History: A Look Back

This coming Spring, the Banff International Conferences on Behavioural Science will celebrate their 52nd annual conference. The first Conference was inspired in 1969 by Buck Blair, Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary and a former President of the Canadian Psychological Association, who was concluding a Royal Commission on Mental Health Services in Alberta. In lieu of an honorarium for his service, he asked the Alberta government to sponsor a meeting on ideal mental health services. They agreed and the Conferences were founded. Park Davidson organized this meeting, along with Gus Hamerlynck, Frank Clark and Lorne Acker. The Conference featured Nathan Azrin, Ogden Lindsley, Gerald Patterson, and Todd Risley. The Conference was enthusiastically attended by a large number of health oriented practitioners and investigators from across Canada, the United States, and internationally who were inspired by the blend of practitioner and research insights and the wonderful environment of Banff.

The success of this meeting established a commitment to continue the Conferences as a form of continuing education, bringing together “cutting-edge” knowledge generated by inspired investigators and innovative professionals to focus upon the challenges psychosocially oriented practitioners confront on a daily basis. A small organizing committee is reorganized periodically under the terms of the Banff Conferences on Behavioural Science, a non-profit corporation. Organizers over the years have included Keith Dobson, David Evans, Lee Handy, Eric Mash, Peter McLean, David Shearer, and Richard Stuart, as well as the current organizers, Ken Craig, Bob McMahon, and Ray Peters. The operative term in our incorporation title is “non-profit”. The Conferences rely primarily upon registration income, although modest royalties from books published on the conference themes and grants from federal agencies and corporations have assisted over the years. We have little difficulty spending the income annually bringing in topflight speakers and workshop leaders.

Themes over the years are listed below. They have ranged through the domains of mental health services, behavioural medicine, and education, have examined all ages from children and adolescents to adults and the elderly, and looked at people in clinical, educational, hospital, family, and societal settings. We are heavily committed to examining and promoting the development of interventions that will prevent problems or enhance quality of life. The broad range of issues and problems studied range from enhancing normal development in the family and school to the addictive disorders, sexual dysfunction and deviancy, major mental illness, and debilitating anxiety, depression and pain. Notable events included B.F. Skinner’s 80th birthday party in 1984, and the 1986 meeting honouring Neal Miller for his outstanding achievements. Early meetings were held at the Banff Springs Hotel and the Voyageur Inn in Banff, but since 1972, the meetings have been held at The Banff Centre, an internationally renowned centre for the arts, conferences and business with very comfortable accommodation and excellent conference facilities.

The Banff Conferences are not all heady intellectual pursuit. We have a lot of fun. In the early days, there was some substance to the notion that the meeting was organized by a bunch of die-hard skiers who needed a good excuse to justify a stay nearby Banff’s magnificent ski areas. The first brochures had as their banner heading, “At Banff: One of the World’s Foremost Mountain Resorts”. These early meetings featured morning and evening sessions only, leaving time for the adventurous to rush to the ski slopes for the afternoon. Skiing and winter sports are still celebrated of course. Fanatic skiers make perennial visits, and as Lake Louise and Sunshine cross-country and downhill areas get better, the apres-ski tales in the Banff Centre lounge improve as well. Celebrated annually is the Hamerlynck Award for skiing achievements of great distinction (or lack thereof!). Gold medals have been awarded for artistry on the boards and early achievement, as well as the folly of broken limbs, losing a ski in a creek, etc.

Of course, Banff also is a wonderful setting for those who take their leisure in a more relaxed manner, with multiple opportunities for shopping, museum hopping, walking or hiking in the Canadian Rockies, or just being inspired by an excellent conference in a magnificent setting.

Banff International Conferences on Behavioural Science Themes

Links to previous years’ programs are provided when available

  • 2019 School Mental Health:
    Equipping Schools and Communities to Support Student Mental Health
  • 2018 Ideal Mental Health Services for Children and Youth: The Next 50 Years
  • 2017 Depression and Anxiety in Children and Youth: Innovative Approaches to Evidence-based Practice
  • 2016 School Mental Health: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities
  • 2015 Autism in Transition
  • 2014 Preventing Bullying through Promoting Healthy Relationships
  • 2013 Psychological Health in the Workplace
  • 2012 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Challenges in Practice, Research and Policy
  • 2011 Disseminating Evidence-Based Practices in Children’s Mental Health
  • 2010 Autism Spectrum Disorders:  New Directions in Research, Clinical Practice and Policy
  • 2009 Psychopathic Traits in Youth: Research and Practice
  • 2008 Effective Early Learning Practices: Research, Policy and Practice
  • 2007 Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents
  • 2006 Violence in the Lives of Children and Families
  • 2005 Child and Adolescent Mental Health: Evidence-Based Interventions
  • 2004 Terrifying Experiences: Resilience and Vulnerability to Psychological Trauma
  • 2003 Effective Programs for Early Child Development: Linking Research to Policy and Practice
  • 2002 Adolescent Substance Abuse: Innovative Approaches to Prevention and Treatment
  • 2001 Emotional Self-Regulation: Development, Successes and Failures
  • 2000 Resilience: Children, Families and Communities
  • 1999 Suicide: Prediction, Prevention and Intervention
  • 1998 Empirically Supported Therapies: Best Practice in Professional Psychology
  • 1997 Stress: Vulnerability and Resiliency
  • 1996 Best Practice: Developing and Promoting Empirically Validated Interventions
  • 1995 Child Abuse: New Directions in Prevention and Treatment across the Lifespan
  • 1994 Prevention and Early Intervention: Child Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Delinquency
  • 1993 Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adults
  • 1992 State of the Art in Cognitive-Behaviour Therap
  • 1991 Addictive Behaviours across the Lifespan: Prevention, Treatment, and Policy Issues
  • 1990 Aggression and Violence throughout the Lifespan
  • 1989 Psychology, Sport, and Health Promotion
  • 1988 Behaviour Disorders of Adolescence: Research, Intervention, and Policy in Clinical and School Settings
  • 1987 Early Intervention in the Coming Decade
  • 1986 Health Enhancement, Disease Prevention, and Early Intervention: Biobehavioural Perspectives
  • 1985 Social Learning and Systems Approaches to Marriage and the Family
  • 1984 Education in “1984”
  • 1983 Childhood Disorders: Behavioural-Developmental Approaches
  • 1982 Advances in Clinical Behaviour Therapy
  • 1981 Essentials of Behavioural Treatments for Families
  • 1980 Adherence, Compliance, and Generalization in Behavioural Medicine
  • 1979 Violent Behaviour: Social Learning Approaches to Prediction, Management, and Treatment
  • 1978 Behavioural Medicine: Changing Health Lifestyles
  • 1977 Behavioural Systems for the Developmentally Disabled
  • 1976 Behavioural Self-Management Strategies, Techniques, and Outcomes
  • 1975 The Behavioural Management of Anxiety, Depression and Pain
  • 1974 Behaviour Modification and Families and Behavioural Approaches to Parenting
  • 1973 Evaluation of Behavioural Programs in Community, Residential, and School Settings
  • 1972 Behaviour Change: Methodology, Concepts, and Practice
  • 1971 Implementing Behavioural Programs for Schools and Clinics
  • 1970 Services and Programs for Exceptional Children and Youth
  • 1969 Ideal Mental Health Services