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As I approach the halfway point of my term as ISTSS president it is time for some reflection. People often ask me what it is like to be president of ISTSS. Is it rewarding? Are there any major issues to be faced? Can I accomplish my goals? Here are some answers…

Is Being President Rewarding?
As part of our global mission to hold ISTSS meetings around the world, we have just returned from Seoul, South Korea. While some envision Seoul as being "Gangnam Style," i.e. a trendy, hip and high tech city, we experienced the beautiful traditional Korean culture arranged by our hosts.


The occasion, however, was a sad one—the one year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Disaster in which so many high school students perished. I was moved by the stories of the young people and touched by their parents’ grief. We also found ourselves in the middle of a demonstration by thousands of protesters on their way to the President's office and who later clashed with nearly 15,000 police armed with water cannons. Police vans blocked our way out, but we were fortunate to discover a very nice, traditional Korean restaurant in which to hide from the demonstrators and share an enjoyable conversation with our hosts. This experience was rewarding in that it demonstrated how we (ISTSS) can make a difference by sharing our international knowledge, while at the same time being enriched by connections to other cultures, in this case the Korean STSS. This is an important and rewarding step forward in our global mission. (click photo to enlarge). Read more about the meeting here.

Major Issues: The Guideline Discussion
An extremely interesting discussion is currently taking place in ISTSS on the place and role of ISTSS in creating guidelines for treatment of trauma related disorders and other themes, such as assessment. The Executive Committee of the Board is convinced that one of the values of ISTSS is its leading position in informing all of those interested in trauma about evidence based approaches. But do we have the resources for that? How does this relate to the ISTSS Treatment Guidelines book published by an external publisher? Who is to decide on the content? The newly updated ISTSS website, and external criticism of the possibly outdated or incorrect content of the Treatment Guidelines, have speeded up discussions about how to address these crucial issues. Lively debates about content will in the end benefit our patients!

For now, the Executive Committee decided that the ISTSS Treatment Guidelines - which are partly published in the book - will be carefully updated and included in the third revision of the book. This involves input from many parties and a lot is at stake, so it does take longer than I often wish, But the outcome will surely be rewarding in the end. A full Board discussion of this will take place at the mid-year meeting in Kyoto in June, and input from members is welcome.

An overview of decisions related to the guidelines:

  • ISTSS will continue to issue guidelines (though we may not use that term for what we issue in the future)
  • ISTSS is putting a notice on the website that we will be initiating a process to update all the ISTSS guidelines
  • ISTSS is establishing a task force to address the planned review and update of the ISTSS treatment guidelines
  • ISTSS had previously established a task force in order to oversee the development of a third edition of Effective Treatments for PTSD
  • How the ISTSS treatment guidelines and the Effective Treatments book will intersect in the future is a matter yet to be determined by the ISTSS Board, with guidance from the two task forces

Reaching My Goals: iSTSS » ISTSS
I had, and continue to have, great ambitions for ISTSS. My focus is building a Society that is of interest to a wide international membership. This fits nicely into the Strategic Plan ISTSS has followed for the past several years and it helps that I have long been involved in it.

So much energy was generated at the 2014 Annual Meeting in Miami, which is has turned into concrete action on many levels. How do we create a Society that has added value for --and because of-- its international members? How can we include more international participants in the annual meeting? Is the structure of ISTSS optimal? How can we improve our impact throughout the world? How would the still-majority proportion of North-American members like to be embedded in the international organization?  I wrote a “Global Think Piece” addressing all these different aspects of our Society. It is wonderful to see how the full Board and all the committees and taskforces have been active in helping to achieve these goals. At the mid-year Board meeting in Kyoto, Japan in June this will be major agenda item. ISTSS members, your ideas and suggestions are always welcome and valued (m.olff@amc.nl)!
 

The conversations on iSTSS » ISTSS planned for the Board meeting in Kyoto will address this goal that the ISTSS Board previously established: Goal #5 - Global Relationships: The ISTSS operates within a new business model that is responsive to issues, members and stakeholders from all nations.

The conversations on iSTSS » ISTSS planned for the Board meeting in Kyoto will address this goal that the ISTSS Board previously established: Goal #5 - Global Relationships: The ISTSS operates within a new business model that is responsive to issues, members and stakeholders from all nations.

So in summary, the answer is yes! It is exciting and rewarding to be president of this wonderful Society! I am hopeful and confident about facing important issues and accomplishing many of my goals.