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Convention Information for Students


Why do professionals in psychology/mental health attend conventions?

For many reasons!  Some attend to present their research findings and receive feedback from peers in their field.  Others want to learn about cutting-edge research developments, receive training in a particular clinical technique or intervention, or earn continuing education credits needed for licensure.  Conventions are also a great place to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues who share your interests.  


How can students benefit from attending the ABCT convention?

  • Build your CV by presenting your research in a poster session or symposium.
  • Learn about the newest research developments in your areas of interest
  • Networking: Connect with others who share your professional interests and learn about job and graduate school opportunities
  • Prepare for the future by attending one of the student-focused events the ABCT convention hosts:
    • Getting into Graduate School panel: for undergraduate students or recent graduates who are interested in clinical psychology doctoral programs
    • Internship Meet and Greet: for doctoral students in clinical psychology preparing for predoctoral internship
    • Postdoctoral Meet and Greet: for doctoral students who are seeking postdoctoral fellowships


What to expect at the ABCT convention:

The convention is a busy place with multiple sessions and presentations happening at once!  There are several types of sessions to choose from:

  • Symposia: 60- or 90- minute sessions in which several researchers present empirical research findings related to a shared topic.
  • Clinical Round Tables: Discussion or debate about a treatment-related or patient-care issue by a group of panelists.
  • Panel Discussions: Discussion or debate about a conceptual issue by a group of panelists.
  • Spotlight Research Presentation: An in-depth 45-minute research presentation that debuts innovative new research in the field.
  • Poster sessions: Large gatherings where dozens of researchers share posters illustrating their research findings. Unlike a formal research presentation, attendees can walk through the poster sessions at their own pace, explore, and strike up individual conversations with authors. At the ABCT convention, poster sessions are organized by themes (i.e., mood disorders, cognitive therapy, children and adolescents)
  • Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings: ABCT has over 40 SIGs composed of professionals who share a common professional interest. Each SIG holds an annual meeting during the ABCT convention (in addition to offering other activities and resources throughout the year).  Attending a SIG meeting (and joining a SIG!)  is a great way to become more knowledgeable and connected to a topic you’re excited about.  See here for a list and links to ABCT SIGs.


Planning ahead/practical tips:

Planning for the Convention

    • Register early: ABCT offers an “early bird” discount if you register early for the convention. Be sure to make a note of the deadline for this. Additionally, you can save money on convention registration if you sign up as a student member of ABCT prior to registering. There is also a group discount if multiple students from your institution are registering for the convention. More information on member benefits and how to register can be found on the ABCT membership page.
    • Use the convention itinerary: ABCT will publish the schedule and information about the itinerary app prior to the convention. There are many sessions available concurrently throughout the convention. To make the most of your time, you should make notes or bookmark the events you want to go to, along with any sessions you are presenting in. You don’t have to stick to this 100%, but it’s a good way to make sure that you don’t miss any talks or presentations that you are really interested in.

Saving Money

    • Use the buddy system: This can help with access to cheaper group rates.
    • Scholarships and funding: Your institution may offer travel grants or scholarships to help cover the cost for students presenting at a convention. Look into these ahead of time and be mindful of the requirements and deadlines. Sometimes, this requires you to spend the money up front and then be reimbursed once your trip is over. ABCT also offers some funding for students, which will be announced via email and on the website.
    • Hotels and lodging: Staying at the convention hotel is often very convenient, but if you’re interested in the most cost-effective option, do a search of nearby hotels and Airbnbs. Consider signing up for a hotel rewards program (e.g., Marriott Bonvoy) or using your credit card to accrue rewards that can be spent on travel. While ABCT offers blocks of rooms available at a reduced rate at the convention hotel, sometimes it can be cost-effective for you to use your points at a nearby hotel, especially if you are traveling alone.
    • Flights/Cars: You can also sign up for a frequent flyer program like Delta SkyMiles. ABCT sometimes offers discounts on flights as well. If you’d prefer to rent a car rather than using public transportation or taking a taxi/ride service, you may want to look into rental car reward programs.

Enjoying the City

    • Check out the map: Look at the area around your hotel and the convention. There may be great restaurants and things to go within walking distance. For longer treks, look into cost-effective options for transportation (e.g., the subway) and plan your route.
    • Look for free or low-cost events nearby: Look on social media and the web for free or low-cost things to do in the city while you’re there. This may include events that are free or cheap with a student ID. Examples could include concerts, art shows, sporting events, and more.
    • Think about your “must sees”: Just as you planned your convention itinerary, think about what you want to get out of your visit to the city. It’s okay to spend time away from the convention and have some fun! If you definitely want to check out a particular landmark, plan ahead by ensuring that you make time to do so when creating your schedule.

Convention Self-Care

    • Remember to stay hydrated and pack snacks, such as protein bars. This will save on repeated trips to the coffee shop, which can get expensive!
    • Take breaks: the convention can be a busy, overstimulating environment. Find a quiet nook in the hotel or take a walk when you need to recharge.
    • If exercise is an important part of your daily routine, don’t feel like you need to change that just because you’re traveling. Consider using the hotel gym, getting a day pass from a nearby gym in the city, or going for a walk/run at a park or other public space near the hotel.


Networking opportunities and how-tos

  • Connect before, during, and after the convention on social media. For instance, follow @ABCTNOW and explore and use the hashtag #ABCT2022 on Twitter.
    • During the convention, you can also use the convention app to communicate and connect with other attendees.
  • Use the itinerary planner to identify if there are particular people (e.g., potential graduate mentors) you want to meet. Attend their presentations, and after the session, introduce yourself, share your enthusiasm for their work, and ask any questions you have.
    • Be prepared: have a one-sentence introduction of yourself prepared, and be ready to discuss your own interests or goals if asked. Try to have some questions prepared so that you can demonstrate your interest and knowledge.
  • If you’re interested in work or graduate study in a Principal Investigator’s lab, try to connect with current students or research assistants. For instance, check whether they’re presenting at any poster sessions or symposia, and attend!
  • Bring business cards with professional contact information. Use a professional email address. If you want to provide a phone number, use one that you would be comfortable with a professional contact calling and leaving a voicemail on.


References & Additional Resources

Leininger, E., Shaw, K., Moshiri, N., Neiles, K., Onsongo, G., & Ritz, A. (2021). Ten simple rules for attending your first conference. PLoS Computational Biology, 17(7), e1009133.

Necka, Elizabeth (2013). Making the most of conferences. Psychological Science Agenda.

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