Liz Trondsen, whose son has OCD and BDD, has been attending the IOCDF Annual Conference since 2003. She initially attended the conference as a parent seeking out as much information as she could about the disorders, and to learn how she could play a role in her son Chris’ treatment process. Since then, Liz and Chris have become advocates for families struggling with OCD and related disorders, and were the Keynote speakers at last year’s Conference in San Diego, CA. She also now serves on the Conference Planning Committee.
In today’s blog post, Christina Albano interviews Liz and discusses her initial thoughts about the IOCDF Annual Conference and why she was compelled to go, and how the conference has benefited her whole family in confronting and conquering OCD.
When was your first IOCDF Conference? What made you decide to attend?
I first heard about the IOCDF Conference from the newsletter. As soon as I learned about the International OCD Foundation, I joined, and received the newsletter. The first conference I attended was in Nashville in 2003. I wanted to attend because I needed information. At that time, there were fewer doctors/therapists in the field, and the conference was presenting a session from each one of them. I couldn’t believe that I could hear every expert in the country in one place.
Were you nervous about attending?
I was excited. I was sure I was going to learn everything I needed to know about OCD.
What was the first year attending like? Any memorable moments?
The first year was amazing for me. There were so many lectures to attend, and I could not believe how accessible the doctors were. I went to a parents support group, and I remember a wonderful art display. There were so many people in groups that had no access to therapy back home, and I discovered how fortunate Chris and I were to live so close to LA and Westwood.
Did you feel out of place as a non-therapist?
Absolutely not. Most of the people at the conference are not therapists, and the doctors never segregate themselves. They are so approachable, it is so easy to speak to any of the speakers/therapists after and between sessions. I don’t remember the first conference being divided into the family/individual/professional sections—I like the way they do that now because it gives me a better idea what they will be speaking on. I like that I can attend a professional topic, and no one questions me being there.
Were the talks easy to understand?
Yes, I don’t remember having any difficulties understanding anything. Many of the sessions I attended were practical sessions—exercises to use, ways to handle problems, etc. I have found, over the years, that the majority of presentations are very well done and worthwhile. I like the mix of professional and non-professional presenters: Professionals present lots of good information, but non-professionals can offer practical advice and understand the emotional burdens we have. Knowing how far others have come can help tremendously when things aren’t looking promising.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?
I have finished the books I bought last year [at the IOCDF Conference Bookstore], so I am looking forward to buying more! I see a number of panels/speakers that have sparked my interest, and I definitely want to attend some support groups. I am (finally) starting a family support group this summer, and I want ideas. The keynote speaker sounds fascinating. My son, Chris, will know every young adult by the end of the conference, and I really love to see how re-energized he gets after a conference.
If you could give any advice to someone who is not sure about attending the conference, what would you tell them?
Go! If you can get your child/family member there, he/she will be so glad he/she came. If not, go alone and learn everything you can about the disease. You will be inspired by the stories you hear, and you will walk away with so many new resources to help you continue to help your family member get better.
As a parent of someone with OCD, did you gain new insight and understanding into your child’s disorder? Did you find the conference helpful? What was your perspective on other attendees?
Of course! I always learn new facts and current theories, I hear practical suggestions and ideas, and I hear stories from parents that help me put our lives into perspective. I listen to the stories of young adults and where they are today, to help me better understand my son. At the conference, there are people at all stages, so you feel like you can help some, and others can help you.
The conference is so packed; there just isn’t any time in the three days that you feel like you’re wasting time. If, for some reason, you misjudged a session, and it isn’t what you expected, you can just get up and go to another one!
Thank you, Liz, for this great look at the conference through a parent’s eyes! Liz will be participating in the panel “What Do I Do if My Loved One Refuses or is Struggling With OCD Treatment?” with her son Chris on Friday from 4–5:30pm. They will be talking alongside other mothers and sons about their experiences dealing with OCD as a family.