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.

Martha is the Originator / Developer of the Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm: A C.A.R.E.S. Approach to Deep Healing.

Martha is Lecturer on Psychiatry (part-time), Harvard Medical School; Co-Founder / Co-Director / Faculty, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, William James College; Faculty, Psychiatry Redefined; Faculty, Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine; Adjunct Faculty, Smith College School for Social Work; Former Faculty, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Martha 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 training programs both in the US and abroad.

Board Certified by the American Association of Integrative Medicine, Martha also contributes chapters to integrative medicine textbooks and articles to peer-reviewed toxicology / environmental medicine journals. In addition, she serves on the editorial / advisory boards of various holistic health publications and sits on the Advisory Board of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.

Upcoming Live Martha Stark, MD Webinars

Practical Clinical Interventions for Incentivizing Change: A Handy "Reference Guide" for All Therapists​

Friday, September 27th, 2024

9-11am PT / 11am-1pm CT / 12-2pm ET

Martha Stark, MD Courses Available for Homestudy

Juxtaposing Challenge with Support to Incentivize Transformation: A Psychodynamic Approach to Deep Healing

If deep and enduring psychodynamic change is the ultimate goal of treatment, then periodically juxtaposing seemingly contradictory “forces” (Hegel’s thesis and antithesis) will eventually jump-start the patient’s “adaptive recovery” by creating optimally stressful, growth-incentivizing “mismatch experiences.”

Dr. Stark will be proposing use of something to which she refers as a “conflict statement” – a clinically useful and almost universally applicable therapeutic intervention strategically designed to target the patient’s internal conflictedness between anxiety-provoking (but ultimately growth-promoting) forces pressing “yes” and anxiety-relieving (but growth-impeding) resistant counterforces defending “no.”

The stress and strain of the “destabilizing dissonance” thereby created will provide the “therapeutic leverage” needed for the patient gradually, over time, to relinquish the tenacity of her attachment to rigid defenses in favor of more flexible adaptations – “compromise positions” that will “reconcile common truths” (Hegel’s synthesis) and transform conflict into collaboration.

The strategic construction of conflict statements requires of the therapist that she be able both to support the patient’s defense by “being with the patient where she is” (Salman Akhtar’s (20212) “homeostatic attunement”) and to challenge the patient’s defense by “directing the patient’s attention to where the therapist would want her to go” (Salman Akhtar’s (2012) “disruptive attunement”).

Dr. Stark will be offering specific clinical examples to demonstrate these powerfully impactful, optimally stressful psychotherapeutic interventions that juxtapose anxiety-provoking challenge with anxiety-relieving support. After all, no pain, no gain…

Wise Mind / Wise Body: The Neuroplastic Synergy of Mindfulness and Intentionality

“You have two lives – the one you’re born into and the one you choose.” 7-year-old Sean Reagan on the TV series “Blue Bloods” (2011)

During our time together, I will be inviting you to engage both your analytical/logical (more cognitive) left brain and your creative/imaginative (more embodied) right brain to join me in doing a deep dive into exploring the relationship between “wise mind” and “the wisdom of the body” – a synergistic relationship that can be capitalized upon to promote optimal mental and physical health (both for ourselves and for our clients).

Optimally stressful – but growth-incentivizing – “mismatch experiences” will be generated when we commit to embracing every single day with empowering intention and heartfelt conviction at the same time as we are mindfully attuned to the disempowering counterforces lurking beneath the surface of our consciousness. But homeostatic balance can be restored if the “disconnect” between the enlivening and quantum possibility of “what could be” and the sobering and conditioned reality of “what is” can be strategically worked through and resolved.

In essence, by tapping into the brain’s neuroplasticity and ability to change itself in the face of new – whether real or simply imagined – “corrective experience,” the synergy of “setting intention” (by tapping into “wise mind”) and “paying attention” (by tuning into “the wisdom of the body”) will create impetus and opportunity for reprogramming the mind and rewiring the brain.

To illuminate this process whereby the brain’s neural networks are being continuously updated and rendered more relevant, we will be drawing upon such cutting-edge concepts as therapeutic memory reconsolidation, cross-lateralization, hemispheric synchronization, the alpha-theta crossover state as the royal road to body consciousness, the living matrix as a liquid crystal with semiconducting properties, the quantum power of the undertow, the particle-wave duality, binaural beats, the biology of belief, and the impact of healthy lifestyle choices and toxic environmental exposures on the life-sustaining flow of information and energy throughout the MindBodyMatrix.

“Genetics loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.” Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the National Institutes of Health (2012)

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

There are clients who, never having fully confronted – and grieved – the pain of their early-on heartbreak, 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, find themselves withdrawing completely from the world of objects – their hearts shattered…

They then find themselves overwhelmed by intense feelings of isolation, alienation, and despair – the competent, accomplished, cheerful, compliant mask they present to the world belying the truth that lies hidden within, namely, their quiet heartbreak, their private pain, and their haunting loneliness.

Their experience of being-in-the-world is one of profound hopelessness, which they keep hidden behind the false self they present to the world, a self-protective armor that masks the deeply entrenched brokenness of the true self.

Instead of relentless hope, their experience is of relentless despair.

