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The Secret Life of Secrets: Deleterious Psychosomatic Effects on Patient and Analyst with Kathryn Zerbe, MD

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The Secret Life of Secrets: Deleterious Psychosomatic Effects on Patient and Analyst with Kathryn Zerbe, MD

Saturday, September 19, 2020 9:00am to 11:30am
via Zoom
Sponsored by: 

This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 2.5 continuing education credits.  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. This presentation also meets the requirements of WAC 246-809-620 (definition of recognized categories of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists and social workers). 

As a professional keeper of secrets, have you ever considered the psychic and emotional implications of carrying such a privilege and a burden? Where does that complex knot of intellectual and affective tension live inside our bodies? And what of our patients who hold secrets, not only from us but also from themselves? How do we recognize and track the somatic manifestations of their deceptions?

In this Alliance Master Class, Dr. Kathryn Zerbe will engage with participants in a close reading and discussion of her paper, "The secret life of secrets: Deleterious psychosomatic effects on patient and analyst".  Dr. Zerbe will elaborate upon her thinking since publication, facilitate discussion, and answer questions. All participants will receive a copy of the article upon registration. In order to provide an intimate, stimulating discussion, the group will be limited to 10 participants who can directly engage with the author. 

Zerbe, K.  (2019).  The secret life of secrets: Deleterious psychosomatic effects on patient and analyst.  Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association, 67(1), 185-214.

The impact and complex nature of keeping secrets deserves greater scrutiny within psychoanalysis. While the capacity to keep a secret is a developmental achievement that furthers conscious choice and healthy boundary setting between self and others, an individual’s need for privacy must be distinguished from untoward costs of collusion and concealment. Clinical case material shows that not all secrets are unconscious or multi- layered, as assumed in most of the psychoanalytic literature.  Nonetheless, in these cases deleterious effects to psyche and soma took root. These patients assumed that their secret was irreparably destructive to an essential object relationship; shame, guilt, narcissistic vulnerability, unconscious identification with an injured party, and developmental deficit were other factors found to undergird this mode of pathogenic dissembling. Two clinical examples also demonstrate that embodied countertransference reactions may herald the revelation of a secret in treatment that had been hidden, but in plain view. Secrets appear to exert their profound psychological and physical effects on patient and analyst by biological mechanisms that are as yet poorly understood but are readily observed in clinical practice.  Psychoanalysts who keep in conscious awareness both the adaptive value and the potential costs of maintaining the confidences of others over the course of a career are better positioned to assist their patients and themselves in rendering essential self-care.  

Learning Objectives: 

  • Describe 3 issues/dynamics of destructive secret keeping that clinicians face when treating adult patients.
  • Recognize and utilize somatic countertransference responses adaptively in therapeutic encounters.
  • Speculate on how destructive secret keeping may have untoward effects on psychosoma.

Kathryn J. Zerbe, MD is Training and Supervising Analyst, Oregon Psychoanalytic Center; Supervising Analyst, Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Oregon Health Sciences University. Author of 4 books and over 150 papers, chapters, and reviews, she speaks nationally and internationally on topics such as eating disorders, resilience, therapeutic action, and creative growth over the lifecycle. Her books The Body Betrayed: Women, Eating Disorders and Treatment (1993/1995) and Integrated Treatment of Eating Disorders: Beyond the Body Betrayed (2008) are considered landmark contributions in the field. For her clinical, educational, and scholarly contributions, Dr. Zerbe has received numerous awards including the Alexandra Symonds Award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Edith Sabshin Teaching Award from the American Psychoanalytic Association, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Eating Disorder Association. She maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon.

Participants: This event is designed for graduate level students in mental health and all mental health professionals from introductory to advanced levels.  The presentation is geared for clinicians who wish to advance their knowledge and expand their skill base in psychodynamic clinical work.

Refund Policy: Refunds less a $15 handling fee will be given up until one week before the conference. 

    This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 2.5 continuing education credits.  Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities.  Division 39 is also 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 program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to John Allemand at 253-509-8302.  There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the CE Sponsor, presenting organization, presenter, program content, research, grants or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest.  Participants will be informed of the utility/validity of the content/approach discussed (including the basis for the statements about validity/utility), as well as the limitations of the approach and most common (and severe) risks, if any, associated with the program's content.


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    John Allemand
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