Saturday, November 21, 2009

AATA Conference: Shabbat Edition

What's spending Shabbat at a conference like? Hard, weird, challenging, and... basically... not the best Shabbat you've ever spent. For sure.

I had to do things like... buy sandwiches for Friday dinner and Saturday lunch on Friday and then keep them in the hotel room refrigerator, stock up on snacks for the day, bring tea bags so I could get free hot water and make tea, chase people to the elevator to ask them to push buttons for me, and hope my roommates were in the room when I got back so they could open the door. It was interesting. I gave money to one of my classmates in advance to take care of any expenses for me just in case. I'm not saying I kept Shabbat as well as I keep it at home, but I stuck mostly to my comfort zone.

I put a notice on the bulletin board for Kabbalat Shabbat, but nobody showed up. Oh well.

Friday night I had a department party to go to, which was really fun. We stayed a lot later than we had anticipated, and then when I got back to the room my roommates weren't there (they left the party early to go out to a bar). So I finished my book that I brought, which isn't really smart because then tonight while I was waiting for Shabbat to be over I had nothing to read. Then my roommates came back tipsy, so I had fun having weird conversations with them until we fell asleep.

This morning I slept in... had a cookie for breakfast, and then spent the rest of the day keeping busy at the conference doing things that didn't require writing or art making.
  • Commemorating Catastrophe: Community art making in New Orleans on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
    This presentation was done by two alums of my program so it was cool to see the work they are doing now. I really appreciated Holly beginning by describing how she messed up the first year she was supposed to do it, did everything in a way that was not culturally appropriate, and nobody showed up. It was good to hear that. She described all the lessons she learned and the success of the programs once she implemented those lessons. I think in many ways what she learned is also reflected in the way my site uses therapy, art, art therapy, etc.

  • Multicultural Exchange Forum
    I went to this not sure what to expect. I'm glad I went... I'm not sure what constitutes "multicultural," and that was one thing I meant to bring up but didn't get a chance to. Technically it encompasses everyone, it sounds like. But I wonder about being White and wanting to be involved in multicultural events - does being Jewish count? I don't know. And someone mentioned how when she had issues with her department she didn't realize there was a Multicultural Committee to back her up. I wonder: if I had known about the Multicultural Committee back last Fall when I was having a conflict with my department about days off for religious holidays, would I have contacted them? And, if so, would they have done anything?

    Also, I caught up with the person who led the presentation on transgender youth the other day. (Last night I also happened to run into someone else who had been in that presentation who wanted to talk to me about my site since I had mentioned it in a response) She is trying to put together a sub-committee for LGBT issues in art therapy and in the American Art Therapy Association and wants me to be in on it. So that might be cool. I'm not sure how I feel about that, not identifying with the LGBT community but rather as an ally and someone who sees similarities in that community to my own. But I'm also becoming involved in this observant Jewish sub-group of the AATA so I wonder how many different things I will be involved in.

  • Drawing Out the Shadow: Art Therapy and Sexual Addiction
    Not sure how I feel about this presentation. It as the fourth presentation I went to at the conference having to deal with sexuality and I was debating not going at all since there are other things to see. But I couldn't really see a good reason not to go. But the person leading the presentation had a way about her that really put me off... I was kind of uncomfortable throughout much of the presentation. She referred to people suffering from sexual addiction as "sex addicts," which made me uncomfortable right off the bat because they drill into our heads in our program a "person-centered" approach, which means you wouldn't refer to people as their diseases but rather as a person WITH a disease/disorder/whatever.

    And then there were some things she said about internet pornography that bothered me, like how it is the "gateway drug," like she said marijuana is a gateway drug, saying that studies show people who use marijuana are likely to use other substances (which I think is really outdated information, at least that's not what we learned in our substance use class this summer). I know a lot of people who look at internet porn who are not addicted to sex just like I know people who smoke marijuana who have either never tried any other drugs (other than nicotine or alcohol) or who have tried other drugs and did not continue their use. It just sounded really outdated and a bad comparison. She didn't explain how someone can be addicted to a behavior as opposed to a substance - for example, heroin addiction affects certain chemicals in the brain, and when you withdraw you have a chemical withdrawal in the body. How does one become addicted to a behavior? Or is it a compulsion, more in line with anxiety, like OCD? Not explained.

    Especially after attending the session on Thursday about having conversations with clients about sexuality, I was uncomfortable about the way this information was presented. It sounded like she thought pornography was was something that is toxic to people and relationships, something that healthy people wouldn't look at/read. And I'm not sure what she meant by "excessive" in any respect (sexual activity, masturbation, pornography viewing) and there was no talk about whether or not the client is distressed by this or it causing impairment in functioning as being the main reason for the diagnosis. She kept talking about these people as being narcissists and shameful... I wonder what was going on there in terms of counter-transference.

  • Harm's Touch
    This presentation was done by one of the faculty in our department. It was about using response art to hold the trauma we hear from our clients or see around us. I really like the way she uses response art, how she really prescribes it as necessary for our profession. My journal is full of weird little drawings that I do right after something happens as a way of letting it out... I am not as strong in response art, but she did her entire PhD on the use of response art, so, you know.

  • Annual Business Meeting
    I didn't get to go to last year's business meeting because I didn't wake up in time. This year they held it at the end of the conference so I got to stay and see how everything works. I think it was a relatively good meeting, some stuff was said (not sure if it was heard), and I got to see who Judy Rubin is finally... Everyone is obsessed with her but I have no idea what she looks like. Judy Rubes!!!!
And now I am going to join some friends in the city for a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving feast.

Tomorrow I'm having brunch with someone I met at the conference and then I'm heading home!

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