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Seminars, conferences and online resources on psychotherapy and human relationships

Toxic Couples in Therapy

Attachment and unconscious processes in relationship conflict and abuse

With Damian McCann, Andy Metcalf, Anna Motz and Kate Thompson

Saturday 23 June - London

One of the most complex ironies of the human condition is that our need for intimacy - so essential for survival from the moment of birth - often results in relationships that persistently thwart our deepest emotional and embodied prerequisites for contentment in adulthood: tenderness, empathic atunement and sexual fulfilment. At the beginning of a new relationship these desires may appear attainable and yet, as we see so often in therapy, unconscious processes can disrupt the most loving intentions, bringing the weight of negative, deeply held expectations about the self and the other into the core experience of the couple relationship, leading to great pain and disappointment.

Many people who come to therapy present experiences of insecurity and rupture. But some have reached a point where their relationship has become deeply damaging, a toxic object-relational cocktail of frustration, anger, blame and, in the most insecure and disorganised attachment relationships, often violence as well. This conference brings together four speakers who will be examining the roots of toxic relationship dynamics, questioning what often appears to be a repetition-compulsion in unconsciously but knowingly choosing partners who re-invoke early insecure attachments. We will examine the processes of splitting, projecting and other defences that might operate in the process of reactivating childhood wounds even in the apparently average/neurotic couple. Finally, we will provide therapeutic skills and techniques for helping a traumatised couple to transcend the aggression that appears to bind them, and to find a positive outcome either together or apart.


Damian McCann
Damian McCann. D.Sys.Psych. Is a couple psychoanalytic psychotherapist working as head of learning and development at Tavistock Relationships. He is also a consultant systemic psychotherapist working in a child and adolescent mental health service and is an associate of pink therapy where he previously taught on the diploma in relationship therapy for gender and sexual diversities. His doctoral research was concerned with understanding the meaning and management of violence in the couple relationships of gay men and he co-authored a paper 'Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy with violent couples: Understanding and working with violent couples'... More >>

Andy Metcalf
Andy Metcalf has since the 1970's been active around issues of masculinity. He was in a men's group, part of the Achilles Heel collective, co-edited the Pluto Press book,'The Sexuality of Men'. Andy also worked on the Channel 4 series About Men. He continues to work clinically with the issues that arise from masculinity... More >>

Anna Motz
Anna Motz is a Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist working for the Family Assessment and Safeguarding Service, Oxford and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She supervises teams in Avon, Devon, Cornwall and Wales for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in MBT ASPD (Mentalization Based Treatment for Antisocial Personality Disorder: men at high risk for violence), led by Dr Jessica Yakeley and Professor Anthony Bateman. In Ireland she supervises MBT ASPD teams who run these groups within the prison service... More >>

Kate Thompson
Kate Thompson is Head of Strategic Development and Project Lead for Couple Therapy for Depression Training nationally at Tavistock Relationships. She is currently supervising the Parents as Partners and Safer Families Project working with violent couples. As a couple psychotherapist she has worked in a service using mentalisation techniques for couples in dispute (see Thompson, K. (2016). Record of a service using mentalisation-based therapy - parenting together to help resolve entrenched conflict between separated parents over their children, with particular emphasis on the impact of the work on the therapist... More >>


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Handouts and lunch included
Self-funded: £120
Self-funded x 2: £200
Organisationally-funded: £200
Under 25's: £70

CPD Hours

Certificates of attendance for 6 hours will be provided at the event

Grange Fitzrovia Hotel
Bolsover Street

09.30 Registration and coffee
10:00 Start
11:15 Coffee
13:00 Lunch break
15:30 Tea
17:00 End