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Online CE Event – “The Art and The Science of Working Through in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy” with Martha Stark, MD

February 3, 2024 @ 10:00 am - 1:30 pm PST

Sponsored by the

WILA Alumni Association


Saturday, February 3, 2024 | 10:00 am – 1:30 pm (PST) / 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm (EST)

The following description was provided by Martha Stark, MD:

I will rather boldly attempt to formulate an “overarching conceptual framework” for the working through process in psychodynamic psychotherapy and in any depth psychology for which the ultimate goal is deep and sustained healing. I will therefore be presenting a theoretical framework that outlines a series of steps whereby psychological rigidity (rigid and unevolved defense) will incrementally evolve into psychological flexibility (more flexible and more evolved adaptation).

The process of getting from rigid defense to more flexible adaptation is never a straight-line progression. Rather, evolving from psychological rigidity to psychological flexibility will involve the therapist’s strategic provision of not just support but also an artfully conceived combination of challenge and support – namely, optimal stress.

Against the backdrop of empathic resonance and a collaborative alliance, the therapist will therefore repeatedly offer the patient optimally stressful interventions mindfully formulated to generate destabilizing internal dissonance and homeostatic imbalance. In essence, by continuously juxtaposing “healthy but anxiety-provoking challenge” of the patient’s defenses with “less healthy but anxiety-assuaging support” of them, the therapist will be creating growth-incentivizing “mismatch experiences” for the patient – the ongoing working through of which will prompt the patient to re-equilibrate at ever-higher and ever-more evolved levels of resilience and adaptive capacity.

Indeed, I will hope to demonstrate that psychodynamic psychotherapy affords the patient both impetus and opportunity, albeit belatedly, to master traumatic experiences that had once been overwhelming – and, therefore, defended against – but that can now, by virtue of the synergy between the therapist’s loving support and the patient’s underlying resilience and innate capacity to adapt to stress, be revisited, re-enacted, grieved, reprocessed, and recontextualized, such that the
patient will eventually be able to “reposition” herself in relation to them. As a result, growth-impeding defenses, once necessary for survival, can be gradually transformed into growth-promoting adaptations – accompanied by a strengthening at the broken places.

In essence, the patient will be incentivized to return, in an embodied fashion, to the scene of the original crime but will now (in the context of her relationship with a therapist who not only cares deeply but also has the courage to provide optimal challenge) be able to negotiate a new, different, and better ending, that is, an adaptive resolution – from “constricted” and “defended” to “expansive” and “wide open.”

In the uplifting words of Rollo May, “The purpose of psychotherapy is to set people free.”

There are no known conflicts of interest regarding commercial support for this event.


Upon completion of the program, participants will be able to:

  • identify the three stages in the working through process
  • explain the importance of cultivating dual awareness
  • highlight the distinctions between defensive, mindless reactions and adaptive, mindful
  • define optimal stress
  • describe what it means to be embodied
  • clarify the distinction between surviving and thriving
  • explain the relationship between traumatic growth-impeding stressors and defensive
  • highlight the relationship between optimal growth-promoting stressors and adaptive
  • describe what is meant by post-traumatic growth
  • explain why we can say that the problem always holds elements of the solution
  • clarify what is meant by the statement that optimally stressful interventions effectively
    superimpose an acute injury on top of a chronic one
  • explain why the patient’s return to the scene of the original crime is an important step in
    working through traumatic early-on stressors
  • describe the difference between the sobering reality of “what is” and the enlivening
    possibility of “what could be”
  • clarify the importance of generating, and then working through, mismatch experiences
  • explain the relationship between the Sandpile Model of Chaos Theory and an ascending spiral staircase
  • speak to the importance of therapeutic memory reconsolidation
  • enumerate the five modes of therapeutic action in the Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm
  • explain the reason that the Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm is described as a C.A.R.E.S.
    approach to deep healing
  • create a minimally stressful intervention
  • formulate an optimally stressful intervention
  • design an intervention that applauds and celebrates adaptive resolution


MARTHA STARK, MD, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, is a Holistic Psychiatrist (Adult, Adolescent, and Child) and Integrative Psychoanalyst in private practice in Boston, MA.

Martha is Lecturer on Psychiatry (part-time), Harvard Medical School; Co-Founder and Co-Director, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, William James College; Faculty, Psychiatry Redefined; Faculty and Scientific Advisory Board, Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine; Adjunct Faculty, Smith College School for Social Work; Former Faculty, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis; and Advisory Board, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.

Martha is the Originator and Developer of the Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm: A C.A.R.E.S. Approach to Deep Healing. 

Martha is an award-winning author of nine highly acclaimed books (including Relentless Hope: The Refusal to Grieve) on the integration of psychodynamic theory with clinical practice – several of which have become “required reading” in psychoanalytic training institutes and psychodynamic psychotherapy programs in the United States and abroad. She also has numerous teaching affiliations with local, regional, national, and international psychoanalytic/psychodynamic training programs.

Board Certified by the American Association of Integrative Medicine, Martha also contributes chapters to integrative medicine textbooks and articles to peer-reviewed toxicology/environmental medicine journals. Additionally, she serves on the editorial/advisory boards of various holistic health publications. Periodically, she is called upon to offer expert witness testimony on various toxic environmental exposures (including pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and mold).


  • 3 CE credits are available for all nationally licensed clinicians
  • This webinar is at the intermediate AND advanced levels.
  • To receive CE credits, you must attend the entire event.

The Wright Institute Los Angeles (WILA) is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. WILA maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

$ 140.00
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Total $140.00


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Refunds and Cancellations
Registrants who cancel with more than 24 hours’ notice are eligible to receive full or partial refund by emailing WILA’s Business Director

Questions or concerns?
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February 3, 2024
10:00 am - 1:30 pm PST
Event Category:


Zoom (link will be emailed upon registration)


WILA Alumni Association
View Organizer Website