By now you have either experienced (as I have) or have heard about the “debacle” that was the release of the acceptance and rejection letters for the ACA conference next year. If you haven’t here it is in a nutshell: there was a mistake where 700 or so acceptance letters were sent out for proposals that for whatever reason were not really accepted to present at the conference next year. As one of those who received the letter and the resultant elation followed by the “crush of defeat” in learning that they were not actually accepted, I can tell you that in layman’s terms, it sucked; it sucked big time but let’s put things in perspective here. Nothing was taken away except the excitement that we had from thinking we had been accepted. We had not been accepted in the first place, so there was no real demotion or anything personally against us. It was simply a mistake.
Being a lifelong psychology/ sociology geek I may have taken this far differently than others but I decided to use this as a possible learning tool, both for those who read this blog and for me as well. I contacted ACA when I first realized that I had both a rejection and acceptance letter and asked for clarification. I sat at my desk for a while waiting for the answers. Once I received it I felt let down to be sure but then became curious as to how others were taking it as well as how those involved in the “debacle” were doing and feeling about it. I received some fascinating data…
Some of the feedback ranged from outrage to devastation, anger and feeling hurt. Some spoke of the need for retribution (from what I cannot say), some talked of the need for ACA to make good on the letters and let all 700 or so presentations go on (which would be impossible), some calls for free conferences or other payment to occur. There was a lot of anger in the handful of folks that I spoke to; I cannot say how all affected felt however.
When speaking with the folks who processed the letters and otherwise worked on the project I felt that they were genuinely sad and upset that this happened. They understood how upsetting this must be for those who were affected, they hated that it happened and were doing their best to mitigate the issues. I genuinely feel for them.
As for me, well I have been called an enigma many times in my life, and this is likely the reason why. I handled it like I would handle it when helping process something with a client. I tried to see not only my feelings but also to try to imagine how the others were feeling. I put myself in their shoes, and having sat on boards that had to make these types of decisions I felt that I could have an accurate idea as to how they must have felt. I could not help but empathize. I reached out to a few of the folks most involved to show not anger but to show support. I agreed with them that this was very upsetting to have happened but that they must remember that they are humans and that mistakes happen. I thanked them for their hard work and reminded them that though some folks would surely be contacting them and lambasting them with hurtful words and negativity that this member was not angry. If not next year, I will present one day.
I think sometimes we lose sight of things. We see only our needs; we take things very personally. This was not a personal attack but instead a mishap.
Speaking from experience, most of those who are not accepted to speak provided great proposals and would have done just is well and in some cases better than some of those who actually present. The simple fact is that only so many presentations can fit in the amount of time available to speak. The committee tries to get a good mix of presentations on a broad range of topics, they try to limit duplication and statistically speaking there will be scores of proposals that are on the same topic; not all can fit.
While I do not work for nor do I represent the ACA, I want to encourage everyone who wrote a proposal and was not accepted to keep writing proposals. Unlike some organizations the ACA utilizes a blind format in the review process, meaning that everyone gets an equal chance. I have seen organizations where this was not the case. I have even sat of committees where I saw proposals that did not meet the standards for acceptance get accepted because most on the committee knew the writer and felt they were great people. Name recognition or other types of fame hold no weight on acceptance in the ACA process. In fact, Gerald Corey who most of us cut our clinical teeth while reading his books (I believe his first one was in 1974) shared at the last conference how he had been rejected to present at a conference even after he had played a large role in previous conferences as a paid speaker. Rest assured you are in good company if you were not accepted.
As for me, well I hold no ill will toward the ACA or those involved. I know that I have made my share of mistakes and will likely make more. In fact, I think in a future blog I will share my biggest flop for a project that involved me doing some “investigative” journalism but due to confusing two lists with each other resulted in some very awkward moments and the failure of the project. Thankfully, most people involved were very accepting of my mistake and I went on to do many more projects; just as our fine folks will do. I hope you agree.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).