Wow! What a privilege to be part of the 2021 DDP International Conference: Connections at the Core.
I am still feeling energized by the coming together of the DDP community from all corners of the world and the amazing contribution of our presenters. We had people from Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, UK, USA, Canada, China, Singapore – a true testament of our stretching DDP community. We also had presenters that embodied how DDP is broadening, deepening and stretching.
Amazing experiences often combine being at the right place at the right time with hard work. I feel that our partnership with The George Hull Center was auspicious. When Leticia Gracia agreed to partner with DDPI to put on this conference, it was clear that the newly formed Child Trauma and Attachment Institute and DDPI could engage in a beautifully intersubjective relationship. The George Hull Center has made DDP a core competency for their staff. The new institute’s vision to help organizations and individuals be trauma informed and trauma responsive complemented DDPI’s ongoing commitment to bring members together to learn and be supported.
Then there was the hard work… We originally planned for an in-person conference in Toronto in the Fall of 2020. Then it became clear that Covid-19 wasn’t on our same time-frame, so we pushed it forward 6 months and then decided it was safer to create a virtual conference. Thank you so much to our presenters for their patience and the many changes of schedule. Thank you so much to Leticia, Janine, Lisa, Rose for your expertise, sense of humour and companionship in making this conference happen.
Although we missed the spontaneity of conversation over snacks and meals and the forging of new relationships and re-connection with friends and colleagues, the virtual platform had many advantages. We would not have had so many people from all over the world together if we had met in Toronto. And we saved the planet a lot of carbon footprints, which I think is an important ethical consideration. The estimate if we had done it in person would have been 148 metric tonnes. By meeting virtually, we used approximately 30 metric Tonnes. Our intention is to allocate some of the proceeds of the conference to a charity that takes care of our planet.
Our conference opened with Joe Elkerton who knows first hand the impact of intergenerational trauma, a legacy of Canada’s residential schools. He is a healer working with many vulnerable youth and adults who continue to struggle with this legacy. He acknowledged our land and introduced us to Aqua Waawaskone who sang so generously to us to let us know that we are not alone in this work and also sang a song to honour the souls of the many indigenous children who did not make it home or who made it home but with parts of their soul missing. If you are interested in hearing more of Aqua’s music and heart medicine check out this performance on YouTube. Her song ‘You are not alone’ can be found at the 9:00 minute mark.
Dan Hughes had the difficult job of following such a moving opening and did so beautifully. Dan and Diana Fosha in their workshops, question and answer periods and discussions introduced and reinforced ways that we as clinicians (as well as friends, partners and community members) can – in Diana’s phrase – “undo aloneness” and bring people into connection. It was so exciting to bring together the DDP and the AEDP communities in that endeavor.
Better together was definitely another theme of this conference. Undoing aloneness sounds so much easier that it is! Being with others who have been hurt so much by relationships requires skill, persistence, collaboration, knowledge, deep empathy, curiosity, humility, awe, creativity. The presenters in this conference brought to us both left and right brained knowing. Their expertise in combination with being together in a shared experience and intention, I think made the learning so much richer.
We were reminded that to truly create the relational safety that we need to tell our stories and integrate traumatic experiences we need to acknowledge and work to change our implicit and explicit biases. We have to understand not only the child, adolescent, parent or adult’s story from their pre and post natal experiences and early experiences but also understand how we are shaped by the experiences of our ancestors, our cultures, long histories for many of systemic oppression. When we apply a predominantly White and Western lens of medicine or “healing” we cannot undo aloneness. We can’t be with in the way that allows for healing. We just perpetuate trauma.
Dr. Patricia Vickers introduced us to the importance of understanding Indigenous practices and how those must be honoured when we work with our First Nations. Dr. Vickers integrates both Western and Indigenous practices in her healing work with individuals and communities that struggle with intergenerational trauma. She has helped recover many parts of lost souls in her work.
Randy Maldonado who specializes in working with BIPOC youth and teaching clinicians about racial trauma has been leading the DDPI community, along with others on the RESJ committee, to be more equitable and just in our practices. For those of you who were able to tune into the conference, I am sure that you will never put your seat belt on or eat tortillas without bringing to mind his wisdom around how to develop our practice with racialized and marginalized clients – how to bring to both our left and right brains the lived experiences of clients who have long histories of systemic oppression and trauma so that we can truly undo aloneness.
Dr. Helen Minnes is a professor at the University of Glasgow who combines clinical expertise with research expertise – a truly integrated right and left brain! We were reminded to have compassion for the parents who struggle to interpret signals from their children around comfort and need for autonomy and what happens when the giving and receiving signals are impaired in a dyad and complicated when systems compound these difficulties by themselves missing or misunderstanding the signals of dyads in trouble. She also briefly introduced to us the exciting developments in the first randomized control study (RIGHT Trial) that will proves what we all know anecdotally: that DDP is a powerful way of working with family relationships. Jon Baylin, a DDP icon described for us what happens on a neurobiological level when dyads struggle and how DDP principles can awaken the brain to new possibilities.
As we all soaked up the information presented during this conference we were encouraged by Hannah Sun-Reid, Dr. Johanna Stenstrom, Dr. Elizabeth Studwell and Dr. Alberto Veloso who shared with us how they embed DDP into their very different interests, populations, cultures and practices. And to finish, the Honorable Jean Augustine, who further encouraged us to do our work with grace, humility and attention to connection and self-care. She is a powerful role-model for fighting for equality and persisting in climates that are blocked and not open for listening.
I am grateful to those of you who were able to tune in live to the conference and those, who given different time-zones and commitments, were able to access the recordings in the days and weeks following. I am still energized by what we can do when we come together and hold connection at the core, how we can find ways to undo aloneness and how we hold each other accountable for taking the necessary steps to ensure our practice becomes equitable and just. I hope we continue to influence the world one PACE at a time…
Ph.D., C.Psych, DDP Practitioner, Consultant and Trainer
We’ve created a Twitter moment for the Online DDP International Conference #DDPConf2021, collating the live tweets telling the conference story. You can visit it at the link below: