Dennis J. Zeitlin, MD - Control Mastery Theory

Dennis Zeitlin, MD maintains a psychotherapy practice in San Francisco and Marin County, which includes individual therapy, couples therapy, group therapy, family therapy, psychopharmacology, and consultation.

CONTROL MASTERY THEORY & the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group (SFPRG)

Origins of the Theory

In the late 1950's, Joseph Weiss, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in San Francisco, was taking a fresh look at how psychotherapy works. He began to develop what he called Control Mastery Theory, which held that people have a great deal of control over their unconscious mental lives, and are powerfully motivated to use this to master past traumatic experiences.

He determined that psychological problems stem from the negative beliefs that arise from these trauma, and that patients come to therapy with an unconscious strategy to change these beliefs by testing them out in therapy and acquiring insight. A major task of the therapist is to understand and honor this plan, and use it to help the patient grow.

A New Psychotheraphy Research Group

In 1972, with his psychologist and psychoanalyst colleague, Harold Sampson, he established the Mt. Zion Psychotherapy Research Group (later known as the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group) to empirically test Control Mastery Theory. A series of meticulous, internationally respected, research projects followed, along with new applications and theoretical elaborations, now totaling over 100 articles and books, which have validated and furthered the tenets of Weiss' theory.
You may access the complete bibliography online.

Dr. Zeitlin Joins SFPRG

In 1975, Dr. Zeitlin began an almost 30 year, individual, weekly mentorship with Joseph Weiss, studying how this humanistic, cognitive-relational-psychodynamic theory sheds light on the theory and practice of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and research. Quite soon, Dr. Zeitlin found these ideas enriching his teaching and therapy in all modalities. Over time, he became active on the Teaching Faculty of the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group, and published original applications of Control Mastery Theory to couples therapy and group therapy (These articles can be downloaded below). In 2014 he received the Weiss-Sampson award for "outstanding contributions to Control Mastery Theory and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group."

The SFPRG Today

SFPRG, inspired by the brilliance, warmth, and integrity of its founders, now has over 200 members, including a generation of Bay Area psychotherapists, and clinicians worldwide. Therapists from Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Cuba, South America, Spain, and Eastern Europe have come to SFPRG to study, do research, and attend the program of courses, conferences, and seminars that are offered throughout the year.

SFPRG's Community Clinic

The SFPRG Clinic, which opened in 2001, provides excellent low fee treatment to the community, and an outstanding place for graduate and post-graduate students in psychology and social work to intern and obtain clinical training. The teaching faculty and supervisors are volunteer experienced Control Mastery therapists . SFPRG also provides free community services, including lectures on parenting.

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Control-Mastery Theory in Couples Therapy (PDF)

Control-Mastery Theory in Group Therapy (PDF)

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