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  • Part I: Inter-Analytic Couples Therapy (IACT)

Part I: Inter-Analytic Couples Therapy (IACT)

  • 08 Jul 2021
  • 12:15 PM
  • 16 Dec 2021
  • 3:00 PM
  • UCLA - Semel Institute, 1st Floor, Room 17-416


Registration is closed

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ALERT: Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the UCLA campus is currently closed. We do not have information on when the campus will reopen for in person classes. We are prepared to begin our classes on July 8th on the Zoom online platform if we are unable to meet on the UCLA campus. In the event that in person classes resume, we will also continue the Zoom classes simultaneously. We will ensure all course registrants are informed as we receive updated information.

Part I: Inter-Analytic Couples Therapy (IACT) is a six-month, two-quarter course offered to all mental health professionals, and is designed to incorporate multiple instructional levels (introductory, intermediate and advanced). IACT incorporates Interpersonal Neurobiology into the treatment of couples at four levels of couple interaction: Conflict/Communication, Closeness, Transference, and Attachment/Intersubjectivity. The first segment of each class is a lecture with a Power Point slideshow (1.25 hours), and the second segment focuses on clinical application, which includes DVDs of actual couples therapy sessions, demonstrations, and role plays (1.25 hours). There will also be question and answer periods. Students take a 15 minute break between class segments.

Learning Objectives

This course is designed to help participants:

1. Identify four areas that a skilled couples therapist and a skilled sex therapist share competency.

2. Name four reasons that justify integrating couple’s therapy and sex therapy into one profession.

3. Discuss the importance of integrating both verbal/explicit and nonverbal/implicit content in clinical work with couples.

4. Assess affect regulation skills and regulatory style of each member of a couple.

5. Apply five affect regulation skills to clinical work.

6. Identify five concepts and/or techniques of psychoanalytic/psychodynamic theory and an interpersonal model of couple therapy to clinical work.

7. Match four difficult issues in couples therapy with effective interventions.

8. Discuss how cultural diversity affects all clinicians.

9. Provide at least three components of a personal action plan for providing culturally competent treatment.

10. Demonstrate couples therapy skills in role playing triads.

Educational Goals:

1. Provide mental health professionals with techniques that effectively integrate couples therapy and sex therapy in a clinical practice.

2. Provide new competencies and knowledge to mental health professionals by presenting new research findings (i.e. interpersonal neurobiology, affect regulation, right brain psychotherapy) and integrate these findings into existing education, theoretical models, and clinical approaches to the field of couples and sex therapy.

3. Advance existing skills and competence in the field of couples and sex therapy to better equip mental health professionals to serve the needs of the public.

4. Promote research endeavors by mental health professionals in the field of couples and sex therapy in order to contribute to the discipline of psychology as a whole.

Course Schedule:

IACT: Interpersonal Neurobiology, Affect Regulation and Right Brain Psychotherapy

The importance of a working knowledge of interpersonal neurobiology and affect regulation from the groundbreaking work of Dr. Allan Schore is foundational to the IACT model. Research from interpersonal neurobiology illuminates cycles of emotional reactivity, both within individuals and in a relational context. There are automatic, implicit, non-verbal, bodily based processes which drive habitual and reactive couple interactions. Brain structures, hemispheric differences, and the role of the nervous system in couple interactions are presented. Affect regulation and affect regulation styles of each individual are explored. The integration of these findings can empower the couples therapists and the couple to be able to make mindful choices about their interactions, affecting change. Affect regulation skills are necessary for both the therapist and the couple in each session and at each level of interaction.

IACT: Level 1 - Conflict/Disconnection

The first level is the Self-Self Object level of interaction. If things go well at this level, people treat each other nicely. If it goes poorly, they treat each other as bad self objects, resulting in conflict, anger, criticism, and defensiveness. The main issue at this level is the Conflict/Disconnection spectrum. The treatment approach taken at this level of interaction is the Dialogue of Intimacy (talking and listening to feelings) to metabolize anger and improve communication.

