Reflections on Psych Congress 2018

November 15, 2018

Steering Committee Members Discuss Their Favorite Sessions, Aspects of Conference

My favorite session (amongst many) was Dr. Ed Coffey's session on ECT. This topic is almost always ignored at other conferences, but not at Psych Congress. At Psych Congress we serve the needs of all patients, including severely ill patients. And it's a true tribute to Psych Congress and Dr. Coffey that his session on updates on ECT was so well received by hundreds upon hundreds of attendees. Well done Dr. Coffey!

—Cochair Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH

Trying to come up with a favorite session from this year’s Psych Congress is impossible for me—but I guess if forced I’d say for me it was a tie between Steve Porges’ talk in memoriam of my friend Eric Arauz or the debate I moderated between Nassir Ghaemi and Joe Goldberg on whether antidepressants are of any use in bipolar depression. Porges’ talk articulated a key theme of the conference, which is the importance of interconnection for mental health, and the debate was great because it highlighted how good it is to honestly disagree about the many things in mental health practice we don’t really understand.

—Cochair Charles Raison, MD

It's hard to believe that yet again Psych Congress has exceeded my expectations in the lineup of speakers and topics. If I were asked to pick one favorite lecture, I could say that’s impossible. I will say on this point that the perfectly coordinated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) topics were amazing. The speakers across the board yet again brought my clinic knowledge skills and ability to a new level that I put to work on Monday morning. There are no conferences to my knowledge that cover this topic to such a great depth. I know my patients will benefit from my enhanced clinical application.

—James Cannon, PhD, MS, PA-C, CAQ-Psy, DFAAPA

My favorite session was the first annual Eric Arauz Memorial Keynote Address, given by Dr. Stephen Porges. Not only did we remember our colleague and friend Eric, but we heard from Dr. Porges the significance of regulating one’s physical reactivity, using his Polyvagal Theory to understand how the body responds to stress as well as to meaningful connections with others. Eric lived and taught the Polyvagal Theory, and used his own narrative and voice to help others understand how regulation and social connectedness mean everything in our work. For me, this first annual lecture not only provided a wonderful context to start our meeting, in that space of connecting with others, but also offered a very special and meaningful context for remembering Eric.

—Julie Carbray, PhD, FPMHNP, PMHCNS

My favorite session was the one on putative antidepressants by Dr. Sanacora. It was a glimpse into the future with a reminder from the past that antidepressant treatment options, sadly, have not changed that much since the tricyclics and imipramine in the late 1950s. I think we are all hopeful that these new possibilities will offer us and our patients new and better options for remission from such a devastating illness.

—Jon W. Draud, MD, MS

My favorite session at Psych Congress 2018 was Tardive Dyskinesia 360°, presented by Drs. Rakesh Jain and Rajeev Kumar. This session provided valuable clinical information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of patients with tardive dyskinesia. Drs. Jain and Kumar presented clinically relevant information that will change the way we take care of our patients. The highlight of the session for me was meeting a real patient that has suffered the damaging effects of tardive dyskinesia, as well as learning about her recovery. Her story brought the syndrome to life, demanding us to listen.  

—Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC

Best Psych Congress ever! Psych Congress steps up for "The Great Debate" (I loved it!); challenges our thinking and assumptions; nurtures relationships; offers rich and intellectually stimulating cutting-edge research; explores thought-provoking treatment (psychedelics? seriously?) possible in the future. We rolled up our sleeves with Drs. Chuck Raison and Robin Carhart-Harris from the UK, a renowned researcher, for an outstanding presentation. Nowhere else but Psych Congress. Be there next year, in San Diego.

—Catherine R. Judd, MS, PA-C, CAQ-Psy, DFAAPA

I very much enjoyed the debate between Drs. Ghaemi and Goldberg about the use of antidepressants in treatment of bipolar depression. Their arguments were well researched and to the point. Lack of benefit from antidepressants in bipolar spectrum disorders was predicated on the assumption that they are composed of circumscribed biological entities.Dr. Goldberg shared robust evidence that this was not the case. Biological diversity of bipolar disorders leaves room for a possible antidepressant-related benefit in a subset of patients. While it is clear which patients would be at risk, there is still no reliable method for selecting potential antidepressant beneficiaries amongst bipolar patients. In the end it comes down to trial an error process. 

Several talks focusing on the importance of inflammation, nutrition, gut-brain axis and wellness practices were an exciting advancement in our field.

—Vladimir Maletic, MD, MS

In a time that feels fractious and divisive, Psych Congress reminds me that we can come together to see a bigger picture. This year, we talked a lot about the experience of separation that plagues us as a species, the experience of separation that is endemic in so many of the illnesses we treat, and began to map a road back to wellness and wholeness. I left the conference excited and hopeful about the future, not only of our profession, but of our shared humanity.

Andrew Penn, RN, MS, NP, CNS, APRN-BC