Recently the American Psychological Association (APA) held their annual conference here in San Francisco and Gateway staff was there to take advantage of the opportunity to update our knowledge of the most recent developments in the field. Gina Gregory, LCSW and I spent the long weekend attending workshops, presentations, and discussions in order to align ourselves with the current research about developing trends. We hoped to expand our knowledge base while developing new skills to utilize with our clients and were pleased with the result.
The main draw for us was a training in CBASP (Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy), a therapeutic modality popular in Europe but less commonly practiced in the United States. Developed by James P. McCullough, Jr, Ph.D. for the treatment of individuals living with chronic depression, this highly structured technique first aims to foster awareness of the ways in which one’s patterns of behavior, built upon early relational wounds, leave them feeling ineffective in their interpersonal interactions; overtime this begins to lead to withdrawal and isolation. By systematically analyzing specific interactions in the safe container of therapy, the client and therapist can then collaborate on novel ways of interacting with others, potentiating new outcomes and in turn leaving the individual feeling like they have more control. Overtime the patterns of isolation so prevalent in persistent depression dissipate as one begins to form stronger, healthier connections with others. To date, CBASP is the only Evidence Based Practice developed specifically for Persistent Depressive Disorder, and we believe both the theory and the technique could have a dramatic impact on the lives of those we work with here at Gateway. If this brief description peaked your curiosity about CBASP, please check out this video Dr. Forster’s created giving more detail about this type of therapy.
The rest of the conference was spent moving between presentations given by prominent figures in the field of psychology such as John Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR). While the integration of mindfulness into our practice is well-established at Gateway, Kabat-Zinn’s presentation breathed new life into our understanding of the broad applicability of developing this type of awareness as a foundation to support all aspects of one’s life, including personal development and recovery. We left invigorated and enthused, with fresh ideas about how to bring this to the forefront of our clinical work.
We found a somewhat surprising bridge between the inspirational mindfulness talk and our next highlight, a presentation given by Adam Alter, Ph.D., on his research about contemporary society’s addiction to our screens. At the mood disorder clinic, we have become keenly aware over time of the ways in which those already predisposed to difficulties with attention and distraction have seen these symptoms intensify due to the effects of their devices. While there’s no simple solution here, we found it interesting that Kabat-Zinn emphasized that mindfulness is a way of “cultivating the ‘attending function’ as a remedy to perpetual distraction”. It left us wondering about the ways in which mindfulness might be combined with other behavioral strategies to mitigate screen-time and the cognitive and psychological issues that result from our obsessions with technology. Alter also provided insight into the variety of tactics used by social media companies to keep us hooked, giving us a peak behind the curtain so that we might be able to help dismantle the strong pull they have gained over our attention.
These are just a few of the highlights from our intellectually simulating weekend. If you have any experience or thoughts about any of the topics mentioned in this post please share them with us and the Mood Surfing community–we always love to hear from you!