IACT: Level 2 - Closeness

The second level is the Fusion Autonomy level of interaction. If things are going well at this level, the couple experiences bliss, contentment, and oceanic oneness. If things are not going well, there are problems with closeness, more specifically fears of envelopment and fears of abandonment. Closeness is an unconscious process of coming together and forming a oneness while at the same time maintaining a separateness. The treatment approach at this level of interaction is called the three “Ts”: Talking/Listening (Dialogue of Intimacy), Time Together, and Touching.

IACT: Level 3 - Transference

The third level is the Transference Distortion level of interaction. In other words, we unconsciously go out and seek somebody so we may recreate a relationship with them that is similar in part to the relationship that we had with the parent or parents of conflict, for purposes of fixing our childhood. There are other possibilities for why we do this, including: 1) it is familiar, 2) we duplicate our parents’ marriage, 3) we identify with one of our parents, or 4) we were angry for what happened in infancy and childhood but couldn’t express that anger so it comes out in the transference. This distorts the ability of people to have an empathic connection. This transference reaction is operating bilaterally, and in all couples creates a transference entanglement or enactment. This enactment creates a transference fog which prevents the couple from being able to form a real relationship. The treatment approach at this level involves both hemispheres of the brain with an integration of both verbal/explicit insight and interpretation and the processing of nonverbal/implicit content evidenced by the bodily based reactions of the couple.

IACT: Level 4 – Attachment/Intersubjectivity

The fourth level involves Attachment and Intersubjectivity. When the communication, closeness, and transference issues in the relationship have been dealt with, the real relationship emerges. At this point, we are able to see moderate and sometimes mild attachment problems interfering with empathy and intersubjectivity. Severe attachment issues are evident from the beginning of the work. Work at this level deepens the couple connection and focuses on attunement, empathy, acceptance, trust and bi-directional vulnerability.

IACT: Four Levels of Couple Interaction - Theory

Dr. Walter E. Brackelmanns developed a model for understanding couples therapy that involves looking at six of the major psychoanalytic theoreticians. The model has five lines of development leading to four levels of interaction. The first theoretician described is Heinz Kohut and the narcissistic line of development. This led to a model for understanding human behavior called self-psychology. The second theoretician is Margaret Mahler. She studied children and came up with a separation-individuation model for understanding human behavior. This model is crucial to what marriage is and how to understand relationships. The third is Sigmund Freud and all the theoreticians who are interested in how two objects relate to each other, or object relations theory. The fourth person is John Bowlby. This researcher and clinician studied and wrote about attachment issues in the first year of life that affect how a person relates to another person throughout their life. Daniel N. Stern conceptualized a model for understanding how people relate to each other in the real relationship where one mind, free of many intrapsychic distortions, leads to an intersubjective understanding of another mind. The important thing for the students to understand in this first course is that the material viewed in couples therapy is not understood by just one theoretical model. The material presented by the couple determines what level of interaction the material is viewed from. This lens determines the kind of treatment that is applied. It also gives a rationale for why treatment works. It should be noted that the theories described are not limited to the field of psychoanalysis. Cognitive behavior therapy, narrative therapy, and systems theory are also integrated into this model. According the Inter-Analytic Couples Therapy (IACT) Model, the five lines of development lead to the four levels of interaction.

IACT: Challenges in Couples Therapy

Some of the most difficult issues in couples therapy arise from significant insecure or disorganized attachment organization. These issues will be explored and treatment interventions presented.

IACT: Infidelity as Attachment Injury

Infidelity poses one of the most common and most difficult issues for clinicians, and can be intimidating due to the significant amount of trauma and conflict these cases bring to therapy. Effective therapy for infidelity provides understanding and compassionate treatment for both the betraying partner and the betrayed partner toward the goal of recovery, healing, and the rebuilding of trust in relationships. Infidelity is a multifactorial phenomenon which is further illuminated from an interpersonal neurobiological and attachment perspective. Rates of infidelity and multicultural factors will be examined. We will also focus on the different factors facilitating and motivating a betraying partner, and the impact of betrayal trauma experienced by the betrayed partner. An understanding of neurodevelopment, affect regulation/dysregulation, trauma, and attachment organization in each person will assist the clinician in diagnosing the individual/couple and in employing effective treatment interventions.

