The Congress Experience in Ljubljana

by Umberta Telfener

The “congress experience” in Ljubljana

Umberta Telfener[1]

A congress is a specific universe where time and space can be suspended and one finds itself each time for the first time, usually not knowing the city in which the Congress takes place. A sort of a bubble where we arrive with what we know, curious of learning more, of meeting new people and encountering old acquaintances, of challenging our usual ways of thinking and – for us psychotherapists – also of practicing our work. A space where we realize the existence of multiple universes.  If we are lucky it becomes a very special experience, a reflexive space where time becomes loose and everything can happen. The usual rules for our days are suspended and we wonder in search of stimuli and surprises, of confirmations and news of differences. Of disappointment, critics and shared discontent as well. As systemics we know that every reflexive space is a generative space, a congress can become a generative self-organizing galaxy.

We create a suspended gathering, jointly shared with friends and strangers, in which a generative practice, transformative to all the people included, takes place. If we are aware of the importance of the experience we can make it nonjudgmental: a morphogenetic space organized by resonance. The participants who managed to abandon themselves to the congress experience may have lived a instinctual participation, in which their conscience has inflated, including more internal and external elements that strictly connected. These are the concepts that organized the themes of this 2022 Congress: Systemic Resonances and Interferences.

An isomorphism just there! Isomorphisms between our daily work, the themes of the conference and our possible personal experiences, the possibility to vibrate on the notes of what is offered, the chance to enlarge the field of possibilities, and gain a participative positioning.

I felt the opportunity of a special relationship with myself and with new wonders and stimuli walking through the roads of the beautiful city of Ljubljana. It was like a treasure hunt to go from one hall to the other, leaving the Congress Center, looking for the Sigmund Freud University or the Faculty of Theology, recognizing every time better the landmarks that would take me where I wanted to go. I enjoyed meeting a friend by chance, deciding to go and drink a lassie – a cultural bounce into the Indian culture in the middle of Europe -, sharing an umbrella with a stranger with the same membership label on the chest once it rained, helping a young student to find among the presentations the proper stimuli for her expectations in a late hurried morning.

The boundaries that defined us participants have been the systemic thinking and practicing that many of us proposed in the numerous presentations (seminars, symposia, workshops, keynotes, posters …). I still crave the ones I did not attend and loved the ones that I attended, in both situations, if I could appreciate them deeply or when I felt I would have organized the process completely differently, not agreeing with the content and criticizing it within myself. I was happy to realize once more that systemic thinking is an established theory that needs no a priori explanation and that our practices were material of curiosity and reflection for other systemic activists. Therapy is a political act that emerges from the coexistence of multiplicity and unity, of difference and repetition. Therapy is a creative act based on ethics, aesthetics and politics, as I proposed in the symposium I run with three dear colleagues of mine[2], each coming from a different clinical experience.

A congress is a deep social experience. What you get out of it is a question of attitude and style both on the organizer’s side and on the side of the participants. If a Congress is organized with integrity and good will, each person gets from it what is ready to absorb. I was part of the Scientific Committee[3], we met every 15 days for a long time and we did our very best to invite interesting people and to offer news of differences as well as consolidated practices. We had a vision, we organized many proposals, we communicated with trust among each other, we set some rules… Then the conference took over its process and emerged as a recursive social self-regulating process. I am personally satisfied with the result, thank you all for attending and see you in 2025 for the next EFTA Congress!!


[1] President of EFTA since the Ljubljana General Board Meeting, prior chair of the EFTA-TIC board, Teacher of the Milan Approach.

[2] Maria Esther Cavagnis, Fundación Familias y parejas , Buenos Aires, Argentina; Britt Krause, Tavistock Clinic London; Valerie O’Brian, Systemic Psychotherapy, University College Dublin.

[3] The Scientific Committee was formed by: Matthias Ochs, Miran Mozina, Nevena Calovska, Júlia Hardy, Lucie Hornova, Martine Nisse, Viola Sallay,  Joana Sequeira and myself.


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