The Philadelphia Psychotherapy Study Center

Devoted to the Study of Psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory and Therapy

The Philadelphia Psychotherapy Study Center offers a dynamic learning community for psychologists, social workers and counselors in the Philadelphia region. Led by Charles Ashbach, Karen Fraley, and Paul Koehler, PPSC is a place for mental health professionals to continue to study, learn and share ideas.

Our goal is to foster an understanding of the mind and psyche through an in-depth reading and study of the major object relations and psychoanalytic theorists. To that end we provide unique continuing education opportunities and seminars that embrace a dual perspective — integrating theoretical concepts with the particular immediacies of the clinical encounter.

PPSC Faculty

Charles Ashbach, Ph.D.

Karen Fraley, LCSW

Paul Koehler, MSW

Our Philosophy

Object relations theory has grown to encompass a broad spectrum of ideas concerning the origin and function of the internalized object and its fate in various contexts. We are invested in studying an approach where realities of the body, group, and imagination may be productively integrated to understand the forces that lead to psychic growth. Read more about our philosophy.

Current Programs

  • Retreat and Emergence: The Work of John Steiner

    This seminar will be structured around the reading and the study of two books by John Steiner: Psychic Retreats (1993) and Seeing and Being Seen: Emerging from a Psychic Retreat (2011). In these books Steiner describes the psychic retreat as a psychic structure -- that is, a highly-organized set of interlocking defenses geared toward alleviating what are felt to be unbearable anxieties and toward protecting the patient from the catastrophic persecution, fragmentation, and depression that are feared will follow if those defenses are given up. He illustrates how primitive feelings of shame, humiliation, and narcissistic injury arise as the defenses of the psychic retreat begin to shift, and he emphasizes the importance of mourning in facilitating emergence from the retreat. Learn more.

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