In the last few weeks I have attended two BME conferences in the USA - CCSAD on the East Coast and the AM Symposium on the West Coast. Besides enabling me to get my share of pancakes and root beer (not together) I believe that there is a massive benefit to attending international conferences, both by going oversees and also in one’s own country of residence.

Not being clinical or a practitioner, I don’t attend the conferences for the therapeutic skills or the CPDs on offer. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t get inspiration from the presentations that I attend. On the contrary, I find that attending presentations keeps me fresh and grounded, up to date and a part of this incredible global community. I see my job as providing a platform which provides an exchange of information between the dedicated helpers who are working so hard and tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of others. Immersing myself in their world gives me so much insight and understanding.

Without naming names I have attended two of the most inspirational talks yet in the last few months, on subjects that surprised me. I also watched with pride as my colleague Sam Quinlan presented at the AM Symposium in Long Beach, CA on the UK and European treatment environment,. Watching Sam in her element reminded me of how rapidly and drastically change happens - both on a treatment level and a business level. Sometimes for good, sometimes for not so good. I am constantly blown away by the speed of new research and its implementation. And for the most part, my overriding impression is that I am witness to a large group of individuals united in their compassion and their desire to provide help, support, hope and continuing care to those in need. Being part of this is a true privilege .

On a social and interactive level, it’s great to meet new friends and colleagues and to catch up with existing ones. The friendliness and hospitality is super comforting in a potentially alien environment.

I’ve had chance encounters in the corridors that have made a big difference to me personally and also iCAAD’s mission, I’ve had my thoughts and perspectives positively challenged, I’ve said “no” to people I had thought I wanted to say “yes” to me. I’ve belly laughed and I’ve been moved to tears. I gain an awful lot on a personal level.

When in the music industry I always felt that in order to do my best for bands I was working with, it was important to see them playing live as often as possible - for a full understanding and feeling of what they were all about. To get under their skin, understand their interactions with fans, see their glories and their mistakes. Up close and personal. I think the same applies to this industry - getting to as many conferences as possible - finding out about the living, breathing entity that is the behavioural, mental and emotional health treatment community, getting behind the mask of the people who work within it, gives me a much deeper understand of the role that iCAAD can play, and what my role is within iCAAD - both of which are constantly evolving.

One of the first BME Health conferences I ever attended was put on by my friend and iCAAD’s friend Lee FitzGerald's whose annual London Workshop takes place each November at the wonderful Marriot Cromwell Road (I liked it so much I used the venue for a Music Support event earlier this year.) Lee’s is a very popular conference and I am proud that we are able to work together and co-exist in a space where we could be seen as competitors. We are, in fact, friendly competitors - a good thing to keep each other on our toes - but as Father Joe Pereira so wisely said, there is no monopoly on the healing of human suffering.

In my mind every conference has a flavour. The flavour at Lee’s to me is that of the chocolate chip cookies permanently available at the coffee stations, along with the smell of the next batch baking. A great environment to settle down, experience and learn. The speakers at Lee’s conferences are always exceptional, a great mixture of established and new, covering so many areas of interest and importance and relevance.

An American person bringing a conference to London? I love that. The international vibe is extended and the style of the conference sits somewhere between North Dakota and California (at the risk of sounding ambiguous.) The inimitable and undefinable US influence. I would love to bring one of iCAAD’s conferences to the US. And why not? We are, after all, international (that’ll be the “i” in iCAAD) - we’ve already extended outside of Europe - and we’re practically half way there with Iceland!

I wish I could attend more US and international conferences for all the reasons I have listed and many many more. In the meantime though Lee’s conference brings it over here, which is why it is so unique.

When I was in the US I tried to get hold of a “Pumpkin Caramel Kringle” from Trader Joes. They are so amazing they should be illegal. I dragged my suitcase halfway across Manhattan to find them and they were sold out. I almost cried. Getting them via mail order is difficult and expensive. Perhaps they will be available at Lee’s conference this year along with the chocolate chip cookies. I doubt it but that’s OK. The conference brings enough US flavour and vibe, I’ll just have to wait on the Kringle.