Finding Community: Reflections on a Conference Experience

If you were one of the hundreds of counselors, psychologists and social workers to attend theColorado Mental Health Professionals Conference this past weekend, you were privileged to an incredible experience.

Through the collaborative efforts of multiple professional membership associations, one of the countries largest mental health conferences did not disappoint.

From Dr. Irvin Yalom’s keynote interview to the wide variety of breakout sessions, it was truly wonderful to witness the strength in community that this profession requires. Psychotherapy can most definitely be considered an art, one in which the finished product is never displayed, sold or advertised. Because of this many psychotherapists have a tendency to feel isolated in their work, especially those that work in private practice settings. It seems that this conference truly overshadowed the sense of isolation that is often inherent in this work. Instead, an opportunity for support, networking, learning and friendship was offered as a much needed refreshment to the difficult work that psychotherapy entails.

With over 100 breakout sessions offered, professionals were afforded the opportunity to witness and learn from a diverse group of practicing mental health specialists. It is certainly safe to say that the quantity and variety of these breakout sessions was astonishing; ranging from video game addiction, to how diet impacts mood and even how utilizing heroic myths can facilitate therapeutic growth in adolescents. These learning opportunities justified the hefty price tag that a conference admission required, especially considering the many continuing education credits that attendees may have accumulated. While these learning opportunities were quite impressive, these were only the tip of the iceberg.

Attendees were offered the opportunity to touch base with agencies, professional associations, group practice organizations, treatment facilities and educators. This allowed for professionals to meet with potential employers, strengthen their professional networks and even to simply touch base with old friends. Keynote presentations from inspiring leaders in the field of psychotherapy were found to be both rejuvenating and encouraging. From the infamous wisdom of Dr. Irvin Yalom, to the humor that can facilitate advocacy in the Man Therapy campaign, these keynote presentations did not disappoint.

In a field of helpers and healers, where compassion fatigue, secondary trauma and burnout are prevalent issues, the extent to which this event created community is truly monumental.

Community allows for much needed support, empathy and professional insight in the difficult work that we do. Furthermore, a united community has the strength to influence legislation, bolster advocacy efforts and become evermore effective in helping those that require the support of a caring mental health professional. It becomes increasingly evident that this gathering of caring professionals not only benefits attendees, but more importantly this benefits our communities as we become more effective and better supported in the work that we do.

It has been said that our strength will grow through community and in this instance, the strength of our community has the power to strengthen the hearts and minds of many.

Considering the positive impact that this event has had, those that organized/sponsored this event most definitely deserve some kudos. If it weren’t for the leadership of participating professional organizations, we may have missed the opportunity to gather in support of one another and our community at large. With this being said, to all of the organizers, sponsors, presenters and attendees… Thank You! And for those of you who may have missed out, I would strongly encourage you to make it a priority in the upcoming year.

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