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Nel Draijer 12-06-2018 Auteur: Nel Draijer

Openingsspeech wereldcongres Psychotherapy, stronger through diversity

Esteemed keynote speakers, dear international presenters, special guests from our Ministry of Health, special guests from our colleague professional organizations, dear participants from all over the world, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to the World Congress of Psychotherapy 2018.

My name is Nel Draijer; I had the pleasure to be chair of the scientific committee and I am president of the Dutch Association of Psychotherapy. I have the honor to welcome you here. We have come a long way preparing this conference and it is a wonderful experience to have you all here. A warm welcome to all of you.

The idea of this conference started in 2014 when the president of the International Federation of Psychotherapy (IFP), Prof Paul Emmelkamp, invited us, the Dutch Association of Psychotherapy, to organize it. We perceived this invitation as an honor and great challenge. Before I go into the content of this challenge, let’s first have a look at who you are as an audience: you have come from all over the world. So this is an amazing result.

Our Dutch Association of Psychotherapy has existed since 1938 with the goal of promoting and supporting  psychotherapy for all individuals who are in need for it. The society consists of licensed psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, three professions that are trained in several approaches, such as psychodynamic interventions, cognitive behavioral strategies, system approach etc., both symptom oriented, as well as person-oriented.They are able to shift from one approach to another depending on the nature of the patient’s problems. Psychotherapy according to our society covers this wide range of interventions  and  it is our conviction that professional licensed education for psychotherapists, clinical psychologists as well as psychiatrists, need to contain this broad range of perspectives.

From the start it has been our aim, to combine all these theoretical and clinical perspectives in our program. We therefore assembled a Scientific committee with experts from all these theoretical perspectives and from our different professional societies: And I am extremely grateful for their input, ideas and discussions and also for the coherence and harmony with which we were able to work together towards this congress.

We also experienced considerable losses during our preparations: Jaak Panksepp, neuropsychologist, accepted to present a keynote lecture, but past away last year; and Jeremy Safran, who took part in the international advisory board, was brutally killed a month ago. I am grateful for their willingness to participate in our conference. May they rest in peace.

And in the last weeks before the conference some presentations and symposia were cancelled due to late stages of pregnancies or illnesses.

Psychotherapy is by far the most preferred treatment approach for many patients suffering from psychological distress or psychiatric disorders. Among others, psychotherapeutic treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders or personality disorders is justified by evidence of its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, as derived from numerous randomized controlled trials and open studies.

But we currently live in a divided world  - an either-or world – and the recent political developments in the US and Europe illustrate this. Also in our own house – that of psychotherapy - divisions and debates between psychotherapy schools of thought are not always fought in a productive manner. We have our psychotherapy believes and churches as well on both sides. In Holland for example schools of thought are challenged to fight each other, encouraged or reinforced by economic motives. This is not in the best interest of our patients, in particular the severe patients, nor in the interest of the psychotherapists who dialectically try to integrate these perspectives.

Although we live in a divided world, split by ideologies and financial interests, also within the field of psychotherapy, open and respectful debates between approaches will strengthen our field. That is why the Scientific Committee  decided to focus on both distinct and common grounds of psychotherapeutic schools, to become Stronger through diversity.

We decided to present either exponents of certain theoretical approaches presenting the state of the art in their field, or exponents of more integrative forces, presenting the research on generic factors.

If we overlook the field of research and look at effect sizes in RCTs the image of the Dodo bird arises, who said in ' Alice in Wonderland' when asked who won the caucus race: 'everybody has  won and all must have prizes.' Why? Becausethe differences in effect sizes based on RCT’s are not that big to allow for a winner in this horse race.

What we as Scientific Committee would like to encourage is to go beyond the horserace mentality and to encourage curiosity into the diversity of working mechanisms in psychotherapy. We are convinced that an either or position is not productive and we all agree that research is the best option to pass the stage of 'churches' of thought on both sides of the divide.

