Dear ISST Colleagues
I appreciate the confidence you have shown in me in electing me as President for the next two years. It is an honour and a privilege. As outgoing President, Eckhard Roediger, showed at the Vienna conference in July, our Society is going from strength to strength and I hope I can contribute to promoting that further. I am very much aware that I am part of a team and that we have great continuity as Eckhard has taken over the considerable responsibilities of the position of Treasurer (and legal issues), Joan Farrell will be continuing her sterling work in the Training and Certification portfolio, Travis Atkinson, who made such a massive contribution in developing and maintaining the website and promoting the Vienna conference, will continue in the Public Affairs portfolio, and Chris Hayes continues to contribute his experience as Secretary. I also have the pleasure of welcoming Remco van der Wijngaart (Vice President) and Paul Kasyanik (Research and Scientific Issues) to the Board. We are a truly international organization and it is good to see this reflected on our Board with members from Germany (Eckhard), the Netherlands (Remco), Russia (Paul), the USA (Joan and Travis), Australia (Chris) and South Africa (myself). I would also like to express my appreciation to the outgoing Board members Alexandra Schosser, Kristin Zickenheimer and Eshkol Rafaeli for their significant contributions to the running of the ISST during the past two years. I also thank those who made themselves available in the election but who were not elected this time. Being a member of the board is only one way of contributing to the Society. Many other members are involved as part of Special Interest Groups (see http://www.schematherapysociety.org/Special-Interest-Groups ) or on various committees appointed by the Board. If there is an area you would like to be involved in please let me know.
Being a schema therapist is a challenging lifestyle! Each client we work with faces us with important questions. I know that I expect to find new challenges and learn something new every day and I know from having the privilege of working with some of you in supervision that this is the kind of commitment you bring to your role as a psychotherapist, and, in particular, as a schema therapist. As schema therapists we can draw on the practical interventions of the cognitive and behavioural arms of therapy, the rich emotion-focused work of the experiential and hypnotherapeutic traditions, and relational work pioneered by so many psychodynamic traditions. But this very diversity is itself makes big demands on us. Working with the relationship can be particularly challenging especially for cases where there are obstacles to establishing a reparenting bond. It is perhaps then most of all that we recognize the pervasiveness and implicit quality of schemas and just how great is the challenge of articulating them and making them explicit. Such cases that are most likely to trigger my supervisees’ schemas - and my own (though mine get triggered by other things too!) and I need to give attention to trying to jump off the schema roundabout myself
I have been involved in editing a book that focused on the role of case based research in developing clinical knowledge as a complement to running clinical trials. In it, there are several references to Gordon Paul’s (1967, p. 111) oft quoted question: “What treatment, by whom, is most effective for this individual with that specific problem, and under which set of circumstances?” This is a call to an idiographic approach in science and clinical practice, one that recognizes the limitations of general principles that apply to the average person (who of course does not really exist at all). It reminds us that every case is different and that what worked well for one client may not work at all for the one I am sitting with now. In the same spirit, schema therapists will be asking, “What approach, what focus, what intervention, will meet the needs of this client today?” We also know that whatever we have planned may not be appropriate when the client arrives in a crisis or with unexpected emotions in the foreground. In facing these complexities, the schema therapy model reminds us that schema therapy is not just about specific techniques, but about how we work with the case conceptualization to choose interventions that will help the client on a journey to finding a less distressed and more meaningful life. We know that the conceptualization will evolve and change over time. For some clients, emotion focused work and imagery rescripting may be the heart of the therapy. But for others we need to focus on building the Healthy Adult because, without that, emotion focused work may get little traction. Time and again, with a complex case, we may discover our conceptualization has failed to address the client’s problem and we are guided to go back and look even deeper!
It is clinically focused discussions of these kinds of challenges, and the creativity of the therapists at the front line, that allow schema therapy to evolve and grow to address ever more complex clinical presentations. I have been privileged to see this in action in the meetings of the Couples and Trauma SIGs and I am sure members of other SIGs have the same experience. The ISST is a wonderful meeting place for supporting and promoting these developments, at its conferences and summer schools, through its SIGs, the Schema Therapy Bulletin, and other forms of networking and through the structure it provides for maintaining standards of training and certification. I look forward to seeing how this creativity continues to infuse our Society over the next two years.
Schema Therapy Institute of South Africa
01 November 2016
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