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ISST Executive Board Media Coordinator Report 2018 to 2020

by Travis Atkinson

After serving for six years for ISST, my final term as ISST Media Coordinator required intense work as the world as we knew it in some ways turned upside down with the coronavirus pandemic. With a rapidly growing membership base, nearly topping the 2,100 member threshold, the needs of the organization have expanded, especially during the necessary transitions during lockdown periods.

ENLIGHT 2019: Diving Deeper into Schema Therapy

ENLIGHT 2019 was successfully held in Edinburgh May 1 – 3, 2019. Working closely with Chris Hayes, who originally help chose the venue as ISST’s Executive Board Secretary from the prior term, and his replacement for this term, Susan Simpson, we organized a schedule that included full-day workshops over the three days, along with entertainment each evening. I also worked extensively with Eckhard Roediger, ISST’s Treasurer, to plan and execute a budget for the conference that met ISST’s requirements to run a successful conference within guidelines that balanced costs and profit. A highlight was the featured keynote address by the founder of ISST and schema therapy, Dr. Jeffrey Young. The event sold out, and reviews of the event were excellent.

I promoted and marketed ENLIGHT 2019, designed the registration portal, and created and developed the ENLIGHT 2019 Schema Events App, a complete app available on iOS and Android devices, along with a web app for all browsers. Participants used the app to navigate their selections, to chat with other participants and presenters, to download slides, and to stay in touch long after ENLIGHT 2019 concluded. A working collaboration was developed with Sara Cavero and her team at MCL Create, chosen by Susan Simpson, that proved to be our best experience working with a conference organizer, which we hope to continue working with for future conferences.

INSPIRE 2020 in Copenhagen: Reinventing the Therapeutic Relationship

INSPIRE 2020: Working intensely together with Susanne Vind, ISST’s Executive Board Vice President, and the organizing committee consisting of Jeff Conway, ISST’s Executive Board Training Coordinator, Alexandra Schosser, ISST’s Executive Board Science & Research Coordinator, and Paul Kasyanick, ISST’s Executive Board Certification Coordinator, we planned an extensive program for three days in Copenhagen, with 12 tracks of intensive workshops on Day 1, and three segments of 13 tracks for Days 2 and 3. In addition, I collaborated extensively with Eckhard Roediger to follow budgetary guidelines and to help plan the event from his many experiences with ISST’s conferences since 2008. I designed the portal that participants used to make their selections, and extensive resource for the more than 700 registered participants. I also worked to market and promote INSPIRE 2020 extensively. ISST hired an outside developer to create the registration tool, different from ENLIGHT 2019 and INSPIRE 2018. The tool ran into difficulties that we did not have control of, helping us learn from the experience for future conferences. 

From my personal travels on holidays in Hong Kong in the middle of December, 2019, I was aware of the potential for a major shift in our plans for INSPIRE 2020 due to the coronavirus, and was regularly in contact with Susanne Vind and Eckhard Roediger about potential decisions that were possible. I developed a comprehensive protocol with best guidelines to protect our participants, if we were able to still hold an in-person conference. Contractually we were in a bind with the venue, and had to also be mindful of financial consequences for ISST -- though we always held safety of participants as our first priority. By the first week of March, Denmark had banned large gatherings, leading to the necessity to reschedule INSPIRE 2020. Susanne Vind worked out details with extensive negotiations to try to protect participants as much as possible from their financial commitments with the venue and social events, along with Eckhard Roediger’s work. They were able to reschedule INSPIRE 2020 for June 2021, though we realize that may be highly optimistic. I have since suggested, and the Executive Board agreed, to change INSPIRE 2020 to a hybrid event, with the possibility it may need to be entirely virtual, depending on the pandemic.

2020 ISST Virtual Summit: BETTER TOGETHER

Virtual Summit: through many discussions with Executive Board Members, some of which came from highly divergent ideas, I proposed that ISST had the resources to offer a bonus virtual conference for INSPIRE 2020 participants, along with the option for those who did not plan to participate at INSPIRE 2020. I strongly advocated that it should be a full program over three days instead of a few video presentations, since the financial crisis that developed due to the coronavirus pandemic could severely threaten ISST’s budget if too many INSPIRE 2020 participants requested refunds, a potentially disastrous scenario for the organization. We included a disclaimer for participants of the virtual summit that allotted a value to each ticket, protecting ISST with a guaranteed income that will keep the organization in a strong financial state through 2021, even if INSPIRE 2020 needs to go virtual again, a major triumph for ISST.

I invited all INSPIRE 2020 presenters who were interested to present for the virtual summit. A large number volunteered, and I planned a full schedule for the three days that included morning and afternoon yoga from an incredible instructor from Germany, Julia Weiss. I deeply appreciate the many presenters who volunteered their time to share their skills and knowledge in schema therapy throughout the three days. Each selection was recorded, and participants will be able to watch presentations repeatedly through a year after the summit ended, a great way to learn than many participants have appreciated. From our keynotes to even the shortest selections, ISST members rose to the occasion over a short amount of time to give participants a treasure of educational value. I worked to prepare each presenter as well with how to best adapt presentations to a virtual format, providing technical advice and best-practice suggestions for virtual events.

