Dear colleagues and ISTFP members,
We are happy to welcome you to the 7th ISTFP conference. We hope that this biennial “meeting of minds” will provide you with a memorable learning experience. Again this year, because of the COVID Pandemic, we cannot meet in person. We will not be able to, like in previous editions of the event, engage in meaningful human interactions. Since that important part of the event will be missing, let’s make the most of this, like we did two years ago, and look forward to seeing each other again in two years… for real.
I am Theophilus Kok and, like some of you, I was not there in the early ISTFP Conferences. That is why the Public Relations and Communication Committee and I thought it would be a good idea to tell you about the origin of the event. For those of you that have been here since the beginning, we thought that it would be important, after 3 difficult years, to remind ourselves where we come from and go forward with renewed energy and intent.
Meeting the needs of “difficult” patients
As you all know, personality disorders used to present severe treatment challenges in psychiatry, however, during the 1970s and 1980s along with the publishing of Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (1975), Severe Personality Disorders (1984), and the first treatment manual Psychodynamic Psychotherapy of Borderline Patients (1989), Otto. F. Kernberg and his team at the Personality Disorders Institute of Cornell University in New York have developed the Transference-Focused Psychotherapy.
TFP is a form of psychodynamic psychotherapy with specific modifications of technique that address the therapeutic needs of patients with borderline and other personality disorders. As a reaction to this completely new approach toward the treatment of borderline patients, Otto F. Kernberg and his colleagues received warm invitations to give lectures and training courses for TFP in North America, Latin America, and Europe.
Emergence of TFP groups
Later, numerous local and national TFP groups emerged from the training, particularly from the supervision groups. Members of the first regional TFP groups were invited very often by colleagues to provide training courses all over their countries. Comprehensive TFP curricula were then developed, and numerous physicians and psychotherapists became profoundly educated TFP therapists and later on supervisors.
After years of dissemination of TFP globally, particular regional groups in New York, Quebec, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna and Mexico – mostly associated to Medical Schools or Universities – developed an interest in empirical research on the approach. These research activities lead to two main randomized-controlled trials on the efficacy of TFP for borderline patients. Once, TFP received the status of an empirically validated treatment, the interest among clinicians and researchers all over the world increased tremendously. Otto F. Kernberg and his colleagues, as well as TFP trainers and supervisors from other countries, then travelled energetically around the world to present research findings on international conferences and to give training courses.
Increasing needs and passion for exchanging ideas among TFP trainers, supervisors, and researchers, as well as TFP therapist contributed to two international TFP conferences in New York in 2008 and Berlin in 2010 respectively. Following this momentum, regional and national TFP groups or societies have been founded or are in formation in many countries so far: USA, Canada, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, Poland, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Hungary, Russia, China, Australia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
The birth of an International Society
On September 10/11, 2011 with great enthusiasm approximately 150 participants from 15 countries had gathered in New York to participate in the Inauguration Conference of the ISTFP. During the conference, the inauguration assembly voted for an Executive Board of eight persons: Otto F. Kernberg (President), Stephan Doering (Vice President and Executive Officer), Melitta Fischer-Kern (Treasurer), John F. Clarkin (Coordinator for research and scientific issues), Frank E. Yeomans (Coordinator for training and certification issues), Lina Normandin, Nel Draijer, and Peter Buchheim. On October 27, 2011 the International Society of Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (ISTFP) was officially registered at the Austrian Authorities with its seat in Vienna.
The Executive Board nominated chairs of six standing committees: John F. Clarkin (Research and Publication Committee), Frank E. Yeomans (Training and Education Committee), Andrés Borzutzky (Public Relations Committee), George Brownstone (Ethics Committee), Pamela Foelsch (Adolescent TFP Committee), and Peter Buchheim (Inpatient TFP and Psychiatric Services Committee).
The ISTFP Conference endures
The ISTFP website and the logo were created, and the 2nd International ISTFP Conference was prepared to take place on September 29/30, 2012 in Amsterdam. Afterward, the ISTFP decided to host its conference every two years starting from the 3rd International ISTFP Conference held in Parma, Italy. The 4th and 5th biennial ISTFP Conference were held in 2016 in New York, USA and in 2018 in Barcelona, Spain respectively.
They all provided an opportunity to showcase the most cutting-edge work by TFP practitioners and researchers. Inheriting a tradition of openness, experts from outside of TFP communities were also invited to give talks in the conference.
In 2020, the 6th ISTFP Conference that was originally planned to be held in Innsbruck, Austria was moved online due to the COVID crisis. Even though missing the conviviality of meeting in person, the enthusiasm for sharing new materials and exchanging ideas brought participants from 20 countries to the online conference. The conference was packed with inspiring and interesting talks and discussions from experts in the field of personality disorder from around the globe. Impacted by the reality of pandemic and increasing needs of online treatment, conceptual considerations for TFP online treatment were discussed during the conference.
Expending a healthy community
Today, the ISTFP comprises over 492 members and is still hosting its intellectually stimulating biennial meetings and facilitating meaningful and productive collaborations. Currently, with the great efforts of TFP therapists and with the idea to expand the clinical application of TFP, nowadays its principles can be applied to different types of patients and in different care settings.
Although the ISTFP continues to expand, the Society’s commitment to nurturing the development, research, application, and dissemination of TFP, an empirically validated psychoanalytic treatment for patients with borderline personality, that can be applied to other personality disorders, remains unchanged.
It gives a good appreciation of our community’s resolve toward it mission. Let’s keep working together and plan to “really” meet in 2024.