President’s Report 2021

December 13, 2021

Members of the Board,

Another year has come and gone, and the threat of COVID- 10 and its new variants continue to occupy so much of our time and attention. I have been greatly impressed by the increased media attention to mental health issues during the pandemic, and what I hope will be continued focus on this domain even as the pandemic devolves into more local epidemics and then either dissipates or is managed by vaccines.

CBT therapists have contributed greatly to the discussions about COVID- 19, the resistance to vaccines, the particular mental health implications for youth and vulnerable adults, and the optimal ways to provide care even while maintaining physical distance from clients. Sarah Egan from Perth, Australia has several times updated the web- based resource on the WCCBT web site, and certainly has earned our recognition as an organization. Rod Holland has been a master in our Communications portfolio; our web presence is strong, although not yet well known in the world.

I am pleased that year saw the formal incorporation of the WCCBT, headquartered in New York City, which of course is also home to the United Nations. The ABCT has helped out a lot to facilitate this work, and the confederation owes a lot to ABCT for supporting the incorporation work and our meetings. The Board approved the criteria and procedures for affiliate members of the WCCBT and these are being slowly distributed to organizations that may be interested. We are now beginning to gather some revenues, and will be in the position shortly to deliver the first formal budget for the Board to review and approve.

In addition to the above foundational work, and notwithstanding the challenges of distance meetings, the WCCBT has continued to advocate where it can. We nominated a colleague to a World Health Organization working group on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. We have been invited to another working group of the WHO on mental health and addictions. We have provided materials to the South African Association of CBT to help them with their launch. We have a working group that is examining possible guidelines for training in CBT, which if approved by the board can serve as a template for training.

The next World Congress of CBT was original intended to take place in June of 2022 on Jeju island, South Korea. As members of the Board will recall, we were formally asked and approved a deferral of the World Congress to June of 2023 in Seoul, South Korea. The planning committee for the congress continues to meet, and to discuss the optimal format (live, virtual, hybrid) for this congress, given the ongoing pandemic. We can expect decisions early in 2022 so that the call for submissions can begin. As Board members know, the term of our Executive Committee is tied to the congress in our bylaws, and so the Board extended these terms until 2023, at which time the Board will meet and appoint a new Executive Committee.

One of the exciting initiatives taken by the Board this year was the approval of World CBT Day, which shall be April 7 annually, the same day at the WHO World Health Day. We will feature a small number of Global Leaders in 2022 who will provide lectures or workshops on this day, both as a signal of the enormous value of CBT to the health of the world, but also a service to the enormous numbers of CBT theorists and practitioners globally. It is hoped that the work begun in 2022 may serve as model to build upon for succeeding annual events.

I would be derelict in this report not to mention that the world of CBT stopped in recent weeks, to recognize the passing of Dr. Aaron Beck. Dr. Beck was a giant in our field, and his impact has been felt by literally millions of people globally. There were several events held which paid homage to him, and there are several journals that are planning special issues to commemorate his legacy. There are few people whose work has such import. In one memorial event I attended Dr Martin Seligman said that the two most important psychiatrists of the last century were Sigmund Freud and Aaron Beck, and I would concur.

My own hope is that in the coming year we can continue to reach out to and support the nascent national organizations where CBT is not yet formalized, particularly in some of the countries of Asia and Africa. We need to finalize our training guidelines, and to begin to promote this critical work. We need to find more and stable ways to connect with organizations such as the WHO and the UN, so that we have a seat at the table when physical and mental health is discussed. We need to improve our fiscal situation, so that more advocacy can be planned and undertaken.

There is much yet to do.

Keith Dobson
President, WCCBT