Since its establishment in 2015, the International Domain of the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy (SAP) has consistently pursued the enhancement of SAP’s internationalization through an engagement-and-involvement approach. It has built an active Committee of International Affairs, which consists of 11 members from 6 different countries. The committee has led several systematic endeavors to build SAP’s international connections and enlarge its presence at international psychology or psychotherapy conferences. In 2017, more than 20 SAP members presented five symposia at the World Congress of Psychotherapy in Paris, France; and a SAP presidential reception was held in the beautiful Paris attracting colleagues from different countries. In 2018, another 20 plus members of SAP offered two keynote speeches and three symposia at the International Congress of Applied Psychology (ICAP) in Montreal, Canada, where SAP’s reception for its members and international guests was also a highlight. This year, a large group of SAP members went to Havana, Cuba in July and presented at the XXXVII Interamerican Congress of Psychology/Congreso Interamericano de Psicologia (CIP). The SAP Reception at CUBA CIP 2020 became one of the most memorable events for both SAP members and for our guests from local psychological communities.
From planning to experiencing the conference, the International Committee members engaged in a collaborative and learning process. It started in the fall 2018 when the Committee member from Guatemala, Maria del Pilar Grazioso brought the information about this upcoming conference in Havana, Cuba. The Committee felt excited about the opportunity to attend a Spanish speaking conference in one of our neighboring countries. Our Committee member from India, Pragya Sharma, volunteered to be a conference co-chair with Maria del Pilar Grazioso to lead the organizational effort for the conference.
And therein began the adventure of the organization process of our Division’s proposals. As much as it was interesting, it was also challenging to find members with common interests spread throughout the world, working at different time zones with all conversation being held electronically. However, the members were accommodating and flexible enough to align with certain popular themes. Several emails back and forth later, we had three program proposals ready: one panel discussion and two symposia. There were several online follow-up meetings to plan the intricacies with the bigger group as well as the small group with which we were each presenting.
Our group included Yaira Oquendo-Figueroa, Vladimir Nacev, Changming Duan, Lucia Vail, Maria del Pilar Grazioso, Rebecca Curtis, Andres Consoli, Frederick Leong, Jeff Zimmermann, Lauren Brehman, Gordon Hall, Guillermo Bernal, Barbara Vivino, Jean Birbilis, Manijeh Badiee, Pragya Sharma, and Tamara Mikinski. We had a wonderful experience at the XXXVII Interamerican Congress of Psychology/Congreso Interamericano de Psicologia (CIP) that was held in La Habana, Cuba, at the Centro de Convenciones de la Habana. Besides conference itself, every one of us felt the value of connection with colleagues throughout the trip and beyond. Some have already been talking about future collaboration and traveling plan to another international conference together next year!
The Interamerican Society of Psychology/Sociedad Interamericana de Psicologia (SIP) and American Psychological Association have a long-standing history of continuous communication and collaboration. Nonetheless, this is the first time that a specific APA division participated not only within the Congress programming, facilitating symposiums and roundtables, but also fostering social and academic networking through a delightful gathering that highlighted Cuban food and music with a wonderful evening at La Fontana restaurant where the owner explained to us the restaurant’s history.
As many of us shared, we are grateful for having the opportunity to get to know our colleagues from the Americas and the rest of the world, to learn from each other, from SIP colleagues and organizers, and from Cuban history. The Cuban people could not have been more kind, warm, and gracious. The conference would not have been more delightful! The conference took place in a beautiful convention center with spectacular meeting rooms—counters in front of the chairs and simultaneous translations. In fact it is also where Cuban Congress holds its meetings. Panel organizers did a terrific job putting together well thought out contributions and very interesting talks that broaden the usual themes for this type of congress. We were very proud of being part of this group.
After the conference, our members continue the excitement by reflecting and sharing our learning and experience. Here are some member sharing:
Manijeh Badiee: “My experience in Cuba was transformative. I enjoyed the conference immensely. I found the presentations to be of high quality and had excellent variety in content. A unique aspect of the conference that I enjoyed immensely were the dances and live music in the evenings.”
Rebecca Curtis said, “The CIP Cuba conference would not have been more delightful! I decided to splurge from my usual youth hostel lodging and stayed in the grand Hotel Nacional where others were staying and got to know the other participants, especially over the breakfast with eight buffet tables, violin and guitar. As for Cuba itself, my time could not have been more enjoyable. All the cafes in Old Havana had music and dancing!”
Fred Leong: “I am sure that we all have our own memorable experiences in Havana. For me, it was our joining the band at The Fontana to sing Guantanamera during the reception. I was looking for the lyrics to the song when I came across this Youtube video…..Over 75 Cubans from around the world joining together to sing Guantanamera. I hope you will enjoy the video as much as I did in reliving the Cuba experience”
In his Thank You email to us after the conference, the President Sociedad Interamericana de Psicologia, Dr. Carlos Zalaquett, said, “We truly appreciate the participation of Division 29 in the 37th InterAmerican Congress of Psychology in Cuba. …La psicoterapia (psychotherapy) is highly valued across the Americas and we all aim to advance its scientific foundation, teaching, practice, and evidence-based. The added value of working with SIP is to expand our knowledge about the practice of psychotherapy across the Americas, so we can make the benefits of psychotherapy accessible to ALL, including those Latinxs within and outside our borders. The US is the second largest Latinx country in the world. Only Mexico has more Latinxs than the US…. I hope we would collaborate to achieve the goals stated above.”
Time to exchange ideas, sing and dance and build friendships is ever so special. Moreover, the chance to meet the Cuban people and see their joy of life, resilience, and creativity was truly inspiring. How great it is to connect with and mutually share with others near and far.
We are also very appreciative of those who took time from their busy schedule to join us at the SAP reception.
This experience will be in our memory forever. With fondness we will remember our joining the band at The Fontana to sing Guantanamera during the reception. As our friend Fred Leong reminded us, we will continue to sing following over 75 Cubans from around the world joining together to sing Guantanamera inviting us to enjoy the video as much as he did in reliving the Cuba experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkA9b2W-0Fw.
Cite This Article
del Pilar Grazioso, M., Sharma, P., & Changming, D. (2019). Conferencing to connect near and far. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 54(3), 53-56.