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  • Push Me/Pull Me, Baby Me/Control Me: A Psychodynamic Model for Couples Therapy

Push Me/Pull Me, Baby Me/Control Me: A Psychodynamic Model for Couples Therapy

  • 01/18/2020
  • TBD


  • Members ONLY - Student ID Required
  • Student ID Required
  • UNLICENSED student with valid student ID
  • UNLICENSED student with valid student ID

PRESENTER:   Robert Mendelsohn, PhD, ABPP (Clinical Psychology) 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Time TBD


Location TBD


Couple psychotherapy extends the work of the psychodynamic psychotherapist to the patient’s most significant committed adult relationship, (1) yet the therapy seems both conceptually and technically difficult. One reason for this it that in every couple’s (2) treatment there are several transference and countertransference relationships (Goldner 2004, Mendelsohn 2009, 2017), and a confusing array of psychological defenses- as well as regressive and non-regressive couple- object- relations (as distinct from the object relations that each individual member brings to the couple). Further, many of these processes occur outside consciousness and at the very same time.

This presentation is my attempt to clarify these confusing issues by presenting a three-factor model of couple psychotherapy within a psychodynamic framework. This model has been found to be effective with many different kinds of couples. (3)

I suggests that there are three powerful couple dynamics that shape every couple’s treatment:

(I.) The quality and quantity of the couple’s Projective Identifications

(II) The level of the ‘Couple’s Object-Relations’

(III) The presence or absence of the defense of Omnipotent Control

These three variables are very important factors in the therapy; I suggest that they may determine the success or failure of the therapy with a couple.

These dynamics also determine quite a bit about how to conduct couple therapy with regard to the therapist’s (1.) level of activity, (2.) his/her tone, (3.) the way of sorting the material in his or her head, and (4.) even the kinds of interventions he/she chooses (whether or not, for example, the therapist will use certain ‘resistance techniques’).

Thus, understanding these three variables and how they interact may be key to the success of the therapy.

In this presentation, my goal will be to demonstrate how and why such pathological regressions occur, and also how- by understanding the three factors- pathological regressions can be reversed to improve a couple-relationship.


Robert Mendelsohn, PhD, ABPP (Clinical Psychology) received his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1969 and completed post- doctoral training in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at The Derner School of Psychology of Adelphi University. He also received postdoctoral training in Group Psychotherapy at The Derner School, while studying with visiting faculty including Otto Kernberg and having supervisory hours with W. R. Bion. Dr. Mendelsohn has been Professor of Psychology at The Derner School of Psychology since 1974, and from 1992 to 2000 he was its Dean. He is the author of one book and over 25 articles and book chapters focusing on countertransference and couple psychotherapy and he has been a reviewer for the journals Psychodynamic Practice and The International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. He maintains a practice in Roslyn, New York.


After the presentation participants will be able to:


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 This program, when attended in its entirety, is offered for 3 CE credits

SEFAPP is an approved continuing education provider by the Agency for Health Care Administration of the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling (BAP #587, expires March 31, 2020). Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities.  SEFAPP and Division 39 are committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological  Association's Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to SEFAPP Administrator at (954) 597-0820.

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