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  • Spring Conference: Mark O'Connell, PhD

Spring Conference: Mark O'Connell, PhD

  • 15 Apr 2017
  • 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
  • University of Tennessee Conference Center


Registration is closed

Spring Conference


Mark O'Connell, PhD 

Sexless Cohabitation: Psychoanalysis and 
Irrepressible Problem 
of Adult Sexuality

Saturday, April 15, 2017

University of Tennessee
Conference Center
Fourth Floor
600 Henley Street
Knoxville, Tennessee  37902

Description of Program

The morning program, “Sexless Cohabitation,” explores a core and ultimately unsolvable dilemma in psychoanalysis. Want to come up with an experiment that forces human sexuality into the most maximal contortions and perversions imaginable? Put two adults, often of the opposite sex, in the same room for years. Task them with engaging in the most intimate conversation possible, often about sex, while in a state of vulnerability, need, dependency, longing and hope. And tell them that there is one rule. They can’t actually have sex.

Our efforts to solve this impossible experiment have creatively shaped successive iterations of psychoanalytic theory. They have also distorted and limited analytic practice, and, at their worst, they have made psychoanalysis, at times, an iatrogenic endeavor.

These talks explore the nature of this challenge for clinicians and patients alike, and they speak to the importance of acknowledging, to ourselves and even at times to our patients, the imperfect nature of our solutions. By addressing transparently a topic that is often avoided, they will allow clinicians a way of constructing ethical boundaries without constricting the spontaneity and depth of the therapeutic relationship.

The afternoon program, “Two Minds in a Too Small Space,” explores the way that the optimally creative privacy of psychoanalysis supports and emphasizes a powerful, inertial tendency in human relationships to move towards collusive agreement. Such collusive agreement is characterized by the collapse participants’ capacity to maintain simultaneous awareness of his or her own subjectivity, as well as the subjectivity of the other. This mutual, bilateral subjectivity is at the core of the dialectical structure essential for therapeutic aliveness.

Collapse of this dialectic is not an anomalous outcome of our work. It is, in the absence of relentless and mindful opposition, an inevitability. Maintaining this dialectic, meanwhile, is a core component of modern theories of therapeutic action.


Mark O’Connell, PhD is a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. He is a member of Division 39 of the American Psychological Association, and he serves on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis and The Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Institute of New England.

The author of two books, “The Good Father; On Men, Masculinity and Life in the Family” (Scribners, 2004) and “The Marriage Benefit” (Springboard, 2007), Dr. O'Connell has also appeared on numerous radio and television shows, and he has written and spoken about marital and family life, couples therapy, adolescent sexuality and masculinity. Most recently, he has been writing about the collapse of eroticism and sexuality in contemporary culture. 

8:30am Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:50am Welcome and Introduction

9:00am Sexless Cohabitation: Psychoanalysis and the Irrepressible Problem of Adult Sexuality (Part I) 

10:30am Break with Refreshments

10:45am Sexless Cohabitation: Psychoanalysis and the Irrepressible Problem of Adult Sexuality (Part 2) 

12:15pm Lunch Served at Conference Site

1:15pm Two Minds in a Too Small Space: Intimate Partners, and the Challenge of Mutual Mentalization

3:00pm Break with Refreshments

3:15pm Case Presentation by Sarah Rimer Moss, with response by Mark O'Connell and discussion

4:30pm Complete Evaluations and Adjourn.

Learning Objectives

After attending this intermediate-level program in full, participants will be able to:

1. Describe broad trends in the development of psychoanalytic theory, from classical to contemporary, and describe the implications of this evolution for current practice. 

2. Explain how respective iterations of psychoanalytic theory have approached the challenges of constructively managing sexuality in the transference-countertransference relationship. 

3. Implement strategies for working openly and constructively with sexually charged transferences, while maintaining flexible but ethical boundaries.

4. Negotiate boundaries in a respectful, mutual manner.

5. Explain the importance of therapist self-regulation, and utilize strategies for managing heightened affect in challenging therapeutic environments.

6. Define the critical concept of “mentalization”, and utilize mentalization to enhance work with individuals and couples.   


This program is open to all APS members and other interested mental health professionals who may not be members. It is not limited to individuals practicing in a predominately psychoanalytic mode. The material will be appropriate for clinicians with intermediate levels of experience and knowledge.

Registration Fees and Policies:

BY April 10, 2017:

Professional and Scholar Members: $115.

Non-member Professionals: $150.

Early-Career Professional and Graduate Student Members: $35

AFTER April 10, 2017 and at the door:

Professional and Scholar Members: $130.

Non-member Professionals: $165.

Early-Career Professional and Graduate Student Members: $50.

Online registration will close on April 13, 2017.

Although walk-ins will be accepted, please register online at in advance to assure adequate food and seating.

If you prefer to pay by check, please print the Conference Registration form, and mail with your payment to:

Elaine Erickson, PhD
APS Treasurer
515 Booth Street
Knoxville, TN 37919.

Refunds honored with written/electronic notice at least 24 hours before date of conference. Contact Elaine Erickson, PhD

Contact the APS President Heather Hirschfeld, PhD to negotiate fees, if needed.

Facility is accessible to persons who are physically challenged. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address requests, questions, concerns and any complaints to Heather Hirschfeld, PhD.

APS Membership:

Eligible professionals can join APS or renew their membership for the 2016-2017 program year for $70. Scholars can join/renew for $50 and Early-Career Professionals can join/renew for $35. Graduate students may join or renew for $25.

American Psychological Association Approval Statement:
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.

Continuing Education:
This program, when attended in its entirety, is available for 6.0 continuing education credits. With full attendance and completion of a program Evaluation and Learning Assessment, a certificate will be issued. Psychologists will have their participation registered through Division 39.

APS and Division 39 are committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. APS and Division 39 are also committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in continuing education activities. 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 requests, questions, concerns and any complaints to the APS President Heather Hirschfeld, PhD.

There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between Division 39, APS, presenter, program content, research, grants or other funding sources that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest. During the program, the validity/utility of the content and risks/limitations of the approaches discussed will be addressed, as indicated.  

Selected References/Recommended Reading

Baranger, M. (2012). The intrapsychic and the intersubjective in contemporary psychoanalysis. International Forum of Psychoanalysis. 21: 130 -135.

Civitarese, G and Ferro, A. (2013). The Meaning and Use of Metaphor in Analytic Field Theory . Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 33:190–209.

Coen, S. J. (1981). Sexualization as a predominant mode of defense. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 29: 893-920.

Davies, J.M. (1994). Love in the Afternoon: A Relational Reconsideration of Desire and Dread in the Countertransference. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4:153-170.

Freud, S. (1915). Observations on Transference-Love (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-Analysis III). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII (1911-1913): The Case of Schreber, Papers on Technique and Other Works, 157-171.

Goldner, Virginia (2014). Romantic Bonds, Binds, and Ruptures: Couples on the Brink. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 24, 402-418.

Shimmerlik, Susan M.(2008) The Implicit Domain in Couples and Couple Therapy. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 18: 3, 371-389.

Stern, D. (2013) Field Theory in Psychoanalysis, Part I: Harry Stack Sullivan and Madeleine and Willy Baranger. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23:487–501.

Stern, D. (2013) Field Theory in Psychoanalysis, Part 2: Bionian Field Theory and Contemporary

Interpersonal/Relational Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23: 630–645.

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