This past weekend I attended the CAMFT Annual Conference in Garden Grove, California, two blocks away from Disneyland. I have attended this conference twice before, once in San Francisco and once in Los Angeles (it alternates between Norcal and Socal) and I have had mixed experiences. Of the three I have attended, this, by virtue of my selection of and/or the presenters of the sessions, was the best quality of the three.
The program was book-ended by two wonderful speakers talking about addiction. Dr. Gabor Mate framed addiction as one response to trauma and pain. The addiction is the coping or defense mechanism, not the primary problem. Dr. Adi Jaffe used his own experience with and journey to transcend addiction as a framework to talk about compassionate treatment that is accessible, affordable, and addresses the issue of abstinence. His data, his experience, and his approach present a form of treatment that addresses the barriers to treatment while taking into account that the addiction, as Dr. Mate describes, is the--dysfunctional--attempt at a solution rather than a primary problem.
Dr. Steven Sultanoff explored the use of humor in psychotherapy and how humor, when used appropriately, can be a powerful tool in the therapist's toolbox. He noted, though, that it must be intentional and directed toward the client to be useful.
Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy and her husband Aydin Olson-Kennedy LCSW presented a two pronged exploration of health issues with trans youth. Johanna, the Medical Director at The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, dove deep into the medical issues of youth in transition while Aydin, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Gender Center, presented on the mental health side of the issues. Together, they explored the impacts of the medical interventions such as hormone suppression and hormones augmentation as well as the psychosocial issues faced by trans youth. Of particular interest was Aydin's--himself a transman--reframe of Gender Dysphoria from a disorder to Gender Dysphoria Noise as an experience than many transfolk have every day before, during, and after transition. He used a powerful exercise to help the audience understand some of the things that lead to transfolk not succeeding in school, being called out, and being hyper-vigilant for danger both real and perceived.
All day Friday, David Jansen, JD, a staff attorney at CAMFT, did a great job of making the potentially dry 6 hours of required hours of Law and Ethics appealing. The framing of the topic was the Standard of Care and David used songs from three recording artist as samples for the audience to practice suicide assessments. He has a way of engaging audiences with the right amount of humor and meaningful metaphors that help me remember the material.
Saturday morning, Dr. Gary Small, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at the UCLA Longevity Center, spoke about how habits and healthy living can help prevent and mitigate the issues of aging brains. Much of the talk was seen through the lens of dealing with patients suffering from Alzheimer's Dementia and what people can do for themselves and their clients to help prevent the onset and progression of AD. Again, the right amount of humor and engagement made this an entertaining and informative session.
In the afternoon, Dr. Yamonte Cooper LPCC spoke about Racial Battle Fatigue. This session was challenging not because of the content but because of the sheer volume of information. This could easily have been an all-day 6 hour presentation and it would have barely scratched the surface. I appreciated Dr. Cooper starting with a grounding exercise to help everyone be present in the room and with the material. As someone outside of the direct experience of People of Color and in particular African American men, I think it is important to do my best to understand their experience in order to be a better clinician. This session was a jumping off point to dig deeper into this topic.
On Sunday morning, Suzanne Hughes, Executive Director of the One Life Counseling Center, spoke about tele-health including legal and ethical issues as well as her views on how to create a successful tele-health business. She highlight the pros and cons of both face to face and tele-health sessions. I appreciated her opening the discussion up to the audience to make sure we covered the topics that were most important. Copious amounts of audience input made this an informative and collaborative effort to help better understand tele-health.
Throughout the weekend Heather Brewer LMFT and I, along with other attendees and members of the CAMFT staff, live-tweeted the event using the hashtag #CAMFTLIVE. Check it out to get a sense of an event that included not only great sessions and chances to network, but also a Petting Palace featuring dogs and a pony you could pet! I look forward to next year's conference in Burlingame and to connecting with new and old friends.