Thoughts on ESTD 2017 conference
Carita Kilpinen, a mother, entrepreneur, graphic designer, artist, trauma survivor
20 December 2017
We grabbed the opportunity of presenting our book Five Survivors, a Hundred Lives in the 2017 European Trauma and Dissociation Conference with both hands and we find that the effort was well worth it. ( Our abstract is available for reading here.)
Not much time was left for sightseeing in the beautiful city of Bern, since we worked away the hours. We were unsure of what to expect but we came well prepared.

Our Finnish delegation consisted of four people. Anssi Leikola, Kaisa Klapuri and myself, Carita Kilpinen, are writers from the book. We were also delighted to have, in our group, Mai Peltoniemi, who is an expert in drug addiction and trauma informed treatment in therapeutic communities. She is also President of the freshly founded Finnish Association for Trauma and Dissociation and a pioneer in critical studies of social work – she has made sense of her own life using the theory of the structural dissociation of the personality in an auto-ethnographic study.

All of us noticed different things at the conference, but there were some observations that we all made and questions that we took with us. Those thoughts and questions will be the opening topics for our freshly opened blog in the upcoming year 2018.
Firstly, in our experience, the conference was very well organized. Although we had little or no time to attend any other presentations than our own, everything seemed to flow smoothly and there was a sense of quality in everything. We especially enjoyed the gala night where we got to meet a great number of new people and had equally many interesting conversations. The atmosphere was uplifting and relaxed. There were no ivory towers, which was a pleasant experience for us. One of the highlights of our evening was when we got to give our book to Mr. Ellert Nijenhuis.

Our presentation was heartfelt and well received by the audience. We had the pleasure of sharing the platform with another survivor from England, Mr. Peter Saunders, who also represented a nonprofit organization, NAPAC for abused adults. He gave an impressive and a moving speech about his experiences.

We were slightly surprised to find that, besides us, there were no other experience speakers at the conference. It seems odd to us that the survivors’ point of view on the matter is so marginal in this kind of international conference.

Secondly, we had the feeling that there was an air of doubt and pessimism in the conference. As if the ones that are part of the trauma treating system are not sure if they really believe in what they are doing. Or is it just a matter of courage? This is quite understandable in an atmosphere where there is finger-pointing in the form of ”False memories” and ”Faking patients”. However, aren’t we missing the point here completely? No one wants to be the odd ball of the group, especially if your career and livelihood are at stake. Fortunately, there are the brave few who have made paving the way for others their life’s work. We are a living testament to the shared message of our mission.

We were also asked how we, survivors, are able to work together without further damaging each other – another question that has no quick and easy answer, but would certainly deserve one. What must be said right now is that our collaboration at Bern has heightened us in to a completely new level.

In our work, we will discuss many difficult matters that involve a lot of resistance and arouse a great number of emotions, but we are well aware that the discrepancy in these matters will only be resolved through collaboration. Collaboration with survivors and collaboration with different fields of professionals. This means that we are open to complicated questions and discussions and try to send our message to the world in such a way that growth is made possible. As in the book Five Survivors, a Hundred Lives, we stand affirmative but the promise of hope is ever present and is made possible by the first-hand experience knowledge that we have. We aim to challenge the existing stereotypical prejudices. Together, we have slightly over 50 years of experience of different types of therapies and treatments. Although survivors, we are also professionals in different fields such as psychiatry, social work, languages, marketing, business, etc. We know what works and what doesn’t. We know that change in attitudes and cultures is possible. We are making it happen as we speak in Finland, and we know that by joining forces it can be done in the rest of the world too.

The ESTD conference was the first of many to come in our mission. We are open for invitations for different speaker forums, so, please, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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