During and after the most recent EFPT Forum in Istanbul, where I officially stepped down from the EFPT board after 4 years of service, many have asked me what life brings after EFPT. Each time, I have found it difficult to answer that question while wondering if there is really such a thing as “after EFPT”. Perhaps it is just my stubborn reluctance to the notion of being “retired” and embracing the “alumnus” status, yet I still feel part of EFPT – a feeling I expect will linger on long after I will have finished my training (which is scheduled by 1.5 years from the time I am writing this piece). Stepping down from certain tasks and responsibilities of a formal EFPT role has certainly created some much-needed free space in my agenda, mailbox and mind, from which other projects in my professional and personal life can benefit. Yet I know that whenever I choose to step out into the world of European psychiatry once more, be it at a congress, exchange, EFPT Forum or simply in some new (digital) venture, I will meet all of my friends again!
I want to seize this opportunity to talk a bit about the decisions that lead me to take on a formal role in EFPT, first as member of the board and later as President-Elect. I am reiterating this story as some of you may find you can relate to this. In both cases, I owe so much to the people who encouraged and mentored me into taking my engagement with EFPT to the next level. I owe them for pushing me outside of my comfort zone and making me do something I would certainly not have been ambitious or confident enough to do on my own. Because of these EFPT friends who believed in me from the start and who helped me along the way, we were finally able to bring to life two ideas which were the motor for my commitment in EFPT, i.e. the reform of Forum fees to make them more democratic and fair for trainees from lower income countries, and the project that eventually became #TYOT. Back then as much as today, I was eager to extend the rewards that EFPT brought to me personally to other trainees and I am therefore very proud of these collaborative achievements. Likewise, I am exceedingly proud of my fellow LOC members who did the unthinkable and moved heaven and earth to organize a successful Antwerp Forum seemingly against all odds! Even today, I am at a loss to understand how we managed to do what we did – thank you so much, dear friends!
I am confident that EFPT by itself is responsible for preventing me from burnout or dropping out of my training throughout these past years. Whenever I found myself frustrated or lacking in motivation in my workplace at times, EFPT offered the necessary inspiration, companionship and support through which I could both channel and fuel my ambition and passion to make a positive impact. I therefore feel extremely grateful to EFPT for giving me these opportunities, for allowing me to learn and grow in a safe yet challenging peer-supported environment. Each of the different EFPT boards I was a member of provided keen and distinct examples of leadership and teamwork which helped me to grow both in terms of skill and confidence – and to feel supported in finding my own personal style. I can recommend this experience to each and every psychiatry trainee. Whatever role you take on, EFPT will not let you down!
In summary, to cite the wise words of our current EFPT president which were sung at a certain International Night in a certain Flemish city: “EFPT – nothing compares to you!”
Livia De Picker
EFPT President 2015-2016