The International Evolving British Object Relations conference has been taking place annually in Seattle since 2004. Several forces have been key in its conception and birth. One was the tremendous response from the local community of therapists, showing hunger for additional conversation and learning after a 2002 conference entitled Frontiers of Practice that compared object relations and attachment theories. Additionally, in 2003, the group of analysts who formed the study group which eventually became the Northwestern Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, articulated the need for increased exposure to developing ideas in British object relations theory in order to encourage the study group’s potential to grow into an institute. The specific call for an international British object relations conference came from Robert Oelsner, MD, FIPA. The title, Evolving British Object Relations, is crucial in communicating the cross-fertilization and growth of ideas that is an ongoing goal of the conference.
The first official EBOR took place in 2004, and featured the British analysts Eric Brenman and Irma Brenman Pick as plenary presenters. Other memorable psychotherapist and psychoanalyst presenters from around the world have included Avner Bergstein, Ronald Britton, Abbott Bronstein, Larry Brown, Alessandro Bruni, Arnaldo Chuster, Elie Debbané, Jeffrey Eaton, Judy K Eekhoff, William Fried, Peter Goldberg, James Grotstein, Debbie Hindle, Gisela Klinckwort, Alessandra Lemma, Nydia Lisman-Pieczanski, Luiz Meyer, Simona Nissim, Clara Nemas, Robert Oelsner, Michael Ian Paul, Michael Pavlovic, Alberto Pieczanski, Lia Pistiner de Cortiñas, Karen Proner, Rikki Ricard, Richard Rusbridger, John Steiner, M. Deborah Steiner, and Meltzer scholar artist Meg Harris Williams.
Conference themes have included “Bion’s Catastrophic Change: In the Individual, the Group, and the Society”; “Interpretation and Psychic Change: Understanding the Past in the Present”; “Dream Work and the Psychoanalytic Process: Clinical Work Inspired by Donald Meltzer”; “Envy and Gratitude: Jealousy and Love”; and most recently, “Emotion and Meaning in Object Relations: Experiences of Oedipal Constellations”. This year’s conference topic is “From Reverie to Interpretation: Transforming Thought into the Action of Psychoanalysis.”
From its inception, the conference has been noted for two remarkable qualities: its international character, drawing participants from as far away as Uzbekistan to our northwest corner of the United States; and its structure, where world-renowned presenters stimulate participant thinking which is then further refined in small discussion groups, providing time and space to digest new ideas. This structure is responsible for EBOR’s intimate quality, affording participants a chance to talk together about a subject of shared passionate interest. One measure of EBOR’s success is the significant number of participants who return each year to continue evolving professional connections and conversations begun years ago. With EBOR 2018, we hope to enlarge the circle of clinicians, both local and international, who feel themselves to be “psychoanalytic citizens of the world.”