Tipper Gore, once named one of the “Ten Most Admired Women in the World,” has brought her warmth, charm and infectious energy to communities and organizations around the globe. She will be presenting a Keynote speech on the topic of “Mental Health and the World We Seek” at this year’s Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. The mental health community continues working to expand our understanding of the brain and to improve both the quality of, and the access to treatment. It is also important to build enduring connections with other communities. The speech will discuss the role of those working with mental health in the critical challenges and opportunities facing our interdependent world. Making mental health a priority not only benefits people with mental illness, but also society at large.
Tipper Gore was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about her experiences in the mental health field.
Jeff Zeig: Hello. We’re so glad you accepted our invitation to speak at the upcoming Evolution Conference in December. Could you please tell us about your educational background in psychology?
Tipper Gore: I studied psychology as an undergraduate and graduate student at Boston University and Vanderbilt. This gave me a solid grounding in principles and theory. But to be honest, it has been the people I encountered who were dealing with mental illness who prepared me most to be a mental health advocate. It’s one thing to read about depression or bipolar disorder. However, I have found that through knowing the experiences of others and the struggles they face you gain a deeper understanding of these conditions. That helps us know what we as a society need to do to improve mental health.
JZ: We would be glad to know about your work advocating for the disenfranchised, especially those with mental illness. Also, what are your recommendations to help the disenfranchised, especially those with mental illness?
TG: From parents facing the unimaginable decision to raise a child with severe mental illness, or to give up custody so the government has to provide treatment, to veterans struggling with the mental health effects of combat, to the homeless living with mental illness, I have seen how gaps in our mental health system can push people to the margins. Some can — and do — stand up for themselves and advocate on their own behalf, but they need allies. First, as an ally, it is important for advocates to realize that they are partners with the people living the challenges we seek to overcome. Your role is to help amplify their voices, to build bridges so more people aid their cause, and, if you are in positions of privilege or power, make your seat at the tables of influence useful in advancing their needs.
JZ: What about your efforts on behalf of the LGBTQ community?
TG: From marriage equality to changing social attitudes about sexual orientation, I have been proud to see the LGBTQ community win some tough fights in the United States. And, the same goes internationally where marriage equality is a reality under law in more countries. The struggle for LGBTQ rights is a mainstream part of the struggle for human rights for everyone. Of course, there are many more battles to win and much progress to make. I have been proud to support many LGBTQ civil rights and advocacy organizations, to speak out and raise money when I can, and, perhaps most important, to make equality for the LGBTQ community among the values my family lives by and stands for.
Could you talk about your interest in photography?
TG: My love of photography began in the early 1970’s with the gift of a 35mm Yashica. I’ve been taking photos ever since, both in my professional and personal lives. I was a photographer for the Nashville Tennessean, and free-lanced when I moved to Washington D.C. When I was in the White House, I took my camera with me, photographing events like the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn. I also photographed our travels around the world, including to post-genocide Rwanda. I’ve found it extremely powerful to share images that put human faces on statistics in order to inspire us to improve both lives and the health of our planet.
I’m not putting the camera down any time soon.
JZ: Most attendees of our conferences are therapists who work in community mental health. Do you have an inspiring message for them?
TG: First, THANK YOU. While much of your work is done in private, working one-on-one in confidential settings with the people you serve, I want you to know that you are not alone, and your hard work is not forgotten. You are making a difference in people’s lives and making our families and communities stronger. I can’t wait to meet you!
JZ: Thank you. And we can’t wait to meet you and hear your keynote speech.
by Jeffrey K. Zeig, PhD
The first conference I organized was the 1980 International Congress on Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy. Shortly thereafter, I conceived of organizing the first Evolution Conference, which was held in 1985. This was in keeping with the philosophy of the newly formed Erickson Foundation since Board members agreed that we did not want to establish a school of Ericksonian therapy. Rather, our goal was to present and advance Erickson’s teachings to promote effective treatment.
In late 1984, a steering committee for the first Evolution Conference was appointed, which included experienced Arizona clinicians who met monthly to suggest policy. The Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona School of Medicine agreed to become nominal cosponsors. The final faculty selections were made and it was decided to limit the conference to schools of therapy that were currently influential. Biological approaches, or “body therapists,” and research methodologists would not be included. The administration of the conference was handled by Sherron S. Peters, Administrative Director of the Foundation, and her staff. Publicity was sent to members of major professional organizations.