I created and developed the virtual platform together with a team from Eventify, closely directing the programmer regarding our needs for the virtual summit. Many of the resources had to be developed from scratch, since this was a new forum, and Scott Spencer from Eventify worked hard to help make the event run as smoothly as possible. The Schema Summit App is available for iOS and Android devices, as well as any web browser. I also worked closely with my assistant, Marlon Quijije, spending an enormous amount of time integrating Vimeo recordings with the Schema Summit App. I also worked hard to rapidly promote and market the summit. Over 700 participants enrolled, with 176 new registrants separate from the INSPIRE 2020 participants, making it a financial success on many levels for ISST.

In addition, two weeks before the virtual summit, on behalf of ISST, I brought on Sara Cavero and Brendan Keegans of MCL Create to help with the logistics of running the summit. They were a tremendous help, meeting with presenters before the summit to go through a checklist of how to best present during live questions and answers segments, along with live presenters. Sara and Brendan also went through each selection with fine details to make suggestions from the many aspects involved. There were a thousand elements to making the virtual summit happen, with only a few glitches along the way—an impressive accomplishment considering a short time span to plan and implement a virtual summit with new technology that had not yet been proven. 

I did some extensive research to find entertainment groups from the United States for each night of the virtual summit, including the bistro jazz ensemble, Les Zazous, who have performed at premier events including at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl for Day 1, the incredibly talent duet, Carly & the King, who won the “Best of” awards from Gigmasters and the Bash awards from 2016 through 2019 for Day 2. The final day of the virtual summit included a virtual extravaganza that I put together, after researching and interviewing several talented options. The Closing Ceremony was performed by La Santa Damiana, a Fire Dancer originally from Germany residing in the US who performed 20 minutes of mesmerizing fire-breathing, fire hooping, and fire dancing. I included the creation of two promo videos for our planned ENLIGHT 2021symposium (which was previously scheduled for Melbourne, Australia) and INSPIRE 2022 conference in Washington, D.C. (details still to come depending on the outcome of INSPIRE 2020 for 2021). 

The virtual extravaganza started with a “virtual cocktail hour” with Cale, lead by Victor Torres and Jose Prieto, magically blending Rumba and Flamenco with Latin and Pop Rock rhythms. Jose and Victor have performed with top talent, including Jon Secada, David Bowie, and Kenny G. The extravaganza continued with “America’s Bocelli,” opera singer Nick Palance for our “virtual GALA.” The close of the virtual summit peaked with our “virtual dance party,” featuring the Emmy-award winning singer/songwriter Patrick Sieben and his Las Vegas Band, performing in their studios on the Las Vegas Strip inside Mandalay Bay. We were incredibly fortunate to have such talented entertainment throughout the three days of the virtual summit.

Media Coordinator Tasks and the Future

The regular marketing tasks I performed during the 2018 to 2020 term included promoting and marketing email blasts for all things ISST, including the Schema Therapy Bulletin in collaboration with Susan Simpson and Lissa Parsonette, ISST webinars with Susan Simpson, Chris Hayes and Andrew Phipps, and more. I created the custom designed emails, which take many hours each to create, along with posting items to the ISST website, and adjusting and improving the overall design of the website.

Before the end of this term, I will be working to help the ISST Office seek assistance to efficiently meet the needs of members, restructuring our office organization in collaboration with Eckhard Roediger and the hard-working and talented Angeles Hoffmann, who has worked behind-the-scenes in the ISST Office for many years to keep ISST functioning. I will also be working to help the incoming Media Coordinator, when they take office in November of 2020, to transition into the position and be successful at marketing INSPIRE 2020, along with the many tasks involved in the position.

The next two years will be a time of change for ISST, especially with the departure of Eckhard Roediger, David Edwards, and myself from the ISST Executive Board. From many years of working together with Eckhard and Dave, along with the other dedicated and passionate members ISST's Executive Board, I anticipate a bright future for ISST and its growing membership, despite the many challenges we may face together.  

I thank the many people within ISST for all of their assistance as the organization has grown. The incredibly hard work of Executive Board members is outlined in each report on the GMA site, and you can see how much hard work and dedication goes into each position. Since I started on the Executive Board in 2014, I have collaborated with Eckhard Roediger, who has worked tirelessly since I have known him to help ISST flourish. David Edwards has been a stabilizing force as President for four years, helping ISST develop in necessary areas. I am grateful for the many opportunities members of ISST and the Executive Board have provided me to help serve the organization, and to expand the theory and model of schema therapy throughout the world -- we truly are better together!

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Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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