This summer, I had the great pleasure of attending the 2023 IPPA Conference in Vancouver, BC. I was there as a poster presenter, representing the IPPA Clinical Division’s Peer Group, which is led by CiPP alum Dr. Margarita Tarragona. Our group’s poster was a collaboration of voices. In co-creating it, we sought to illustrate how our peer group had applied Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions during the pandemic.
The core idea of Fredrickson’s research is that positive emotions are strongly linked with resilience in times of stress. Our poster consisted of two case studies provided by each practitioner within our international group. For Case 1, practitioners named the emotions they experienced as a result of their ongoing involvement with the peer group, as well as the ways the peer group had supported their well-being as clinicians working on the front lines of mental health. Case 2 illustrated specific positive psychology interventions that practitioners applied with their clients, along with the outcomes.
My colleagues from the IPPA Clinical Peer Group included Dr. Margarita Tarragona, CiPP alum Dr. Nancy Kirsner, Dr. Helene Moore, and Dr. Lorraine Gahles-Kildow. It was a joy to be with peers as we shared about our group’s work and engaged with the many other poster presenters and conference participants. While we developed our research, the group provided a safe haven and served as a kind of laboratory for peer mentoring. We met on a monthly basis for a rich exchange of ideas, receiving real-time supervision from each other as we drew from the rich repository of tools from the field of resilience and positive psychotherapy. Hope was ignited in our group and created an upward spiraling effect as ideas were sparked. This positivity effect led to outward spirals, as evidenced in the work that was being done with our clients and groups. The poster was a way to shine light on each of the applied practitioners and demonstrate how positive psychology interventions impacted clinician well-being as they served their populations.
In our IPPA abstract, Dr. Gahles-Kildow spoke for many of us in her description of the bi-directional nature of positive emotions when they are strategically induced, as they were in our group: “The experience of the monthly positive psychology group produced broaden-and-build effects that went from the group to me, and from me to my clients, and others … The effects spread farther than I would have imagined, and I am ever grateful for this experience.”
The Rich WBI Tapestry
Many WBI alumni, faculty, and friends have attended past IPPA Congresses, and the 2023 conference was no exception. Walking through the convention center, attending workshops, wherever I went, I ran into familiar faces. Dr. Maria Sirois was there to present her signature work on resilience and speak on a panel about youth mental health. WBI guest faculty Dr. Dan Tomasulo was featured in both the clinical division presentations and the spirituality division.
CiPP alum Pninit Russo Netzer facilitated with Dr. Michael Steger on topics related to meaning, and WBI cofounder Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar joined Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky on a panel titled “Communicating Positive Psychology to Massive Audiences.” In addition to faculty, there were a sea of CiPP faces from past programs in attendance, from the many cohorts dating back to CiPP1 in 2013. I even met a few speakers from our JCC/WBI Positive Psychology Hour, who I had only met virtually up to that point.
A highlight for me was seeing CiPP3 alum R. Lisle Baker presented with the IPPA 2023 Outstanding Practitioner Award. This particular award is given in recognition of those who advance the practice of positive psychology. Lisle, a professor who teaches Positive Psychology for Lawyers at Suffolk University Law School, has presented at prior IPPA conferences about his work in helping persuade the American Bar Association to include well-being as part of the interpretation for a new law school curricular standard on professional identity. During CiPP3, Lisle’s final project focused on lawyer identity and well-being. Inspired by key concepts of empathy and compassion, Lisle envisioned how he would introduce positive psychology into the Leadership and Character Strengths course he was creating for Suffolk.
WBI students work on a final project as part of their completion of the Certificate in Positive Psychology. This is referred to as the “forever project.” As I observed Lisle on stage with his colleagues, I recalled the topic of his final project from years back and the seed that had been planted at that time. To see him honored and recognized in such a meaningful way was elevating. Accepting the award, Lisle said: “How we educate new lawyers matters to all of us because attorneys are the guardians of our liberties, our livelihoods, and our environment. We need them to be at their very best when we want their help.”
The conference was replete with breathtaking scholarship. For me, the most compelling aspect was the application of the research, and the most satisfying part was the experience of being in a community filled with committed individuals, all working to be their very best while serving the work forward.
Congratulations to the 2023 IPPA Award Winners!
The photo also features award winners from 2021, who were unable to attend a live conference that year.
2023 Award Winners
- Christopher Peterson Gold Medal Award: Richard E Boyatzis, PhD
- James Pawelski Positive Catalyst Award: Leona Brandwene, MAPP, PCC
- Raymond D. Fowler Service Award: Ryan M. Niemiec, PsyD
- IPPA Outstanding Practitioner Award: R. Lisle Baker
- IPPA Early Career Researcher Award: Saida Heshmati, PhD
- IPPA Fellow: Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD
- IPPA Top Dissertation Award: David R. Cregg
- Dissertation Award Honorable Mention: Dr. Nicole Casali
- Dissertation Award Honorable Mention: Christa T. Mahlobo, PhD
- Dissertation Award Honorable Mention: Michela Zambelli, PhD
Phoebe Atkinson is a core faculty member of WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification program. She is a licensed clinical social worker, certified coach, and board-certified trainer, educator, and practitioner in psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy. She serves on the faculty for WBI’s Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, and is also a graduate of the program.
Along with Jennifer Hanawald, Phoebe teaches the online Positive Psychology: Skill-Building Intensive course and leads the Positive Psychology Coaching Mentorship.
Find out about Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology
Learn more about WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification.