Journey into Contemporary Psychology: Madrid, Vienna and Athens

Vlad-Petre Glaveanu
Assistant Editor

It is considered that every journey makes the traveler become richer; that it represents a gain in itself. This is especially the case when the voyage offers the possibility to meet persons having similar interests, to hear about the latest discoveries in your work field, to discuss problems that concern specialists from several countries. This was a unique opportunity for me, to be able to attend, within four months, three scientific events that have made me travel around Europe.
My first destination was Madrid, the sunny capital of Spain. Here, in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, a psychology student congress took place from 24th to 30th April 2005. It was the first event of this kind to ever be held in Spain, and at the same time the 19th European Congress that brought together psychology students from many European countries. The topic was an extremely generous one: “The Art of Living: 21st Century Challenge”, and the Congress was organized by CEP-PIE Spanish Psychology Students’ Association with the support of the Spanish Psychological Association and of 15 Psychology Faculties of Spanish Universities, under the auspices of EFPSA, or the European Federation of Psychology Students’ Associations. In order to better understand the nature of this event it should be stated that this was the annual EFPSA congress, and that EFPSA has 23 member organizations and represents over 75.000 students from all over Europe. This year, the participants to the Congress came from 30 different countries and the themes included in the “art of living” were: Diversity, Normality, Coexistence, Conflicts, Progress, Innovation, Change, Health and Future.
It was impossible to attend this event and not make new friends. Once at the congress, everyone started greeting old friends or discussing with new participants, mainly about the life and psychology in each country and about Spain. Students had the chance to present their studies, during the first days in the “Students’ papers and poster presentation”. The range of themes was impressive: from Creativity, Organizational Diagnosis, Self-Esteem, Attachment Styles up to National Identity, Human Facial Expression, Love and Sexuality.
At the workshops everyone had the chance to debate on subjects like “Laugh Therapy” or “Behavior Manipulation” or to form practical skills in domains such as “Developing and Validating a Questionnaire”, “Negotiation” or even “Cross-Cultural Research”. The lectures were held by university professors or professionals, and starting from the grand opening of the Congress a special introductory lecture was held by Prof. Helio Carpintero on “Historical traits of Applied Psychology”.
Of course, many activities facilitated social interaction between the students and aimed at creating a special atmosphere, a typical Spanish one. From the first day, the “Cultural evening” encouraged every participant to bring traditional food, drinks and music, so that everyone would experience first hand the customs and life around Europe. Another evening was dedicated to “learning activities” and these were represented by dance lessons held by professional salsa and flamenco dancers. In the end, the visit to Toledo and the traditional bullfight were unique experiences that reminded us of the values and principles of Don Quixote facing the realities of our 21st century.
A second destination in my scientific tour led me to Vienna, a former Imperial city that lies in the heart of Europe. This time, the name of the Conference was “Psychology for the 21st century” and it was sponsored by the Neuwaldegg Insitute, under the patronage of the Educational Initiative for Central and Easter Europe. Attending this event between 27th and 30th June 2005 by gaining a scholarship was again a perfect occasion to meet colleagues from Central and Eastern Europe, over 60 persons from 13 countries to be more precise, both undergraduate and graduate students, many preparing for their PhD in psychology. The course was designed and taught by Prof. Paul C. Vitz, Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the New York University and Professor of Psychology/Senior Scholar at the Institute for Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia.
All the participants were welcomed at Schloss Neuwaldegg, a castle that was first mentioned in official documents in the year 1315. The atmosphere was typical Viennese, with statues and paintings and a superb Baroque Garden in front of the Castle, one of the few left in Europe.
The purpose of the conference was to analyze several new trends in psychology nowadays. The four lectures followed by seminars debated several topics: “The New, Positive Psychology, or Modern Psychology discovers the Virtues”, “Psychotherapy and Forgiveness: An Introduction”, “Personalist Philosophy and a New Psychology of the Person: A Response to the Postmodern Critique” and “The Crises in the Family and the Rediscovery of the Psychology of Fatherhood”. Professor Vitz focused mainly on introducing the concept of “transmodern” psychology, a new era in the field of psychology together with other human sciences, one that has different features from the classical concepts of “modern” and “postmodern” defining specific periods.
Obviously, nobody left Vienna without visiting the Sigmund Freud museum, without having a coffee in the nearby coffee shop and taking a picture in the Sigmund Freud Park, in front of the impressive Votivkirche with its two 99m high towers.
Finally, the third destination for this summer was the ancient city of Athens, one that we can refer to as the historical capital of Europe. The occasion was represented by the “27th International School Psychology Colloquium 2005”, from 13th to 17th July 2005, that had as a theme: “Promoting the well-being of children and youth: A challenge for the school, the family and the school psychologist”. The Colloquium gathered practitioners, psychology students, professionals from the field of education and school psychology. Over 300 abstracts were received for this event and the participants came from 35 countries all over the world.
It was a unique experience and a great opportunity to share knowledge, make new friends, exchange ideas and by this to contribute to the promotion of action models and dialogue.
The Colloquium included Keynote Lectures, Workshops, Symposia and a number of 47 Thematic Sessions. The topics discussed were extremely diverse, starting from learning difficulties, bullying in school, counseling, up to self-mutilation, well-being in the academic environment, intervention programs. This extraordinary event was co-hosted by the International School Psychology Association and the Department of Psychology National and Kapodistrian University of Athens under the aegis of the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Health and the Municipality of Athens.
During the Colloquium an exhibition of children’s creative work from twenty one different countries related to the Olympic spirit and ideals took place. The Olympic Project Exhibition was suggestively called: “The Olympic Spirit through Children’s Voice”.
Staying in Athens for almost a week gave us the chance to visit the spectacular Parthenon with all the architectural masterpieces on the sacred hill of Acropolis. Listening to the lectures and symposia gave as the chance to understand that, on the one hand, modern psychology speaks ancient Greek and that, on the other hand, the general efforts of specialists from different continents aim at making the world a better place for the next generations. This was the message of the ISPA Colloquium this year.
And with this my journey ended, a journey that can be considered as one into contemporary psychology. There were unique moments, there was so much to learn and so many fiends to make. All the Conferences reflected the contribution of psychologists to the development of the modern world, focused on the value of applied psychology and on the value of dialog between students, specialists and practitioners worldwide. Maybe in the future we will all meet again, and the perfect occasion can be another Neuwaldegg event, the annual EFPSA meeting next year in the Czech Republic or the next ISPA Colloquium in China! Maybe there, with a little luck, I will meet you too!