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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM24-PDW16: A Master Seminar Model for Educating Clients in Systems Psychodynamics


Professional Development Workshop: PDW 16
Wednesday 3 July 2024
9.15am to 5.45pm EEST

A Master Seminar Model for Educating Clients in Systems Psychodynamics

Facilitator: Marisa Guerin


This PDW describes - and selectively demonstrates - a Master Seminar model for introducing clients and colleagues to the fundamentals of systems psychodynamics and organization design.
The Master Seminar model was created by Marisa Guerin to close two gaps in the professional training of most client managers: few understand the principles and impact of organization design, and even fewer have been exposed to the insights available when psychoanalytic thinking is applied to organizational dynamics. Both of these domains provide powerful diagnostic and intervention options for organizational leaders.
The Master Seminar model does not involve the important affective learning dimension that is available from participation in group relations programs, but it does utilize reading, lecture, case consultation, reflective learning, and participant teamwork. It has been successfully used with over two hundred leaders from various professional backgrounds. Invariably, the experience has been described as eye-opening, yielding “aha!” moments that transformed the leaders’ perspective and equipped them for greater effectiveness.

Depending upon their level of experience in the field, participants can walk away from this PDW with two levels of learning.

  • All participants will learn about the purposes and methodology of the Master Seminar model.
  • All participants will have the chance to experience several of the seminar learning modules in real time.
  • Experienced practitioners will gain access to the design, materials, and process of this educational model which they will be free to use and adapt with their own clients.
  • Participants who are newer to the world of systems psychodynamics will gain a first-hand perspective on several of the key concepts generally used within the ISPSO community.

Workshop Aims:

The aims of this ISPSO PDW are:
(1) to equip experienced atendees with a seminar design and materials that they can use to conduct educational seminars for their clients on the psychodynamics of leadership and organizations, and
(2) to introduce less experienced atendees to some of the key concepts in systems psychodynamics.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the workshop, participants:

  • Will understand the framework for the seminar model that is presented.
  • Will have first-hand experience with some aspects of the seminar design focused on key concepts in systems psychodynamics.
  • Will have an appreciation for the learning process skills that are necessary for facilitating a successful seminar experience.

Target Groups:

This workshop would be useful for:

  • ISPSO members or non-members who consult to organizational leaders and their teams.
  • ISPSO members or non-members who provide professional development education events for leaders, colleagues, or organizations.
  • Individuals newer to the field who are interested in gaining a perspective on systems psychodynamics as a resource for leadership.

Teaching Method:

This a one-day PDW that will involve didactic presentations, interactive group discussion, individual case reflection and peer-consultation. Handouts and worksheets will be provided for the one-day workshop session, and at the conclusion of the session, participants will be given electronic access to a full portfolio of Master Seminar materials.

Biographical Summary:

Marisa Guerin, PhD, is a 30-year member and former Treasurer and Board member of ISPSO based in the USA. Marisa held executive roles in the youth-serving nonprofit sector and in the international chemical industry prior to opening her own consultancy business. Her clients have included corporate departments in industry and healthcare, small businesses, and regional and national nonprofit agencies and religious organizations.
Marisa holds a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems from the Fielding Graduate University. Marisa held a program faculty appointment for five years in the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum of the University of Pennsylvania, where she supervised MBA students on assignments in Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Bolivia. Marisa has presented papers at previous ISPSO annual meetings on topics such as workplace team psychodynamics (1997), leadership succession (2003), and repairing containment (2012). She is a contributing author to Systems Psychodynamics, Vol. 3: Theorist and Practitioner Voices from the Field, by David Lawlor and Mannie Sher, Routledge, 2023.
Marisa is married to Mike Sweeney and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Her articles and blogposts on a wide range of professional and personal growth topics can be found at