Control Mastery Theory

Control-Mastery Theory is a modern psychodynamic approach to psychotherapy proposed by Joseph Weiss, MD in the 1970s and advanced by the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. The theory is an optimistic, pragmatic way of working with people in therapy. It assumes that people are actively engaged in trying to overcome their problems, and that the therapist’s job is to understand their patients’ goals and to assist them in their attempts to solve their problems. I like this way of thinking, because it encourages a sense of teamwork between the therapist and the patient, and is an enjoyable way to work for both people.

A fundamental tenet of control-mastery theory is that the safer people feel in therapy, the more able they are to make progress. Therefore, it is up to the therapist to provide an interpersonally warm and safe environment, which is just what I like to do. The theory is very results-oriented: we believe that each person is unique, and that treatment must be tailored to the needs of the patient. What works for one person may not work for someone else, so the therapist must pay attention to what is helpful and what is not, and do his or her best to provide what is useful for each particular patient. We must see progress as the therapy goes along so that we can be confident we are on the right track.

Another aspect of the theory that I like is that it helps both the therapist and the patient to feel that they are working together, that they are collaborating on finding solutions to the patient’s problems. It is a respectful approach; it does not assume that the therapist knows more than the patient, but that therapist and patient each contribute to finding their way to solutions. I also like the freedom it gives me to be myself as we go about our work. My patients seem to appreciate the authenticity of our interactions as well, since it helps them feel safe and relaxed in the sessions.

Control-mastery theory is based on a great deal of research, which validates its principles and effectiveness. This research base, together with my years of experience as a psychotherapist, gives me confidence in the way I go about my work.