Education & Events

Infidelity as Manic Defense with Shelley Nathans, PhD, ABPP

Infidelity as Manic Defense with Shelley Nathans, PhD, ABPP Date: 2022-03-19 09:00 to 12:00
55 days remaining

Infidelity as Manic Defense with Shelley Nathans, PhD, ABPP

Saturday, March 19, 2022 9:00am to 12:00pm
via Zoom
Sponsored by: 

This class has filled. To be added to the waitlist, email

This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 3.0 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).

In this Alliance Master Class, Dr. Shelley Nathans will engage with participants in a close reading and discussion of her paper, "Infidelity as manic defense". Dr. Nathans 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.

Nathans, S. (2012). Infidelity as manic defense. Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 2 (2), 165-180.

Using a contemporary Kleinian psychoanalytic model, this paper explores some important theoretical issues relevant to understanding infidelity for the couple psychotherapist. The main focus of this paper is on the problems that one or both of the partners in a couple may have with mourning past or impending loss, and the consequent infidelity that may result from a manic attempt to replace depression or psychic pain with excitement. The concepts of the oedipal situation, triangulation, mourning, and manic defence are outlined in terms of the implications for understanding infidelity. The importance of viewing infidelity as possibly reflecting a range of psychological dilemmas across the developmental spectrum is emphasized. Clinical material is used to illustrate the role of unresolved pre-oedipal and oedipal issues, manic defences, and the ensuing triangulations that may develop, providing the psychic structures for infidelity.  

In a special segment of the presentation, Dr. Nathans will address the issue of clinical technique in dealing with infidelity as a manic defense.

Shelley Nathans is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of experience as an individual and couple psychotherapist. She is a member of the teaching faculty at the California Pacific Medical Center in the Department of Psychiatry; The Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group; and The Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. She has completed the Tavistock Center for Couple Relations Advanced Training in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and is a member of the British Society of Couple Psychotherapists and Counselors. Dr. Nathans is also on the International Advisory Board for the journal, Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, and is Chair of the Board for the Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy Group. She is the director and producer of the film, Robert Wallerstein: 65 Years at the Center of Psychoanalysis. She has published in Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, and fort da, and she is the co-editor (with Milton Schaefer) of the book, Couples on the Couch: Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy and the Tavistock Model (Routledge, 2017). Her most recent publications include a review of the Andrew Haigh film 45 Years (2018) in the psychoanalytic journal fort da and “Whose Disgust is it Anyway?: Projection and Projective Identification in the Couple Relationship” (2016) in Psychoanalytic Dialogues. She is in private practice in both San Francisco and Oakland, California.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be able to describe how manic defenses may be enlisted to defend against loss.

  • Participants will be able to name three important issues for couples recovering from the revelation of an infidelity.

  • Participants will be able to name the two different therapeutic tasks the therapist must attend to when working with couples and infidelity.

Recent Publications:

Nathans, S. (2018). [Review of the motion picture 45 Years, produced by Tristan Goligher]. fort da, 24 (2), 97-101.

Nathans, S. and Schaefer, M. (Eds.). (2017). Couples on the Couch: Psychoanalytic Couple Psychotherapy. New York: Routledge.

Nathans, S. (2016). Whose disgust is it anyway?: Projection and projective identification in the couple relationship. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 26 (4), 437-443.

Nathans, S. (Producer, Writer, and Editor). (2015). Robert Wallerstein: 65 years at the center for psychoanalysis, Documentary Film. San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis.

Couples on the Couch, edited by Shelley Nathans and Milton Schaefer, provides a clear guide to applying the Tavistock model of couple psychotherapy in clinical psychoanalytic practice, offering a compelling sampling of ideas about couple relationships and couple psychotherapy from a broadly relational psychoanalytic perspective. The book provides an in-depth perspective to understanding intimate relationships and the complexities of working in this domain. The chapters and their accompanying discussion also offer a fertile resource of material for readers who have not previously had exposure to the theory and technique of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, as well as offering an expanded and more rigorous approach to those who are already familiar with the Tavistock model. The chapters cover key topics including: unconscious beliefs; forms of couple relating; sex and aging and draw upon the work of Klein; Winnicott and Bion; as well as attachment and object relations theory. 

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 $35 handling fee will be given up until one week before the presentation. 

This program, when participated in its entirety, is available for 3.0 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.

Contact Person: 
John Allemand
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