt I had lost the track, I enjoyed being aware of something I just loved: the way British people act in terms of social behavior and respect between them (rules, times, speaking turns, tone of voice when speaking, use of language, calm when talking and when moving…). If only I could just bring all that to my work settings in Spain – it would be very significant for me and a big and better change to start with. I´ll just give a try to some changes in the way I do active listening in meetings and sessions (big challenge for me!) and I´ll improve my tasks and appointments organization techniques, these two things are core skills on a psychologist work and people here is doing really well.

It was a big comfort for me too to get to speak with other colleagues in Cambridge who, like me, are feeling drained and exhausted sometimes after having worked as therapist for a while. Feelings of not being strong enough to manage this job have been one of the disturbing and quite secret thoughts I have had in the last year. But when we were working in groups, there was such an open and honest vibe that I decided I wanted to share this openly and without shame.  I talked about how I am genuinely feeling being a therapist sometimes. It is funny that I had to come to the UK to talk about me, my struggles, and be able not to get some rejection comments back, telling me I should know already how not to have these fears and feelings anymore. Discovering that many of us are feeling the same too AND we are still working, learning, and helping others has put me closer to this country and what I am learning from its people.


Me in Manchester
Me in Manchester

The BACBP Conference in Manchester has been the 3rd Conference I have attended so far, can’t complain at all. Joe Oliver and Richard Bennett had some workshops there and I went to see what they had prepared.

This time the topic was VALUES and the way therapists could use them to work with their clients. I am familiar with the values issue but I was still interested in seeing what new material this conference could bring, and, yes, one more time: surprise!.  When I thought I was just there to, maybe, learn some more nice theory about values, what I got went further than this. One of the main features of training I am enjoying and realizing is how important it is that there is a smart mix of theory, persona lexperiences thought guided exercises and, after that, accurate and practical tips and exercises for clinical work with patients. This is exactly what all those lot of people who attended the class got from the workshop. No single part of the workshop could work without the other, so, again, value learning for me that needs to be remembered when designing trainings: theory, personal exercises and client exercises. Although these three aspects may not be enough to create a good talk or training, since the personal characteristics and skills of the communicators were excellent too. I feel so envious…

In the following post I will go deepen in the values that I am finding more relevant in psychologists. All these experiences (conferences, meetings, talks, etc) have really made me see the core importance of embracing some ways of approaching my work and business and I don´t want to miss all this reflections now that I just have been able to see, with some perspective, some keys points about who I am and who I want to be as a psychologist.

See you soon then!




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