The Tribe Gathers

The Tribe Gathers

Symposium 2010 Starts a New Kind of Conversation

By Garry Cooper

May/June 2010

By now, more than three decades since it began, the Networker Symposium has become an annual rite of spring for the several thousand therapists who regularly attend it—a combination overpopulated family reunion, Mardi Gras, and four-day cram course in psychotherapy's latest developments. Like any annual event, it's also become an occasion to mark time's passage, an opportunity for therapists to reflect on the shifting tides in their profession, the ripple effects from the wider world on our field, and—for those who keep being drawn back year after year—the twists and turns in the smaller-scale sagas of their own lives.

The last time the Symposium convened—in spring 2009, a few months after Barack Obama's inauguration—a mood of unqualified euphoria prevailed among attendees, unquestionably a core Obama constituency—perhaps one of the last surviving groups of unreconstructed, old-fashioned liberals left in the electorate. Many therapists saw Obama not only as a new president, but as a professional role model: a kind of psychotherapist-in-chief, a true grown-up, a wise, compassionate, reflective man comfortable with the feel-good therapeutic language of "hope" and "change." Even if therapists around the country weren't sure exactly what supersized interventions the new president might use, many of them dared to believe that he had both the political flair and the clinical savvy to save us from ourselves.

The prolonged economic downturn and the legislative turmoil…

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