Ties That Heal


Webster University Geneva Students Organize Second Counseling Conference

Geneva prepareGENEVA, September 26, 2013 - With the “Ties that Heal,” the second International Psychology and Counseling Conference at Webster University Geneva happening in less than a week, a team of students stand poised and ready to welcome speakers and guests from around the world after spending months coordinating and organizing the event.

“The most rewarding and exciting part about organizing this event is the spirit of team work that is conveyed and modeled by everyone,” said Marie Jonsson, a senior from Sweden majoring in Psychology.

The conference will take place Oct. 2-4 at the Geneva International Conference Center. Renowned scholars and practitioners are coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and universities of Geneva and Lausanne to cover topics such as pathways for healing the self/the individual, healing from traumatic events, and healing relationships with insights from neuroscience.

“We are excited about Dr. Amy Banks, a famous psychiatrist from the United States, who will deliver a keynote speech on what is the current information/knowledge about brain science and how that can help us form closer relationships,” said Soraya Morgantini, a senior who has lived in both Mexico and Switzerland. She is also majoring in Psychology.

In her presentation, Banks is expected to explain how research has shown that specific areas of the brain can be strengthened to help a person lead a calmer life.

“This is so exciting,” Morgantini said. “People often believe that the hard sciences do not go together with the ‘soft' social sciences – therapy, psychology and everything to do with well-being. But our way of thinking is slowly shifting as we learn more about the brain. Some professors call it a ‘social organ' because the brain is shaped and actually physically changes by what we are exposed to - our environment.”

Through the professional guidance of University staff coordinators, the student organizers are responsible for all the operations during the event including setting up the venue, registration, escorting, and doing outreach.

“Leading up to the conference, we have been reaching out to the community to sign up people for the conference through various activities, such as raising awareness through class announcements and through our Facebook page, organizing bake sales, where baked goods are exchanged for registrations, and putting up posters inside and outside of campus,” said Edil Egeh, a senior who also serves as the secretary of the University's Psychology Club and is majoring in Psychology. Egeh has lived in both Somalia and Switzerland.

The student volunteers range in years in school and majors, which include psychology, media, international relations, and computer science.

The first conference, “Building Bridges: Supporting Individuals and Families in Transition,” was held in 2011. ConceptualizedGeneva group by Dr. Ros Thomas, head of the psychology and counseling department in Geneva, the conference was created out of the increased need for English speaking expatriates, working and living in the Geneva area, to come together and discuss the current trends. This forum provides an opportunity for conversations about therapy, psychology/counseling, as well as resources for individuals, parents and families who need help. This conference was envisioned as an outreach event to bring together the English-speaking members of the region while welcoming professionals from across the world.  The conference was also designed as a way to involve the psychology students and showcase the great talent harbored on campus.

“The first conference, we had 200 participants. We are hoping to attract the same number this year,” Jonsson said.  “With two weeks to go, registrations are going strong.”

Other speakers at this year's conference include: Hemla Singaravelu, Webster Worldwide Counseling director and chair of the professional counseling department; Mark Philbin, Dublin City University; Grazia Ceschi, University of Geneva; and Emmy van Deurzen of the Dilemma Consultancy in London. For a complete listing of the conference speakers, visit the Webster Geneva event page.

The faculty remains quite grateful for all the hard work done by this team of student coordinators, which has made the conference possible, Thomas said.

“With their engagement, the conference will reach out and help professionals, academics, and the general public,” Thomas said. “We can rightfully be proud of our talented global citizens who approach their roles with professionalism and enthusiasm. Webster's local and international reputation will be enhanced by the role our students play in the event.”

While the topic of the next conference is still unknown, the student coordinators are hopeful that another conference is definitely on the horizon.

“We hope to continue to attract professionals as well as the general public and we hope to continue to recruit our fellow students,” said Prashant Prashad, a junior from India majoring in Psychology.  “We gain an invaluable experience in this professional event and the participants gain useful and insightful information from top scholars, authors, and speakers from all over the world.”