12th Annual Couples Psychotherapy Event: Promoting Self-Object Experience Between Partners
This is a virtual event, accessible online. Access instructions will be provided after registration.


Course Overview: 

NCSPP and PCPG (Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group) are pleased to host Dr. Carla Leone, who will be addressing how one thinks and works with couples through the lens of Self Psychology. She will ask the question: How does a couple promote a connection that helps each member of the couple consolidate and maintain a positive, vitalized sense of themselves as individuals within the couple?

Dr. Leone will pay particular attention to the ways in which a self psychologist listens to the couple, honing in on what partners are needing and seeking from the other. By focusing on the state of the self, narcissistic injury, and the rupture and repair sequence, Dr. Leone tracks each member of the couple, assessing and interpreting based on their self-object experiences. She will elaborate her  understanding of the concept of self-object experience and the ways in which capacities and characteristics of individuals and couples either foster or interfere with mutual self-object experience, including each partner’s sense of self, emotion regulation, and mentalization abilities. Other concepts and ideas that will be addressed include empathic immersion, attuned responsiveness, close attention to narcissistic vulnerability, the rupture and repair sequence, and collaborative, experience-near interpretation.  

Dr. Rachel Cooke will act as discussant. In the afternoon, Dr. Leone will present case material in a creative format that will  “act out” the clinical hour by having people play the roles of each of the partners in the couple. 

Course Objectives: 

At the conclusion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the goals of couple therapy from the perspective of self psychology.
  • Explain self psychology’s understanding of the reasons for couples’ difficulties.
  • List three principles of a self psychology-informed approach to treating couples.
  • Define  “forward edge” and “trailing edge” interpretations and give an example of each.
  • Explain self psychology’s understanding of defensiveness and resistance and how it differs from traditional views.
  • Explain how coaching, educating or advice-giving interventions are understood from within a self psychological perspective
Empirical Reference: 
  1. Marmarosh, C.L. & Mann,  (2014). Patients’ Selfobject Needs in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: How They Relate to Client Attachment, Symptoms, and the Therapy Alliance.  Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 31, (3), 297–313  
  2. Jacqueline M. McKinnon and Leslie S. Greenberg, Vulnerable Emotional Expression In Emotion Focused Couples Therapy: Relating Interactional Processes To Outcome, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43, 2, (198-212), (2017).
  3. MacIntosh, H. B. (2018). From application to approach:  A systematic review of 50 years of psychoanalytic couple therapy.  Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 38 (5), 331-358. 
  4. Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Andrew Christensen and Susan M. Johnson, Research on the Treatment of Couple Distress, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38, 1, (145-168), (2011).

Carla Leone, Ph.D., is the director of North Suburban Family Psychologists, in Lincolnwood, Illinois, and is on the faculty of the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago. She is an elected member of the governing council of the International Association of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology (IAPSP), Co-Chair of IAPSP’s Membership Committee, and Chair and Co-founder of that organization’s Couples Therapy Interest Group. Author of several published papers on couple and family therapy as well as the “unseen spouse” of patients in individual therapy, Dr. Leone is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Rebuilding Connections, Repairing Ruptures: A Self Psychological Couple Therapy Casebook, to be published by Routledge.


Rachel Cooke, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Oakland and San Francisco. A founding member of the Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group (PCPG), she has taught courses in psychoanalytic couple therapy at various training programs in the Bay Area. Her discussion of Stanley Ruszczynski's paper, “Couples on the Couch,” is published in a book of the same name (Routledge, 2017), edited by PCPG colleagues Shelley Nathans and Milton Schaefer. Dr. Cooke sees couples and individuals and provides consultation.

Co-Sponsor Information: 

The Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group is dedicated to bringing modern psychoanalytic ideas to bear in working with couples. It began as a three-year training course through NCSPP with the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships in London. Some members of the original group have continued to study and train together as the PCPG, which has become a Bay Area locus for education, training, and study in psychoanalytic psychotherapy with couples. 

PCPG offers an intensive study program in psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy: “Making Meaning in the Grip Of Reality.” The program features a rich array of theoretical classes, case conferences, film events, and workshops, taught by a hybrid faculty from PCPG, Tavistock Center for Couple Relationships (TCCR), and other noteworthy psychoanalytic couple psychotherapists. PCPG’s first class of nine students has just completed a three-year program of study, which included  a week of classes at TCCR in London. 

Target Audience & Level: 
This intermediate course is for clinicians with moderate to extensive experience in clinical work with some background in the principles of psychoanalytic approaches. Attendees may have little prior exposure to self psychology and its application to couple therapy.

Program Committee

Jeremy Mintz, Psy.D., Chair
Danni Biondini, MA
Geetali Chitre
Justine Leichtling, Psy.D.


Price: $250.00