Dear ESTD Members,
I am honored to be your new president, as ESTD enters its 2nd decade of existence. We are a young but important organization, going through a major transition; right now, we are facing a number of challenges and opportunities, which I will discuss below. We will all need to work closely together in the years to come, to ensure our future stability.
The field of trauma and dissociation has relevance not only for clinical work, but also for organizational, societal, and cultural relationships and disruptions. The opposite of dissociation is integration – and we can see the tension between these two playing out on every level of human life – from the microrelationships of neurons in the human brain to the macro-relationships of human nation states. In some contexts, dissociation is clearly useful and adaptive, while in others, it can be quite destructive. You as ESTD members, and ESTD as an organization, have chosen to recognize this, and to work toward a greater understanding of the impact of trauma and dissociation, and a minimization of its detrimental effects. It is hardly an exaggeration to state that, if we are to survive as a human race, such work is of the greatest importance.
As your new president, I must recognize those who have come before me. Eva Zimmermann has led ESTD most capably over the last two years. Eva presided over a successful conference in Amsterdam, initiated and oversaw the transition to a new website, helped to develop an exciting new logo, and made sure that ESTD was well-positioned at the birth of the new French organization, Association Francophone du Trauma et de la Dissociation (AFTD), to maintain future good relationships. We were very lucky to have Eva’s leadership and enthusiasm (not to mention her multi-lingual skills!) at this crucial time. She has also been closely involved with the planning for the Berne conference, which is going very well. Eva is now our Past President, so we will still have the opportunity to take advantage of her knowledge and experience over the next 20 months. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Manoëlle Hopchet, who left the board last December having completed her term as Past President. This was a great loss for the board, as Manoëlle was an instrumental part of ESTD from the beginning, and a very valuable and experienced board member. Her expertise, patience and diplomatic skills will be sorely missed! Manoëlle’s position on the board will need to be filled, so there will be elections soon for this post.
Now, turning to our immediate challenges – the new journal and website will both be unveiled in the next few months. Indeed, by the time you read this, our new website should be active and, if it is not, will be just around the corner – and the 1st edition of the new European Journal of Trauma and Dissociation will be on its way. The new website will make life considerably easier for all of us – not only with regard to accessing resources but also in terms of new member notifications, updates, etc. It has, unfortunately, turned out to be considerably more complicated and time-consuming to transition to the new website than was originally envisioned; board member Raphaël Gazon has been working very hard on this, and has employed some students to help, so ESTD can keep the costs down.
In general, communication within ESTD could certainly be improved, which will be one of the major goals for the near future. There needs to be smoother communication between the board and ESTD country representatives, and better mechanisms for country representatives to communicate quickly and easily with ESTD members from their own country. The new website should go a long way toward improving this.
The first issue of the European Journal of Trauma and Dissociation is now in press, which is a major step for us as an organization, and is likely to significantly raise the profile of ESTD. It will have eight important articles – five in English and three in French; future editions are expected to have a somewhat larger English/French ratio – which is important for having the journal abstracted in Science Direct and other indexes. While ESTD membership fees have increased by €35 to support the journal, we expect that it will be successful and will actually earn money for ESTD in the future. You are to be thanked for supporting the journal, and the increase in membership fees (the first time in 10 years!).
While the new journal, co-published with AFTD, will be in English and French (with abstracts in both languages), the publisher has agreed that we may translate certain articles into other languages, such as Spanish or Italian, for publication on the members’ only section of our website. The ESTD board recognizes the vital importance to our organization of employing European languages, in addition to English, as much as possible – on our website and in conferences. Indeed, the Berne conference is the first ESTD conference to structure presentation tracks in three languages – English, French and German, and we will gradually be adding material to our website in a variety of languages other than English. The Berne conference, under the superb leadership of Jan Gysi, looks to be the ESTD highlight for 2017, and probably for many years to come. A one-of-a-kind event, Berne 2017 will be the first trauma conference to blend law enforcement, judicial and clinical perspectives on child abuse. It will provide a unique opportunity to inform non-clinical professionals of the clinical impact of child abuse, and the manifestations of dissociation, but also for clinicians to learn from them about the realities and challenges of dealing with child abuse in the legal and law enforcement worlds. Read more about the conference at estd2017.org and register early – you will not want to miss this most important event!
To move from dissociation to integration, one must build relationships. One of the major challenges for ESTD in the coming years will be how to negotiate and sustain our relationships with existing and developing regional trauma and dissociation organizations, which now include not only Israel, Germany and France, but a number of other European countries (and more to come). We must find the right balance between supporting and encouraging regional efforts to improve the understanding of trauma and dissociation, which the language and country-specific organizations can provide, and maintaining a strong and vibrant European-wide trauma and dissociation organization. It is essential, for ESTD’s survival, and for the continued development of the trauma and dissociation field in Europe, that the correct balance be found. I, and the ESTD board, are committed to ensuring that all dissociation organizations in Europe, from small to large, work well together and do not compete with each other.
In additional to relationships with European national organizations, ESTD’s relationships with international organizations are also of great importance. We have had a close relationship for many years with EMDR Europe, but even that good relationship could be improved. With ESTSS, the European Society for Trauma and Stress Studies, we have a somewhat harder task. As is the case with ISTSS, international trauma organizations appear to have a rather ambivalent relationship with dissociation. This is a complex problem, but not insurmountable; let’s hope to see some improvement in the future.
But our most important international relationship is with ISSTD, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. While this relationship has always been characterized by mutual support and respect, communication has not always been optimal. I am quite confident, however, that this will change, particularly as Martin Dorahy, the current President of ISSTD, is a very close colleague of mine. We are in regular contact about a variety of matters, and have agreed to have Skype conferences every few months to discuss matters of mutual interest between ISSTD and ESTD.
One of these initiatives has already borne fruit. As you can read about in this issue of the newsletter, ISSTD and ESTD have formed a research ‘task force’ to address a number of cutting edge issues or questions in our field, with the goal of making dissociation and the dissociative disorders better understood and more widely accepted by the general clinical and research community. Martin and I have gathered a number of experts from within ESTD and ISSTD, formed groups to address six key issues, and asked clinicians and researchers with expertise in these areas to join us. The goal is to produce high level publications of broad scientific interest in the near future, to orient the field and guide research in the years to come, and to address the concerns and misconceptions of those unfamiliar with the profound consequences of trauma and dissociation.
I believe that ESTD is a great organization. I am very proud to be have been a member for years and now to be its new President. I plan to continue the good work started by Eva and Manoëlle and, before them, Remy Aquarone, Eli Somer and Suzette Boon. ESTD is now a very safe place for trauma and dissociation clinicians; I am committed to maintaining this, but at the same time want to see ESTD become more attractive to scientists and researchers. We can have a big tent!
Finally, on a personal note, my wife and I moved to Germany last year, where I have taken a position as Professor of Psychology at a small American institution, Touro College Berlin. As some of you know, I have moved a lot in recent years – from the U.S. to New Zealand, then to Scotland, Denmark, and now Germany. But I’m very happy here, am slowly learning German, and do not plan to move again! I expect to see all of you (no excuses!) in Berne this November!
With warm wishes (or Mit freundlichen Grüßen),
From ESTD Newsletter Volume 6, Number 1, March 2017