TCOM Conference Recap: Stories Worth Telling

By: Rebekka Schaffer, TCOM Communications and Conference Lead

We had an amazing week at the 15th Annual TCOM Conference! The weather was great, the presentations were powerful, and the sense of community won’t soon be forgotten.


The collaborative work of TCOM lasts all year round, but there’s something meaningful and special about being able to come together in person–even if it’s just once a year. That’s what happened two weeks ago for the 15th Annual TCOM Conference. More than 350 people from across the country (and some from across the ocean!) joined us in Palm Springs, California for a time of sharing, learning, and growing. What started out as a groundbreaking idea from Dr. Lyons has turned into a large and diverse community of people committed to improving the well-being of all through effective and equitable interventions.

This year’s conference theme was “Culture and Community: Sharing Stories from the Collaborative”. In the helping field, we can’t serve others well if we don’t acknowledge their whole story. The story of a person’s life includes their culture and the community that they come from. All of us are shaped by this. The people who raised us, the lessons we were taught, and the things we value can all be traced back to our respective cultures and communities. The problem, however, is that–even when we have the best intentions–some stories are still disregarded. If we don’t take the time to listen and seek to understand different backgrounds, we can fall into the habit of suggesting interventions that might be right for us, but wrong for the person we’re serving. This tends to negatively impact those who are already most vulnerable. This theme helped ground the conference in the importance of acknowledging, honoring, and elevating the stories of the people we serve.

The TCOM tools and principles are built around this idea of storytelling–and so is the conference. Tools like the CANS and ANSA are meant to help tell the story of one person. Our job is not to create a person’s story for them. No one knows a story better than the person living it. Our job is to work with that person or family to create a service plan that matches their story. Our presenters at the conference did an amazing job of using their research, data, and personal experiences to embrace this theme and inspire attendees to do the same. We were fortunate to have a combination of master lectures, round table discussions, and breakout presentations during the three days we got to spend together. If you weren’t able to make it to the conference (or if you were there and want a refresher!) you can go HERE to find all of the presentations.

The work we do in serving youth, adults, and families is meaningful and transformative, but so is the act of sharing those experiences with others. The TCOM Conference invites us all to be storytellers–whether you’re a presenter or attendee. Each person who has ever done the work of putting TCOM tools and principles into practice has stories of frustration and success. Both types of stories are important and necessary to share. It’s how we learn, it’s how we stay motivated, and it’s how we stay inspired. I hope that is how everyone felt as they left Palm Springs: inspired. The goal this year, and every year, is that you take what you learned (and hopefully your new connections!) back to your communities. That’s how the work keeps moving forward.

On behalf of Dr. Lyons and the rest of the TCOM Team, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who made it to the conference this year. If you weren’t able to come, we hope to meet you next year at the 16th Annual TCOM Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana! We already have high expectations for what the next year has in store. This is a super special community to be a part of–thank you all for being a part of it.


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