The response was incredible. In the original proposal to the faculty, it was predicted that attendance would range between 3,000 and 6,000. On September 2, 1985, approximately three months before the conference, we were sold out with 7,200 registrants. Unfortunately, several thousand were turned away for lack of space. We even received reports that registrations were being scalped! Registrants included approximately 2,000 doctoral practitioners, 3,000 master’s level practitioners, and 2,000 graduate students. Professionals from 29 countries and every state in the U.S. registered for the event.
The conference was a grand success, even though it snowed the first day of the meeting –the first measurable snow in Phoenix in four decades! Many of the sessions were packed, but most attendees could get into the ones they wanted. There was a palpable spirit of camaraderie that developed amongst attendees. One example of this took place immediately following a workshop demonstration in which Miriam Polster worked with a young black woman whose mother was seriously ill back home in South Africa. The woman was deeply torn between returning to South Africa to be with her mother (living under intolerable conditions) and remaining in the U.S. and continuing her graduate school education. A great source of sorrow for the woman was that she could not easily keep in touch with her mother because her mother did not have a telephone. Attendees spontaneously collected over $2,000 as a gesture of support for the two women and not only did this make it possible for the mother to install a phone, but there was also enough left over to help pay for her medical expenses.
In 1985, the Evolution Conference was the largest meeting held in Arizona. Attendees were housed in 19 hotels and there was a bus system to bring people to the downtown conference location. The conference occupied the entire Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center, which spanned two city blocks, so a shuttle service of golf carts transported the faculty between hotels and meeting rooms. The two largest meeting rooms seated 3,500 and 7,000. Two other rooms seated 2,000. The smallest room seated 450. To enhance visibility, large screen projectors were used in three rooms. A staff of 160 graduate student volunteers monitored rooms and assisted attendees.
With the understanding that attendees would want to attend more sessions than was physically possible (up to seven were held simultaneously), tapes of the sessions were made available for purchase. Much of the conference was videotaped and all of it was audiotaped. And because it was such a unique conference, many commemorative items were sold, including large posters with the conference logo and names of the faculty. Faculty members were regularly asked to autograph posters. The profits from the items sold were used to endow graduate students with scholarships.
A special evening event featured the grandchildren of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in a conversation hour entitled, “The Masters.” Each discussed what it was like to grow up in their respective households. The panels were meant to symbolize the mending of old rifts and the move toward integration, which was a philosophical underpinning of the conference.
Sophie Freud, PhD, Professor of Social Work at Simmons College, and Dieter Baumann, MD, in private practice in Zurich, agreed to attend. Alfred Adler’s son was also invited, but could not participate. At the last minute, Adler’s only grandchild, Margot Adler, agreed to join the panel. Margot worked for public radio and happened to be covering the conference as a member of the press! Held on two consecutive evenings, the event was moving and inspirational. The first night, Sophie Freud could not attend due to an airlines delay, but Bruno Bettelheim participated and discussed Freud’s Vienna.
The first Evolution Conference celebrated the 100th anniversary of psychotherapy. (Some historians traced the birth of psychotherapy to 1885 when Freud first became interested in the psychological aspect of medicine.) The media recognized the importance of the psychological goings-on in Phoenix and covered the event in local and trade papers, on television, and national radio. Feature articles later appeared in TIME, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. A thought-provoking critique was published in The Fessenden Review, a literary magazine. The New York Times called the conference, “…the Woodstock of psychotherapy.” Press conferences were also held with Bruno Bettelheim and Virginia Satir on “Children and the Family” ; R.D. Laing and Carl Whitaker on “Schizophrenia and Mental Health” ; Carl Rogers on “Psychotherapy and Social Issues: South Africa”; and Albert Ellis and Judd Marmor on “Human Sexuality.”
The faculty for the 1985 Evolution Conference included: Aaron Beck, Bruno Bettelheim, Murray Bowen, Albert Ellis, Mary Goulding, Robert Goulding, Jay Haley, R. D. Laing, Richard Lazarus, Cloé Madanes, Judd Marmor, James Masterson, Rollo May, Salvador Minuchin, Zerka Moreno, Erving Polster, Miriam Polster, Carl Rogers, Ernest Rossi, Virginia Satir, Thomas Szasz, Paul Watzlawick, Carl Whitaker, Lewis Walberg, Joseph Wolpe, and Jeffrey Zeig.
This December the Evolution conference will be held in Anaheim, California. Many of the original faculty will be joining us for this 8th incarnation of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference. Click here to see who’s presenting in 2017!