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Second Annual Conference of SIPFo: 'Treatment and Integration'

Monday, 13 August 2018

Second Annual Conference of SIPFo: 'Treatment and Integration'

Elena Mundici (BPC/TSP, Director Panoptikon) reporting on the ITALIAN Society for Forensic Psychotherapy (SIPFo) conference in Catania, 2018

At the end of June the second annual conference of the Italian Society for Forensic Psychotherapy (SIPFo) ‘Treatment and Integration’ brought together the clinical expertise of forensic practitioners from all over the world.

Inspired by the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy, SIPFo was created in 2016, and owes its successful events and wide membership to the energy and initiative of its founder Dr Francesco Spadaro, and of the SIPFo Board, which includes the most prominent members of Italian Forensic Psychological, Psychoanalytic and Psychiatric professions.

The conference took place in Catania, Sicily, set between the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. With its ancient beauty in suspended equilibrium with the natural forces that surround her, as well as Sicily’s history of survival to domination and violence across millennia, Catania provided the perfect setting for the conference. Forensic psychotherapy, in fact, explores ways to understand and create a dialogue with the perennial force of human destructiveness.

The conference provided both insight and an opportunity to reflect on the current situation in Italy. Following Dr Franco Basaglia’s idea, more than 3 decades ago, to close psychiatric hospitals, the law has recently been extended to forensic patients, who are now treated in supported community-based institutions.

The first day featured a succession of world-renowned speakers, each bringing their different contribution to the management and treatment of the forensic patient. Dr Francesco Spadaro opened the Conference introducing the speakers and highlighting the interest of the Society in exploring individual destructiveness. Dr Vincenzo Caretti followed with an introduction to the complex nature of psychopathy. Against the current fashionable trend of short-term treatments, Dr Carine Minne made a case for long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy with the forensic population, in her thoughtful account of her therapeutic journey with a patient from high security to the community. Dr Estela Welldon brought her insight into female perversion and its relation to trauma. While giving the audience an experience of Dr Welldon’s revolutionary thinking, her paper also reflected how society still struggles to come to terms with pathological motherhood. Dr Alan Felthous concluded the first day with a review of current approaches to the pharmacological treatment of impulsive aggression.

On the second day a variety of parallel sessions allowed space for new projects to be discussed. Italian clinicians brought their experience of transition from the old forensic hospital, the ambiguous ‘brick mother’, to the community-based services. From the UK perspective, the organisation Panoptikon described their work in the round with prison institutions, offering a reflective function to prisoners and prison staff. Overall, the various presentations reflected the complexity of concepts like ‘containment’ and ‘security’ and offered different perspectives on their application in the treatment and management of this vulnerable patient population.

The current political situation, with the rise of divisive and threatening ideology, bears much resemblance to the internal world of the forensic patient, characterised by primitive defences, splitting mechanisms and projection of unwanted parts of the self on others. In this context, the conference of SIPFo gave a message of hope and integration, offering excellent clinical presentations, succulent catering and Italian hospitality.

Elena Mundici BPC, TSP
Director Panoptikon

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