We arranged our neuropsychology retreat with a company that usually organises Buddhist meditation retreats for psychologists, and we ended up having equal numbers of those interested in Buddhist meditation and in Neuropsychology, with a corresponding mix of very different activities to choose from. Surprisingly, by the end of the week, the evening Buddhist chanting session was only attended by the Neuropsychology contingent - every single one of us. I’m not sure if we were curious about new experiences, or unusually conscientious. I’m also not quite sure what the Buddhist meditators did instead, and whether it involved alcohol, but presume that was the case.
We had a meditation lecture and practice first thing in the morning, followed up by a neuropsychology talk (delivered by each of the participants in turn) and typically a workshop for a couple of hours. That was it for formal activities, with the rest of the time devoted to peer supervision, discussions and massage. In addition to this, we had one session on hypnosis, part theoretical and part applied (with pillows and towels spread on the conference room floor), and liked it quite a bit, so organised a subsequent one. Serendipitously, we met Andrew James – an Australian neuropsychologist who now lives in England and uses mindfulness in neuropsychological rehabilitation. This was too perfect a coincidence to ignore, so we talked him into giving us a lecture on the topic.
All those attending the retreat happened to have an interest in medico-legal neuropsychology and a lot of discussions focused on issues encountered in this setting. We also talked about workload and issues of self-care. Ways of making report-writing quick and effective were compared and mentally tried for size. Issues of office setup, marketing, business and financial planning were also discussed.
I managed to introduce my pet topic of computerised training, and we spent a couple of hours talking about it. Issues of greater significance were also dealt with, such as the future directions of neuropsychology and the need for a Facebook group to keep us connected and amused.
We had peer supervision sessions at all times of the day and in all sorts of places. The highlights for me included a 4-hour group supervision at a restaurant, sipping drinks; a one-to-one session on business planning in the pool; and one long discussion of business aspects of practice that started over cocktails and ended up in one of our rooms at midnight. We spent a day having a series of vigorous discussions on the best battery of executive function tests. I’ll be following this with some research and test battery changes.
I remember one discussion on research underpinning mindfulness meditation while all three participants were having a foot massage. This session was a touch more languorous than our other discussions. The people who worked on our feet were watching television over our shoulders and we were all very contented.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. We had some chats about it, and while we enjoyed the mental whiplash of alternating between mindfulness meditation and hard-core psychometrics, it is probably not something that needs to be included in the future. I hate organising anything, but Debbie Anderson has raised her hand and is planning on setting up a neuropsychology-only retreat in Bali next May. I’m looking forward to it.