Therapist Affect Phobia: Reflections from Kristin Osborn from our 2 Day Virtual Conference

On Saturday, March 21st and Sunday, March 22nd with only 5 days of preparation, I hosted a 2 day virtual event: Introduction to Affect Phobia Therapy: Our Patients, Our Own and Our Work with Clients organized with the help of Dr. Alexander BeeBee and Dr. Bruce Spring of the West Coast ISTDP Consortium (WIC). This event was originally supposed to take place in Los Angeles, but as the world witnessed the spread of COVID-19 it was clear that an in-person conference wasn’t going to happen.

With the emerging international crisis, we mobilized quickly to move my stage from Los Angeles to the comfort of my home in Boston. We changed the event to an online event, upgraded my Zoom account, and sent an announcement through our mailing list, listserv, and social media.

I quickly scrambled to adjust my presentation and schedule to include guest speakers, shorter video segments, an increased focus on working remotely and therapist self care. For example, I discussed how to use the Zoom video-conferencing platform in these unusual times, focusing on a patient who, for various reasons, had to do her session with me from a (parked) car.

Behind the scenes, Alex and Bruce confirmed that we could still offer CME and CE credits and introduced my assistant, Lori Cogliano, to Eventbrite. Once on Eventbrite, Lori asked participants to sign a privacy notice that Steve Shapiro helpfully shared with us as well as a process to ensure that attendees were mental health professionals. She then sent an invitation to participants to join our Zoom meeting.

Over 60 health care professionals attended both days from all over the world and a number of countries including Trinidad, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Italy!

On the first day, we focused on learning the basics of APT. One of the highlights was welcoming the President of the IEDTA, Dr. Allan Abbass, as our guest speaker. His presence was reassuring and inspirational as he explained that our current crisis may help some of our patients experience emotional breakthroughs even if we are working online. Bruce played his harmonica at the end of each break and we found a way to get to know one another by introducing ourselves, commenting in the chat window, or simply asking questions of each other. The first day ended with a sense of victory- somehow, someway, we all came together.

On the second day, we directed our focus to working remotely and exploring Therapist Affect Phobia. Jenny Svebeck of Stockholm University, shared her experiences as a trainee in the Stockholm Certified APT™-Core Training and brought us through her process of identifying and resolving a conflict she had with the emotions of anger and sadness. Dr. Robert Neborsky joined us as a guest speaker and addressed how the pandemic and working remotely impacts the process of psychotherapy. He left the audience with the sense that we have an opportunity to create change right now in our patients lives. We also welcomed Jeremy Osborn, an online education expert, who demonstrated how to create secure meetings in Zoom platform, a process many of are still getting used to. As a finale, one of the participants from Canada pulled out her guitar and sang the 14th century hymn All Shall Be Well by Julian of Norwich, a nun writing in the aftermath of the Black Plague.

As I reflect on these two virtual days, I’m glad that we went forward with the event as the Zoom platform helped me create a surprisingly intimate and interactive atmosphere.

Inspired by the dedication and spirit of the attendees, I decided to launch our first ever Therapist Affect Phobia Community Hour the day after the conference ended and was pleasantly surprised that over 22 clinicians from round the world decided to join us.

My hope is that I can help clinicians and researchers develop a deeper understanding of the tremendous role their own emotional capacity plays in the process of psychotherapy. So I’m going to continue offering what I’ve learned over the years about Therapist Affect Phobia and create a community to offer connection, support, exploration and discussion.

It’s time for health care professionals to be aware that there are two important persons in the room, the patient and themselves!

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