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Scientific Program featuring Martha Stark, MD

Saturday, January 20, 2024
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
at via zoom


A Heart Shattered, the Impenetrable Self, and a Life Unlived:
An Existential-Humanistic Approach to Relentless Despair

Presented by Martha Stark, MD

Registration Fee: $50*

*Free admission and CE/CME credits for PCC members, LDC staff and board, full-time students with ID, and trainees in the Departments of Social Work, Psychology, Psychiatry, and Mental Health Counseling.

An anonymous quote but very to the point is the following: "I gave you a part of me that I knew you could break – but you didn't."

Patients who have never fully confronted – and grieved – the pain of their early-on heartbreak will often cling tenaciously to their hope that perhaps someday the "object of their desire" will be forthcoming. But there are others who, in the aftermath of their early-on heartbreak, will withdraw entirely from the "world of objects" – their heart shattered …

To protect themselves from being once again devastated, these latter patients retreat, withdraw, detach themselves from relationships, from the world – psychic retreat, schizoid withdrawal, emotional detachment from life itself – only then to find themselves overwhelmed by intense feelings of isolation, alienation, and emptiness – the competent, accomplished, cheerful, compliant "false (public) self" that they present to the world belying the truth of what lies hidden, namely, their private turmoil, tormented heartbreak, harrowing loneliness, and annihilating terror as well as their stymied creativity and desperate (albeit conflicted) longing for meaningful connectedness with the world.

Instead of "relentless hope" and, when thwarted, "relentless outrage," the experience-of-being-in-the-world for these latter patients will be one of "relentless despair" – a "profound hopelessness" that they keep masked by a self-protective "false self" armor that obscures their underlying brokenness and the "thwarted potential" of their "true self."

Whereas relentless hope and outrage speak to intense – albeit maladaptive – engagement with the world of objects, relentless despair speaks to the complete lack of real engagement with the world of objects.

Clinical vignettes will be offered that speak to how the therapist, ever attuned to the patient's intense ambivalence about "remaining hidden vs. being found," can facilitate the emergence of "moments of authentic meeting" that will restore purpose, meaning, and direction to an existence that was otherwise desolate, impenetrable, and empty.

About Martha Stark, MD

Martha Stark, MD, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, is a holistic (adult and child) psychiatrist and integrative psychoanalyst in private practice in Boston, MA.

Dr. Stark is Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Co-Founder/Co-Director, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, William James College; Faculty, Psychiatry Redefined; Faculty/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; Advisory Board, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.

Dr. Stark 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 US and abroad. She is the originator and developer of the Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm: A C.A.R.E. Approach to Deep Healing.

Board Certified by the American Association of Integrative Medicine, Dr. Stark also contributes chapters to integrative medicine textbooks and articles to peer-reviewed toxicology/environmental medicine journals.

After this presentation, participants will be able to:

  1.  Highlight the primary difference between relentless hope and relentless despair
  2.  Elaborate upon the patient’s intense ambivalence about entering the world of objects
  3.  Explain the relevance of the concept of dreading surrender to resourceless dependence upon another
  4.  Expound upon the importance of moments of authentic meeting as offering opportunity for restoring purpose, direction, and meaning to a life otherwise unlived  

This program is intended for psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and other clinicians or interested academics who want to increase their understanding of the phone’s impact on human mentation.

Confidentiality Statement: All case material will be carefully disguised. We ask that participants agree to hold all material presented with the utmost care, following ethical and professional guidelines.

Accommodation Statement: To request an accommodation for this program, please email  Kayla Schilke, PCC Training and Education Program Manager, at least two weeks before the start date.

  1. Fonagy, P., Rost, F., Carlyle, J. A., McPherson, S., Thomas, R., Pasco Fearon, R. M., Goldberg, D., & Taylor, D. (2015). Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression: The Tavistock Adult Depression Study (TADS). World psychiatry: Official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(3), 312–321. LINK
  2. Leichsenring, F., Leweke, F., Klein, S., & Steinert, C. (2015). The empirical status of psychodynamic psychotherapy - an update: Bambi's alive and kicking. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 84(3), 129–148. LINK
  3. Lilliengren, P. (2017). Comprehensive compilation of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving psychodynamic treatments and interventions. Research. LINK
  4. Stark, M. (2017). Relentless hope: The refusal to grieve [eBook edition]. International Psychotherapy Institute. LINK
  5. Stark, M. (2019). A heart shattered, the private self, and a life unlived [eBook edition]. International Psychotherapy Institute. LINK
CME credits: 2 / CE credits: 2 / NBCC: 2 clock hours / All others: Letter of Attendance

The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6518. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas is solely responsible for all aspects of the program.

Social workers will receive a letter of attendance documenting 2 hours of continuing education. This certificate may not be acceptable verification in all states.

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the American Psychoanalytic Association and Psychoanalytic Center of the Carolinas. The American Psychoanalytic Association is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The American Psychoanalytic Association designates this Live Activity for a maximum of 2 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s).™ Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE INFORMATION FOR ALL LEARNERS: None of the planners and presenters for this educational activity have relevant financial relationship(s)* to disclose with ineligible companies* whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

*Financial relationships are relevant if the educational content an individual can control is related to the business lines or products of the ineligible company. -Updated July 2021-