Here’s another interview on the topic of the recent IEDTA-conference. This time we sit down with the IEDTA Vice President and Head of education, Leone Baruh, and talk about the conference as well as the newly developed format of ISTDP for families and couples: TIF.
How do you feel about the Boston conference? The conference exceeded my expectations in many ways. I experienced the Boston meeting with pleasure and enthusiasm, enjoying the fruits of the hard work of integration, carried out over the past 5 years, between models and different people. I joined the IEDTA Board during the 2014 Washington conference. Besides me, that Board included five wonderful persons: Michael Alpert, Kees Cornelissen, Allen Kalpin, Nat Kuhn and our inexhaustible president Kristin Osborn. I will be forever grateful to Kristin for having marked the path we are following. The personal goal that I set for myself at the time can be summed up in a word shared by the entire board: inclusivity. I believe that the fifty and more Boston presentations explain and show how much the IEDTA community has matured over the years.
What did you find most surprising or exciting about the conference?
The curiosity and the open-mindedness of the participants. When I heard the questions and answers at the end of the presentations I felt that openness, and not controversy, prevailed. I realized that our community is finally ready to grow up and become an adult.
Was there any specific contribution that stood out to you?
I was impressed by the value of the presentations overall. With so many contributions inspired by all the different souls of IEDTA, there was a real risk that quality would be compromised. Instead I saw young colleagues so eager to share and show their intuitions, so able to amaze us with the quality of their therapies that, at the end of the first day, I decided to leave (with great sorrow, I have to admit) the great hall and focus on lesser-known topics and speakers.
Can you tell us about your contribution at the conference?
The entire board worked hard for about two years to make the Boston conference a success and we’re proud of the result in terms of participation, climate and overall satisfaction. There’s no need to specify everyone’s contribution because we all did our best, but we all owe a debt of gratitude to Nat Kuhn for taken over a double role: President of the IEDTA and organizer of the conference. A personal sacrifice that only a few would have accepted in his place. Thanks Nat.
Moving on to the topic of TIF, how did you end up developing ISTDP for families and couples?
The full story is a long one and I’m afraid it might bore your readers. To summarize, I can say that in the nineties as a young psychologist, during my specialization in ISTDP, I saw for the first time the videos of Davanloo and Sifneos. I also had the good fortune to know privately and collaborate professionally with Gianfranco Cecchin. Boscolo and Cecchin are worldwide known for having founded the Milanese Family Therapy Center, better known as The Milan Approach.
In the nineties in Saronno we experimented with the first form of family therapy centered on the symptoms and problems of children. The team was composed of Cecchin, two extraordinary child neuropsychiatrists and a me as a young psychologist. It was a short and intense period. Unfortunately no clinical evidence was kept – I only have anecdotal memories from that time. After twenty years of working with ISTDP I felt a growing desire to better understand that Saronno period and to check if it was possible to create cross-fertilization spaces between those two worlds: ISTDP and family therapy.
In Italy I’ve been collaborating for years with a fantastic group of experienced ISTDP therapists ready to take up and share the challenges that I launch. Thus came about the core training in Bologna, Castelfranco Veneto, Rimini and Padua. This is also how the exciting challenges related to ISTDP applied to the context of professional sport and to couples, families and children within families were born.
Can you tell us some of the things you’ve learned while developing TIF?
The TIF formula (Intergenerational Family Therapy) prescribes the presence of at least two therapists who take charge of the family in a constant positive reciprocal communicative attitude. If these two therapists are inexperienced in couple dynamics, the therapists become three and the third will have the function of supervisor of the two therapists. Three therapists are provided even if the symptomatic patient is only one – the child. The last frontier of TIF – what we’re in the process of developing now – is an ISTDP-informed therapy for children and adolescents. Up until now, we’ve been using techniques from CBT when dealing with the symptomatic issues of the children.
Working with TIF, we’ve learned a lot about our own vulnerability to splitting and projections, and how easy it is for therapists to fall into the trap of thinking that the problem is not in the couple’s relationship, but in one of the two partners. Being an expert therapist has partially mitigated this attitude, but it’s hard work.
What can you tell us about the outcomes of the 40 families so far treated with TIF?
I could lose myself in the amount of information we are acquiring thanks to the outcomes (and insights) on the families treated. In the coming years we’re planning to present and better teach the model in the centers that will request our help. We have contacts with different contexts in Europe and the USA and we are open to new collaborations.
If I must choose a single aspect that captures my interest in this period, I’d say that it concerns the correlation (not yet statistically evaluated) between pressure to awareness and outcome. As ISTDP clinicians, we are used to thinking of Pressure as pressure to feeling and to believe that without emotional breakthroughs it’s difficult to achieve significant and stable results. If this is true for individual therapies, it may not be so for couples. My hypothesis is that some types of couples that struggle to function correspond to patients that in ISTDP we would evaluate on the fragility spectrum. This seems to be true even when the two persons that form the couple aren’t fragile. According to this hypothesis, the pressure to awareness helps the couple become more capable of intellectualizing about their difficulties and conflicts, and it contributes to shifting the couple from the territory of fragility to the territory of neurosis.
What would you like say to people thinking about going to the next conference in Venice in 2021?We have the serious intention of making Venice 2021 a mythical event! IEDTA congresses are always a great opportunity for professional enrichment and, keeping the value of the presentations at a very high level. This time we wish to favor the relational, human and interpersonal dimension. We want this conference to be an unforgettable experience not only for the therapist, but also for the precious human being who lives it. We want it to be amore.
On the topic of the IEDTA conference in Boston, we’ve previously interviewed Allan Abbass, Jon Frederickson, Vidar Husby and Elisabet Rosén:
Allan Abbass: “It is very important for mainstream medicine to realize the impact of attachment trauma on healthcare use”
Jon Frederickson: “Hearing a paper only helps you get better at hearing papers”
Vidar Husby: “Precis som patienten behöver terapeuten en korrigerande upplevelse”
Elisabet Rosén: “Det var oerhört inspirerande att se och lyssna på allt detta, men också att få bidra till konferensen.”