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Letter from the President: 2014 Conference Review

Denise Parent, LMFT, President CTAMFT

Denise Parent, LMFT, President CTAMFT

by Denise Parent, LMFT, President of CTAMFT (president@ctamft.org)

Thanks to everyone who attended the 2014 CTAMFT Annual Spring Conference at the Trumbull Marriott April 24 and 25.  For those of you who couldn’t attend, we missed you!

This year’s conference was incredibly smooth, thanks to our wonderful new Association Manager, Shannon Eterginio, and her partners in crime – former Association Manager and incoming Board member, Wendy Haggerty and Professional Development Chair and Executive Team member, Ro Coratola.  They were joined by our Professional Development Committee volunteers who make all the hard work look easy.  Thanks again to this team and our friends at the Trumbull Marriott who made both days a pleasure.

On Thursday, keynote speaker Dr. Kelly McGonigal, led an experiential presentation about the neuroscience of compassion, with outlined far-reaching possibilities for helping clinicians, couples, families and caregivers to use mindful attention to enhance and sustain “compassion.”

She was able to define a distinction between compassion and empathy, explaining how compassion, characterized by caring, “approach-based” attention promotes co-regulation of emotion and stimulates mutual refreshment, while “empathic distress” can activate fight/flight responses for both the person who is cared for and the caregiver.

Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal

A pioneer in the new field of “science help,” Dr. McGonigal uses research and science to motivate and support positive health and connection throughout the lifespan.  Dr. McGonigal practices what she preaches, and created a few moments of “mindful” communication among conference attendees.

She has generously made her presentation slides, as well as some of her audio meditations and exercises available at http://kellymcgonigal.com/ctamft/.

On Friday, we spent a few moments on business.  Please note the CTAMFT 2013 Business Report, the CTAMFT Advocacy & Legislative Report and write-ups on our Service Award recipients.   Dorothy Timmermann received CTAMFT’s Service to the Organization Award, while Robert Ryder and Past-President Jeri Hepworth were chosen for the Service to Families Award.

Congratulations to student poster winners, Allison Collins, Selena Gürman and Hyeseong Kang (link here to read more about these poster session award recipients).

Lou Cozolino

Lou Cozolino

Dr. Lou Cozolino delivered engaging, funny and story-filled presentations about “Why Therapy Works” and “The Social Brain.” He explained that during trauma, the language center of the brain shuts down, and therapy – or the “talking cure” – serves to activate its function again.  This allows for integration of experience and opening opportunities for adaptation or re-learning with replacement experiences and narratives.

Dr. Cozolino shared in his opinion, that brain research supports Bowen theory, that moderating anxiety with a balance of connection and co-regulation increases brain plasticity and adaptability.

In Dr. Cozolino’s “Social Brain” presentation, he talked about the concept of “sociostasis” – the regulation of one person’s emotions by another and discussed the evolutionary importance of “group mind” or collective/tribal stories, serving as external neurocircuits for internal regulation.

He discussed the cultural process of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another and noting how the aging brain is “wired” to tell stories again and again, and the developing child’s brain is “wired” to hear stories again and again.

He spoke about the unconscious and behavioral “downloading” of experience from generation to generation and across communities, which supports multigenerational and contextual thinking in marriage and family therapy.

Dr. Cozolino’s newest book, “The Social Neuroscience of Education: Optimizing Attachment and Learning in the Classroom,” explores techniques to create rich learning environments that are grounded in brain research.

Jeff Schutz

Jeff Schutz

Our local guest presenters, Ingeborg Haug, Jayne Deane, Jeff Schutz and Karl Speirs rounded out our program demonstrating the use of mindfulness, mind-body/yoga, neurofeedback and EMDR in innovative, family-focused and generous presentations.  Thank you Ingeborg, Jayne, Jeff and Karl for your thoughtfulness and willingness to share your discoveries.

Brain Master, our conference Presenting Sponsor, was available to demonstrate their cutting-edge equipment, which provides similar data to MRIs.  They explained that this equipment can be used in conjunction with neurofeedback training, providing symptom relief for a variety of issues, including ADHD, anxiety and depressive symptoms.  Thank you Brain Master, for supporting our conference.

Murtha Cullina, our lobbying firm, generously sponsored a portion of our conference this year, and has supported us with a host of legislative and advocacy efforts, including making important introductions to legislative committee chairs, supporting our efforts with Department of Public Health and monitoring some of the obstacles to the implementation of MFT in the schools legislation.

It was great to visit, share stories and be a part of the community of MFTs in Connecticut.

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