Control Mastery

A Cognitive, Psychodynamic, Relational(CPR) approach to psychotherapy.

Out of his years of work as a psychoanalyst, Joseph Weiss Ph.D., developed a new idea about what actually worked in psychotherapy. Joining forces with Harold Sampson, MD, they began to investigate this concept which had emerged from their dissatisfaction with traditional theories.


The theory of Control-mastery is the product of their work.

The major components of theory are that:

  1. People have some control over their unconscious mental lives.
  2. Psychological suffering is caused by ideas formed in early life in response to real trauma.
  3. People are highly motivated to master the trauma at the root of their suffering.
  4. People come to therapy with a plan that the therapist can discern and utilize to help the client solve her/his problems.

Weiss and Sampson established The San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group for the purpose of the scientific study of their ideas. Over the last 50 years, members of the group have continued to study and produce findings on how to conduct effective psychotherapy, much of which is available at their sites sfprg.org and controlmastery.com

Control-Mastery is a cognitive, psychodynamic, relational theory that describes a specific effective approach for therapists in helping clients overcome trauma.

The theory does not provide specific techniques, but rather is the foundation of a psychotherapeutic stance. It allows therapists to not only understand their clients’ behavior and motivations, but also elegantly explains common countertransference reactions and how to utilize them toward helping clients solve their problems.

CMT proposes that people:
  • are always working toward solving their problems, no matter how they present in the therapy.
  • recreate dilemmas from their pasts to master their traumas.
  • invite their therapists (and other people) to help them solve their problems.
  • do not want to maintain their symptoms and their suffering.
  • do not 'resist' getting better.
  • suffer because they adhere to painful beliefs developed in response to childhood trauma
  • maintain those beliefs out of adaptation loyalty to their families.
  • feel enormous responsibility for others, especially their families of origin and act according to this belief.
  • come to therapy already knowing, unconsciously, how to solve their problems, which can be very quickly discerned by the trained therapist.
  • want the therapy to be successful and will 'coach' the therapist toward this end.
  • often present as weaker than they actually are, and do in fact have strengths that are not immediately identifiable.
  • tend to overestimate their ability to cause harm to others, and worry excessively about others, to their own detriment.