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



February 11, 2022, 1 - 4:15 p.m. ET
Instructor: Martha Stark, M.D.
Live interactive webinar

Level: Intermediate
CEs: 3 CEs are available for $10 fee
Review CE accreditation and approvals for this course.

Clients who have never fully confronted and grieved the pain of their early heartbreak will often 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 heartbreak, will find themselves withdrawing completely from the world of objects – their hearts shattered – only then to find themselves overwhelmed by a terrifying sense of alienation and harrowing loneliness.

Instead of relentless hope and its cousin relentless outrage (both of which speak to the client’s intense albeit maladaptive engagement with the world of objects), the experience of being-in-the-world for these latter clients, who have suffered catastrophically devastating losses, will be one of relentless despair – a profound hopelessness that they keep hidden behind the false self they present to the world.

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

Drawing upon the finely-honed wisdom of classical psychoanalysis, self psychology and contemporary relational theory, Dr. Martha Stark’s existential-humanistic approach to healing brokenness and easing despair is one that places a premium on the co-creation of a transitional space (Winnicott 1965) between client and therapist. In this space, the client can begin to deliver those parts of themselves that are most vulnerable, most fragile and most prone to breakage – and can then gradually discover, to their absolute delight, that they need no longer worry quite so much about having their heart, once again, shattered…

Target Audience: 

Social workers and other social service providers

Course Delivery Method, Format and Instructor Interaction :

Live interactive webinar with discussion. Instructor will use chat and verbal discussions for Q & A. Login information will be emailed immediately after registration to the email address entered during registration. Attendees are visible to one another in Zoom meeting and are encouraged to be active participants with their camera and/or microphone in order take part in discussion.

System Requirements:

Attendees will need access to a computer with working camera and microphone. All courses are offered using Zoom conferencing software. 

Registration Fees and Deadlines:

Early registration by December 13, 2021: $65
Regular registration by February 10, 2022: $75

CEs: 3 CEs are available for $10 fee 

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the primary difference between relentless hope and relentless despair
  2. Identify ambivalence about entering into the world of objects
  3. Explain the relevance of Masud Khan’s concept of dreading surrender to resourceless dependence upon another
  4. Summarize how the importance of moments of authentic meeting offers opportunity for restoring purpose, meaning and direction


1 - 2:15 p.m. ET

  • Viktor Frankl’s Existential Despair
  • Richard Cory
  • Donald Winnicott’s False Self
  • The Need for Omnipotent Control
  • The Young Child’s Maturational Progression
  • Primary Aloneness
  • Traumatically Frustrated Ego Needs
  • Michael Balint’s Benign Regression to Dependence
  • Masud Khan’s Dread of Surrender to Resourceless Dependence
  • Extended Clinical Vignette

2:15 - 2:30 p.m. ET: Q & A

2:30 - 2:40 p.m. ET: Break

2:40 - 3:55 p.m. ET

  • Guntrip’s Schizoid Withdrawal from All Objects
  • Martin Heidegger’s Inauthentic Existence
  • Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock”
  • Patients on the Spectrum
  • Arnold Modell’s Private Self
  • Donald Burnham’s Need-Fear Dilemma
  • Facilitation Statements
  • Extended Clinical Vignette

3:55 - 4:15 p.m. ET: Q & A

About the Instructor:

Martha Stark, M.D., a graduate of Harvard Medical School, is a holistic adult and child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Boston, Massachusetts. Stark is faculty, Harvard Medical School; co-founder/co-director/faculty, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies; faculty, Psychiatry Redefined; faculty/Scientific Advisory Board, Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine; adjunct faculty, William James College; former faculty, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis.

Stark is an award-winning author of nine books on psychoanalytic theory and practice, several of which are “required reading” at various psychoanalytic training institutes and in psychodynamic psychotherapy programs both in the U.S. and abroad.

Board-certified by the American Association of Integrative Medicine, Stark contributes chapters to integrative medicine textbooks and articles to peer-reviewed toxicology and environmental medicine journals. She also serves on the editorial and advisory boards of various holistic health publications.

Completion Requirements for Live Interactive Webinars

Live, interactive webinars are synchronous, virtual courses held in Zoom Meeting. To receive a CE certificate, you must attend the entirety of the webinar. Partial credit will not be awarded to those who attend only a portion of the training. Participant attendance is tracked through Zoom. To earn CE credit, participants must also complete an evaluation. A link to the online evaluation will be emailed to participants within 24 hours of the conclusion of the course. It is attendee’s responsibility to contact their state licensing board/certification boards to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements. Receiving CEs is contingent on attendance and completion of the evaluation.

How Will a CE Certificate Be Awarded?

Upon completing the webinar evaluation, participants will be emailed their online certificate​ within 30 days of webinar completion​. ​Participants should save and/or print ​the certificate upon receipt for ​their records.

Continuing Education Credits and Approvals

Continuing Education (CE) credits offered vary by course. This course only offers the CE credits listed below.  It is the attendees' responsibility to contact their licensing board to determine eligibility to meet continuing education requirements.

Social Work
  • Smith College School for Social Work, #1755, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. Smith College School for Social Work maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 11/19/2021-11/19/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 3 continuing education credits.

  • Smith College School for Social Work is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and is therefore authorized to provide CEs as a postsecondary institution accredited by CSWE in many states. Courses offered through the School’s Program of Professional Education are awarded continuing education credits in accordance with Continuing Education Regulation 258, CMR, 31.00 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 
  • Smith College School for Social Work is recognized by the New York State Education Department's State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #SW-0169.


  • Co-sponsored training events for psychology CE credit with Smith College School for Social Work. Amego Prepare​ is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Amego Prepare maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Due to changes in continuing education requirements for NY licensed psychologists, APA CE Sponsor credits may not be accepted for re-licensure at this time. Please check the NY Psychology Board regulations for CE requirements currently in effect.
Counselors (LMHC/LPC)


  • Smith College School for Social Work has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 7110. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Smith College School for Social Work is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

SSW Professional Education Policies

Further information on policies and CE accreditation can be found here.

Contact SSW Professional Education


Lilly Hall
23 West Street,
Northampton, MA 01060
sswpe@smith.edu | 413-585-7970

Director of Professional Education

Pronouns: she/her
E: mcurtin@smith.edu or dirpe@smith.edu
P: 413-585-4198