IACT: Couples and Sex Therapy

The intersection of couples and sex therapy illuminates how the relational context can affect the sexual functioning of a couple.

IACT: Culturally Diverse Couples Therapy

Couples and sex therapy with culturally diverse populations requires knowledge of specific issues encountered by diverse couples including the coming out process, internalized negativity, family/culture of origin, consensual nonmonogamy, and prejudice and discrimination, to name a few.


Wendy Cherry, Psy.D, a licensed psychotherapist, is the co-founder and Executive Director of The American Association of Couples and Sex Therapists (AACAST), and the Co-Director of the Couples and Sex Therapy Training Program at UCLA. She trained with renowned couples therapist Dr. Walter Brackelmanns for almost two decades, and is an accomplished educator, lecturer and public speaker for numerous universities, organizations and businesses. Dr. Cherry furthers her knowledge in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology with membership in Dr. Allan Schore's Right Brain Psychotherapy study group. She has the distinction of being trained in both business management and as a mental health professional. Prior to her work in the field of psychology, Wendy created and directed one of the very first Internet companies, becoming a well-known media expert on internet issues in the Los Angeles area. She has appeared on numerous television news shows, including Fox 11, Channel 9, Channel 5, and also on Extra! and Inside Edition. Dr. Cherry has a private practice in Encino, CA specializing in couples and sex therapy.

Ron Crane, MFT, a Marriage and Family Therapist, received his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science degrees from Kansas State University. He has done extensive post-graduate work at the University of Missouri, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Los Angeles.  He received a Doctor of Laws Degree, LLD (honoris causa) from International College in 1980 for his contributions to the Mental Health profession. Ron has been in the practice of psychotherapy for over forty-five years with special interest in: Individual and Couples Therapy, Gay and Lesbian Therapy, Sexual Therapy, and Addiction Therapy. He has been involved with: Sexual Abuse Treatment Centers, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Youth Shelters and Family Services, the South Central Los Angeles Mental Rehabilitation Center, and various addiction treatment programs.

Satisfactory Completion: Participants must attend each class to receive CE credit for the InterAnalytic Couples Therapy (IACT) course. Participants are currently allowed to miss two (2) classes in the Inter-Analytic Couples Therapy lecture series, but must complete the required reading for the missed class(es) and watch the DVD of the missed class(es) in order to meet the stated learning objectives. CE credit is not available for missed classes. Participants must have paid tuition fee, signed in for each class, completed an evaluation, and signed out of each class in order to receive a certificate. Failure to sign in or out will result in forfeiture of credit for the class. No exceptions will be made. Students that miss more than two (2) classes will be ineligible for CE credit. CE certificates will be emailed to participants within thirty (30) days of course completion in exchange for a completed course evaluation.

Refund Policy: All course cancellations and requests for refunds must be made in writing. Telephone requests will not be honored. Letters and/or an e-mail to the Executive Director should be received no later than 15 days prior to the first day of the course to receive a full refund of the course payments. An exception is made in the case of an emergency situation defined as the death or illness of registrant or a family member. In case of emergency, a full refund will be issued. In the case of a withdrawal from the course after the course has started, for any reason, the refund will consist of a prorated amount based on attendance, minus a $50.00 administrative fee. All refund requests should be made in writing and sent to: AACAST, Attn: Wendy Cherry, Executive Director, 1072 Katherine Rd., Santa Susana, CA 93063 or by e-mail at Wendy@aacast.net.

Accommodations for Disabilities: Participants who have a disability and require special assistance should contact Wendy Cherry, Psy.D. by email at Wendy@aacast.net or by phone at (818) 540-8657.

Grievances, issues, or concerns regarding the conference or registration should be addressed in writing and submitted to Wendy@aacast.net.

The American Association of Couples and Sex Therapist (AACAST) is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT Provider #133064) to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs. This course meets the qualifications for 44 hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. AACAST maintains responsibility for this program/course and its content.

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