Martha Stark, MD, will offer clinical vignettes that demonstrate how the therapist, ever attuned to the client’s intense ambivalence about remaining hidden vs. becoming found, can help the client overcome her dread of surrender to resourceless dependence (Khan 1972). There can then be moments of authentic meeting (Guntrip 1969) between therapist and client that restore purpose, direction, and meaning to an existence that might otherwise have remained desolate, impoverished, and desperately lonely.

Drawing upon the interpretive perspective of classical psychoanalysis, the corrective-provision perspective of self psychology, and the intersubjective perspective of contemporary relational theory, Martha’s existential-humanistic approach to healing brokenness and easing despair is one that places a premium on the co-creation of a transitional space between therapist and client that will enable the client gradually to deliver those parts of herself that she most needs to deliver – parts that are precious, vulnerable, and prone to breakage. If all goes well, however, she will ultimately discover, to her absolute delight and great surprise, that she need no longer worry quite so much about having her heart, once again, shattered…

“I gave you a part of me that I knew you could break – and you didn’t.” – Anonymous

Understanding Life Backward but Living It Forward: Analyzing to Understand but Envisioning Possibilities to Incentivize Action

Martha Stark, MD, will be presenting an action-based, solution-focused, future-oriented psychodynamic model that conceives of the mind as holding infinite potential and of memory as dynamic and continuously updating itself on the basis of new experience (whether real or simply envisioned). A constructivist perspective at heart, this freshly minted Model 5 of her Psychodynamic Synergy Paradigm is a quantum-neuroscientific approach to healing “analysis paralysis — when “understanding alone is simply not enough.”

Model 5 – an innovative and exciting approach to effecting deep, enduring, characterological change – is informed by the groundbreaking neuroscientific discovery that when implicitly held traumatic memories are reactivated in an embodied fashion, the network of neural synapses encoding these procedurally organized memories will become deconsolidated for a time-limited period. This unlocking will create an opportunity for both rewiring the brain and reprogramming the mind by way of therapeutic memory reconsolidation.

Indeed, over the course of the past two decades, a dedicated group of cognitive neuroscientists, ever intent upon ferreting out the neural mechanisms underlying the dynamic nature of memory, have been using advanced neuroimaging techniques to deepen their understanding of the brain’s remarkable neuroplasticity, that is, the brain’s innate capacity continuously and adaptively to reorganize itself in response to ongoing environmental stimulation – but only if certain conditions are met.

More specifically, repeated and embodied juxtaposition of old bad learned expectations with new good envisioned possibilities will create decisive – and potentially transformational – mismatch experiences. If these mismatch experiences are provided often enough and forcefully enough within the critical time frame of four to six hours, then the ongoing violations of conditioned expectation will eventually trigger energetic decoupling of the client’s toxic past from her lived present and therapeutic reconsolidation of the client’s narratives from outdated and disempowering to updated and more empowering – fueling quantum advancement of the client from entrenched inaction to intentioned action and actualization of potential.

Capitalizing upon the brain’s remarkable neuroplasticity, Martha’s quantum-neuroscientific Model 5 features co-created (by therapist and client) quantum disentanglement statements designed to release the client from her past as she envisions new possibilities for her future, takes ownership of her need therefore to change how she positions herself in her life, and then commits to acting in alignment with that imperative going forward.

Ann Landers’s simple but profound advice is very much to the point here, “Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies.”

A Psychodynamic Approach to Grieving the Loss of Relentless Hope and Evolving Towards Acceptance

Relentless hope is a defense to which clients cling in order not to have to feel the pain of their disappointment in the object – the hope a defense ultimately against grieving. The refusal to deal with the pain of their grief about the object (be it the infantile, a contemporary, or the transference object) fuels the relentlessness with which such clients pursue it, both the relentlessness of their hope that they might yet be able to make the object over into what they would want it to be and the relentlessness of their outrage in those moments of dawning recognition that, despite their best efforts and most fervent desire, they might never be able to make that actually happen.

Psychotherapy offers these clients an opportunity, albeit belatedly, to grieve their early-on heartbreak – in the process transforming their defensive need to hold on into the adaptive capacity to relent, to forgive, to accept, to “internalize” the “good that had been,” to separate, to let go, and to move on. Realistic hope will arise in the context of surviving their disappointment and heartbreak. In truth, it could be said that maturity involves transforming the infantile need to have one’s objects be other than who they are into the healthy capacity to accept them as they are.

With an eye always to the translation of theoretical concepts into clinical practice and by way of offering a number of clinical vignettes, I will be focusing my 2-hour presentation on the actual “working through” of grief as the client begins to confront the painful reality of the object’s limitations, separateness, and immutability. I will demonstrate the powerful impact of using optimally stressful, growth-incentivizing “disillusionment statements” that have been strategically designed to juxtapose what the client “had hoped” with what the patient “is coming to realize.” The ultimate goal will be translation of the client’s relentless hope into sober, mature acceptance of the heartbreaking reality that it “was what it was” and “is what it is.” Sadder perhaps they will be, but wiser too…

“True happiness is not about getting what you want but coming to want and appreciate what you have.” -Japanese Saying

Purchase all of Dr. Stark's courses for a discounted bundle price!

Martha Stark, MD Bundle

The Martha Stark, MD Bundle includes Homestudy access to:

Bundle Price80.00 USD (save $20!)

Student Price40.00 USD

The Chicago School Faculty/Staff/Alumni Price66.00 USD