What we do as addiction psychologists, for sure, has more gravity and direct public health significance than smartphones and software operating systems, but for many of us as APA member addiction specialists, one way we have received our own incremental addiction psychology-focused “software updates” is via the large annual APA conference. While many perceive that the larger APA conference sort of “works ok,” many have complained that the APA “update” format is unexciting, too unwieldy and complicated, and just had too much “bloat ware.” Now, we have our very own nimble, focused, efficient, Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction Conference (current Version 2.0)! This is not just another “update,” but rather a shift to a new and improved “operating system.” It has a fresh look and perspective, but more substantively, it will genuinely and explicitly combine in one single “application,” what have so long been disparate elements of our field and of our Divisions 28 and 50—basic research, applied research, and practice.
The new conference
addresses the frustration
expressed on both sides
about the “researchpractice
clinicians cri t i c i zing
researchers’ lack of sensitivity to
“real-world clinical problems and
complexities,” and from researchers
complaining about the lack of clinicians'
knowledge regarding what the “hard
evidence” says about effective
interventions and the likely effect sizes
to be expected from specific clinical
efforts. I recently received an email
from a top psychologist that, for me,
captures and epitomizes this sentiment
held by many psychologists in our
Division and possibly in our field at large
as well as other allied mental health
fields. This psychologist permitted me
to relay their thoughts to you:
“I wish to share my speculation about the Division 28/50 conference in Atlanta and facts about the C4 Recovery solutions conferences. These conferences seem to represent isolated silos of information.
First the speculation: I suspect that up to 80% of the 28/50 conference presenters and attendees are primarily research or academic psychologists—either faculty or their students. If the articles in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors are an indication, many of the presentations will be made by individuals who are meeting grant obligations for dissemination or academicians whose institutions value presentations and publications. Again, based on the journal articles, many of the presentations will feature what I call “So what…?” studies. That is for counselors, social workers, physicians, and psychologists working in public and private treatment programs, their response would be, “So what do I do with this information?” or “So what will this information do to improve quality or effectiveness of treatment?” In short, the studies may be theoretically and intellectually interesting, but there is no practical bridge to delivery of services in the real world outside of research protocols.
Now the facts: The C4 conference on Cape Cod (www.ccsad.com) and the Palm Springs conference (www. wcsad.com) draw about 1,000 and 800 attendees respectively. Of those, 80% or more are primarily clinicians working in treatment programs. However, almost none of the presentations are based on research funded by NIAAA or NIDA and to my knowledge virtually no “name brand” researchers have ever submitted presentation proposals. I know this to be the case because I sit on the committee that reviews proposals. Most of the presentations feature “commercial” presenters who are presenting or training on their specific areas of expertise. Unfortunately, few of these have any original data or research to share. At best they cite studies and anecdotal experiences.
What I would like to see for the big C4 conferences (and the two new ones) are proposals based on sound research that focus on realistic, pragmatic applications to routine clinical services. These would be venues where researchers could not only present their work, but also get practical feedback from people in the trenches. Also, the graduate and new professional poster sessions at CCSAD and WCSAD provide some generous compensation for the top four posters. First place is a $500 honoraria plus up to $750 in travel reimbursement. Second to fourth place finishers get $250 each. All accepted poster presenters get free admission to the conference and (I think) one or two nights of lodging compliments of the conference. I expected that faculty would view this as a good opportunity for their graduate students and new junior faculty. I have put the submission information on a variety of lists with dismal response rates.”
To me, these observations ring true. The central aim of the Collaborative Perspectives conference, in theory, is actually to try to achieve this interchange of ideas and information across basic and applied research and clinical implementation. We may have a long way to go to really facilitate an effective and productive interchange that caters to all our interests and activities, but we want to begin to build, and strengthen these bridges, so that, ultimately, we can help more people suffering from addiction, and help them more effectively and efficiently. I believe strongly also that more academic researchers need to present at the (currently) purely clinician-focused conferences. My sense is that there’s an implicit snobbery that some of us have, that somehow clinician-focused conferences lack academic prestige and therefore are “not worth it.” We need to go for a “hard reset” here, to lose that notion.
Collaborative Perspectives on Addiction Version 2.0 will be “released” in Atlanta Feb 28th-Mar 1st. I know many of you will be attending and presenting and I’m looking forward to seeing you at the W Hotel conference venue. The smaller size and specific focus of this conference makes it ideal for fostering new collaborations and friendships, exchange of information and crossfertilization of ideas. What’s very cool also is that it facilitates really easy interactions between students, trainees, junior faculty, and more senior members. This year will build on the experience and foundation established last year and is on the verge of breaking our attendance record set last year! So, come and download the latest version, plug in and recharge, “friend” someone; reboot and enhance your functionality.
That’s it. Now, back to my Angry Birds….