It’s become a Symposium tradition to open with an over-the-top, pull-out-all-the-stops, song-and-dance extravaganza, which seemingly bears no relationship whatsoever to the earnest pursuit of CEs and greater clinical excellence. Or does it? We’ve found that nothing knits our professional tribe together like an exuberant welcoming ceremony—the kind that has 3,500 people on their feet, clapping and cheering—especially when choreographed by longtime Symposium presenter and Afro-Caribbean dancer Richard Gonzalez (in the white hat), seen here leading the opening dance number.
After the roiling mass of attendees had finally settled into their seats, the 35th anniversary Symposium officially began with Networker editor Rich Simon appearing onstage as his once-yearly alter ego—show-biz master of ceremonies with aspirations to be a 21st-century vaudevillian. In his Friday morning monologue, Simon introduced this year’s Symposium theme: “Real wisdom . . . is a collective project, not an individual achievement. We gradually achieve most of whatever limited wisdom we acquire as human beings through and with and from other people.”
This year’s Symposium keynoters focused on some aspect of the “new wisdom” for the 21st century, each from a distinct and personal perspective. Andrew Weil, the world’s leading proponent of integrative medicine, challenged the audience by asking, “Why, when we have more mental health professionals offering more mental healthcare services than ever in history, is the state of mental health by all accounts worse than it has ever been?” Dan Siegel, one of the field’s most influential thinkers about integrating neuroscience and psychotherapy, addressed the provocative question, “Does understanding the brain make us any wiser?” And Mary Pipher, a therapist and author long dedicated to illuminating the social and cultural issues that shape our lives, ignited the conference with a talk about moving beyond our pervasive sense of denial and despair to join the struggle to fight global warming.
The heart and soul of the Symposium is in the continual buzz of 3,500 hundred people talking, laughing, and sharing professional gossip. Often, the best workshops aren’t formal presentations as much as conversations among presenters and attendees. Here (top left) presenter Danie Beaulieu, in a popular workshop called “Speaking the Language of the Brain,” seems to have heard something both hilarious and edifying from one of her attendees. In fact, Symposium attendees undoubtedly get just as much—perhaps more—from the thousands of small conversations that happen while sitting together waiting for a keynote address or workshop to begin or schmoozing with a neighbor over a Danish and coffee at breakfast than from sitting in the formal sessions.
What possible relevance do pursuits like poetry, painting, magic, theatrical improv, dance, and nature photography have for learning how to be a therapist? At the Symposium’s Creativity Day, it seems self-evident that tapping into our capacity for play and free self-expression can only make us better, more inspired clinicians. In his workshop, “Comic for a Day,” psychiatrist and standup comedian Howard Richmond (below left) shows attendees how to cultivate their inner comedian. People do a lot of dancing on Creativity Day, especially in Dan Leven’s “Brain Dance” sessions (bottom right). Psychologist David Flohr helps an attendee get in touch with her primal pot-maker (top right). In the hands-on portion of Donna Eden and David Feinstein’s “Language of Energy” workshop (middle right), participants work with each other’s energy fields.
The Friday night celebration of the Networker Symposium’s 35th Anniversary culminated with the Networker staff’s serenading and toasting the audience with a rousing rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friends.” Earlier, Rich’s daughter, Signe, presented him with a bound volume of photos and tributes from friends, family, and coworkers. Rich insisted that his 7-year-old self, pictured on the front of the book, was the primary decision-maker responsible for the Symposium’s mood and energy level.