The Therapeutic Use of Optimal Stress: Precipitating Disruption to Trigger Recovery

  • 21 Jan 2017
  • 9:15 AM - 11:45 AM
  • Villabri


  • Groups of 5 or more

Registration is closed

Martha Stark   2.5 CEU

About Martha Stark

Educational Objectives

At the conclusion of this program, participant will be able to:

(1)     speak to the paradoxical impact of stress on mind and body

(2)     explain the relationship between "challenge" and "defensive reaction" on the one hand and "support" and "adaptive response" on the other

(3)     elaborate upon the therapeutic use of "optimal stress" to provoke healing and transformation of defense into adaptation

Dr. Stark’s introduction to the session:

As I have evolved, so too my understanding of the healing process has evolved – from one that emphasizes the internal workings of the mind to one that is more holistic and appreciates the complex interdependence of mind and body.

Long intrigued by the idea that superimposing an acute injury on top of a chronic one is often exactly what the body needs in order to heal, I have come to appreciate that, so too with respect to the mind, the therapeutic provision of “optimal stress” – against the backdrop of an empathically attuned and authentically engaged therapy relationship – is sometimes the magic ingredient needed to overcome the inherent resistance to change so frequently encountered in patients with longstanding emotional injuries and scars.

Behind this “no pain / no gain” approach is my firm belief in the underlying resilience that patients will inevitably discover within themselves once they are prompted to tap into their inborn ability to self-correct in the face of optimal stress – an innate capacity that will enable them ultimately to advance from cursing the darkness (a less-evolved defensive reaction) to lighting a candle (a more-evolved adaptive response).

Readings related to Dr. Stark’s presentation:

Stark, M. (2015). The transformative power of optimal stress: From cursing the darkness to lighting a candle (available as a free eBook PDF download through

Stark M. (2016). How does psychotherapy work? (available as a free eBook PDF downloan through