Report on EFTA CONFERENCE – Athens 28 September – 1 October 2016


Now that the 9th EFTA conference is over and we have had time to recover our energies and reflect on the experience, I am writing to update you on what was a very busy and productive conference for our Irish participants.

First some background –  The European Family Therapy Association (EFTA) is the European association established in 1990 as an international scientific association dedicated to linking and coordinating European national associations, individuals and institutes in the field of family therapy and systemic therapy.  It has three constituent chambers National Family Therapy Organisations (NFTO), Chamber of Individual Members (CIM) and the Training Institutes Chamber (TIC). Each Chamber has an elected board of 7 members and the EFTA board is made up of all three boards. The board has a three-year term with chamber elections being conducted at the congress. Ireland, at the last congress in Istanbul in 2013, was successful in getting two FTAI members elected.  I was elected to the NFTO board and have served as its chairperson for three years, Philip Kearney was elected to the TIC board and served as its secretary. We have had a strong presence and voice in the EFTA board due to the commitment and encouragement of all the current and previous NFTO and TIC representatives.

The 9th EFTA conference was originally due to take place in the Netherlands. However, it migrated to Greece as the high costs associated with the original venue in Amsterdam would have led to a very prohibitive registration fee and put the conference out of reach for many EFTA members, trainees and students. The move to Greece and organising the conference in a shortened time frame of 9 months involved a tremendous effort from both Conference presidents: EFTA president Maria Borcsa and President of ETHOS Mina Todoulou, supported by the executive committee of EFTA of which I am a member, the organising committee which Philip Kearney and myself served on, and the scientific committees of the conference.

With the goodwill and effort of the Greek organisers, the conference was successful in attracting many participants with over 1500 registered participants from 44 countries and 5 continents. What was so encouraging was the many students and trainees that were a very visible presence at the conference.  The tone of the conference was set by the sun drenched opening ceremony conduced in the Dora Stratou open air theatre and while the plenary halls were very congested for some of the keynote speakers, in general the organisation was very good.

We had eleven presenters from the island of Ireland attending and presenting at the conference.  Our colleagues were involved in chairing symposiums and open forums to speaking in invited symposium and presenting their work in workshops and brief communications.  The opportunity to network and make connections in the broader systemic community provided by the conference was significant both at the academic events and at the many systemic cafes and social events organised as part of the program.

The elections to the EFTA boards took place on Thursday the 29th September at the conference. I had been nominated by FTAI as a candidate for the NFTO chamber board and Dr Valerie O’Brien was nominated by the Clanwilliam institute as a candidate for the TIC Board.  Election to the boards is not an easy task – to be elected in the NFTO chamber you must gain votes from 29 other countries and in   the TIC chamber election from 120 training institutes across Europe.   I am delighted to report that we were both elected on to the respective boards.  This was an excellent result. The NFTO board have also elected me as the chairperson for the next three years.  The EFTA board elected Dr Rodolfo De Bernart to serve as the next EFTA president and now we begin the work for the next three years. I must say this continuing strong Irish presence at the centre of EFTA would not be possible without the foresight of successive FTAI boards in making the commitment to send our representatives to the EFTA meetings.

Kind regards

Monica Whyte- Chair NFTO- EFT