Amsterdam has a history of religious tolerance and in the second half of the 16th century many persecuted religious groups fled to the city to find a refuge.

So in this tradition, we would like this conference to offer a common roof under which all kinds of approaches and lines of clinical thought may co-exist, and to discuss their clinical and research findings together in a productive and respectful way, as there are many ways leading to Rome as we say in Holland, as for example the research on treatment of borderline personality disorder has shown. Though different protocols have different effects on different patients and we really need research on what treatment is the best for which patient. So instead of one size fits all we would like to make a step ahead towards differential treatment indications.

What unites us is the fact that over the last hundred years psychotherapy has achieved a prominent position among the treatments for anxiety, depression, eating disorders and personality disorders - among others - both scientifically as well as clinically. We need to be proud of that and cooperate to improve our skills, our knowledge on optimal treatment indication and our knowledge on how to become a better psychotherapist ourselves. That is what this conference will be about.

Looking at the program you will first have an 'embarras de choix' (an embarrassment of choices)!  This conference will present to you the current state of affairs concerning the existing evidence for the efficacy of psychotherapy, and we are very proud to be able to introduce internationally well know speakers at this stage.

Then, next to this theoretical and clinical diversity, this conference will inform you on the impact of cultural differences on psychotherapy. As you can see in the program you can notice that we designed several 'tracks': sequential sessions you can follow among which a track on transcultural psychotherapy. This is a novelty for an international conference such as ours and an important one. To take our Dutch society as an example: we live in a colorful, mixed, 'multi-culty' society but the profession of psychotherapy is mainly a white affair. That is the current state of the art, although more and more psychotherapists from minority backgrounds are being trained professionally today. We hope that this track will add to the education of both majority as well as minority clinicians. And the same applies to our thinking about sexual identity and gender.

As Chair of the scientific committee I want to express my gratitude towards the members who supported to assemble a scientific program that covers such a variety of theoretical, clinical, and empirical research (in alphabetical order): Arnoud Arntz, Sjoerd Colijn, Paul Emmelkamp, Marcus Huibers, Theo Ingenhoven, Patrick Luyten, Peter Rober, Arielle de Ruyter, Rien Van, thank you all very much for your ideas, your support, your assistance and hard work in creating this scientific conference!

The International Advisory Board I want to thank for their support at the background of this conference.

As for the practical organization I would like to thank the organizing committee: Astrid Nolet, Henk Jan Dalewijk, with his financial experience in organizing conferences, Narda Berendse and the strong team of Zonder Zorg: Davy Blekman, Joshua Veenstra en Vera Molenaar.



Especially we are much honored to welcome our excellent key-note speakers: thank you to all of you for putting your energy into an effort to supply us with an overview of current psychotherapy:

  • Pim Cuijpers is one of worlds’ experts in meta-analyses that highlight the efficacy of psychotherapy. 
  • Jan Kizilhan is specialized in the treatment of severely traumatized women in  Iraq and Syria, and willing to help them to escape from IS.
  • Marylene Cloitre is well known for her scientific work on the treatment of complex traumatized patients, combining both stabilizing interventions as well as well as exposure.
  • Les Greenberg is the well known author of the major texts on Emotion-focused approaches to treatment.
  • Robert DeRubeis brings the field further by introducing new research methods to answer the question ’what is working for whom?'
  • Bruce Wampold is famous as author of "The Great Psychotherapy Debate' in which he challenges the relative importance of specific psychotherapeutic interventions, as compared to more generic factors, such as the therapeutic alliance.

They will all bring you the latest insights in their fields. And the last day of this conference Marcus Huibers will chair our own ‘Great Psychotherapy Debate’ by bringing 5 experts together to discuss what they think about what is working for which patients by which therapists and why.

And finally the CME presenters we saw at work this morning – both the keynotes and Frank Yeomans, Stephan Doering, Alessandra Lemma – thank you very much!

Dear audience, may I wish you all a wonderful and inspiring World Congress of Psychotherapy 2018!


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