Highlights of Hilton Head

On the radio at 6am this morning, I heard that there were ice storms today in the Carolinas. “Pete, I am glad we were there last week and not now. We thought it was bad to freeze our hands and hit rock-like tennis balls on the tennis courts at 19 degrees, but at least we were not driving in the ice!”

We recently spent four days in Hilton Head, South Carolina, teaching and attending the conference for the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. We had a wonderful experience there in some ways very different than many California conferences.

The Conference itself was titled Psychology of Health, Immunity and Disease and participants included a wide range of practitioners from nurses and physicians to therapists of all types, researchers and allied health fields professionals.

One benefit of the conference was having meals with other participants and longer breaks that enabled more extended dialogue across professions.

When I wasn’t shivering on the tennis court or teaching workshops, I attended some very rich presentations. I’ll highlight some of my favorites…
Douglas Bremmer presented “When Stress Changes the Brain” with Stan Tatkin on“Attachment Security, and the Brain.” Together they packed an enormous amount of recent information on the brain into a short time slot. Bremmer reported that PTSD is more common in the non-military population than in the military population, even with our recent wars. He speculated that having the shared experience seems to mitigate some of the effects of PTSD vs experiencing a trauma alone, such as women who are sexually abused. He reported 16% of all women experience sexual abuse and 10% have PTSD. And Stan showed some funny and dynamic videos of couples “matching” their nonverbals even when fighting.

Bill O’Hanlon’s topic was “The Anatomy of Influence. Use the Latest Persuasion Research to be More Effective.” He gave an entertaining keynote where he reported on much of Cialdini’s work on persuasion. He strongly suggested that as therapists we are in the business of change and influence and that we can learn a great deal from the fields of marketing and advertising, particularly studying positive strategies to help our clients accept new ideas and alternative frames of reference.

Diane Poole Heller presented “Healing Attachment Wounds and Embracing the Authentic Self.”  She showed a lot of video of her work using body and somatic techniques with individual clients with different attachment styles. I particularly liked her work with a male with an avoidant attachment, in which he experimented with reaching out and allowing in nurturing support.

The conference organizer, Ruth Buczynski, was warm and generous with her hospitality to all the faculty and participants. I loved having somewhat longer breaks than usual, which allowed for interesting dialogue as well as relaxation.

Ruth made a surprise announcement that next year will be her last conference. If you’ve ever thought of attending this Conference, next year is your last opportunity. It’s a great place to learn what physical/medical issues to pay attention to in your clients (thyroid, stress, adrenal gland issues, sleep). Next year’s conference will take place December 5 – 11, 2011, with the main body of the conference being Dec. 7-10.  Put it on your calendar now!! You won’t be sorry if you take time away from hectic holiday preparations to nourish yourself and bring back lots of innovative approaches for your practice.

I look forward to a week off between Christmas and New Year's and then coming back re-energized with more couples issues, couples transcripts and updates for you from what I am learning from books and conferences, as well as from my ongoing stretch to improve my couples skills.

Happy Holidays,


P.S. If you have friends or family members, struggling to make and keep a loving relationship, you might consider our couples membership site for a holiday gift. This site is for anyone (not just therapists) who wants a loving relationship. There is lots of rich learning there. You can learn about it at www.thecouplesinstitute.com/join-our-community.

The first call in the New Year will be Pete teaching and working with strategies for overcoming Procrastination on January 14 at noon Pacific Time.

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Dr. Ellyn Bader

Dr. Ellyn Bader is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy. Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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