ISTDP Training and Supervision

Helping you to be a more effective therapist...

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Hercule et l'Hydre de Lerne, Gustav Moreau, 1876.
The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide.
The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project.
The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and
licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.



Recognising and Defeating the Multi-Headed Hydra of Negative Self-Narrative: The Punitive Superego

Dr. Stephen Arthey



Novotel Cathedral Square

52 Cathedral Square, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Friday, 7 September 2018 at 9:00 am - Sunday, 9 September 2018 at 4:00 pm (NZST)


HYDRA LERNAIA (Lernaean Hydra) was a gigantic, nine-headed water-serpent, which haunted the swamps of Lerna. Lerna was reputed to be an entrance to the Underworld. Hercules was sent to destroy her as one of his twelve labours, but for each of her heads that he decapitated, two more sprang forth. So with the help of his faithful servant Iolaus, he burned away the heads of the Hydra, and buried the ninth, or immortal one, under a huge rock.


Registation is available through Eventbrite.

Whether we call it negative self-narratives, negative self-schemas, the punitive superego (PSE) or the Hydra, it has many heads and all are destructive. It lurks in the shadows of our patients' minds, hard to see directly, but easy to see for it's effects: a "stuck" therapy, where the patient barely or doesn't progress and the therapist can often feel helpless, frustrated and/or defeated.

As therapists we need to be able to identify, in the moment-to-moment interaction with our patients, the heads of the Hydra; the particular negative ideas that each head feeds our patients. From self-criticism, to self-neglect, self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-attack and more; each head has a different theme, reflects a different aspect of our patients' early attachment patterns, and has different impacts on the lives of our patients. We need to be able help patients recognise the Hydra, examine the utility of each of it's heads, and, if they decide they no longer want to be dominated by the Hydra, help our patients to decapitate each head and to cauterise the wound to prevent regeneration.

In this workshop we will focus on the Heads of the Hydra:

  • Recognising when the patient is dominated by the Hydra
  • Identifying the different heads of the Hydra
  • Understanding the lies the Hydra tells our patients (Our patients typically believe these "lies")
  • Helping the patient gain some reflective space to accurately observe the Hydra
  • Developing the interventions to help the patient question the utility of the Hydra
  • Building self-care within the patient
  • Creating an alliance with the patient against the Hydra
  • Defeating the Hydra

This workshop will demonstrate interventions using video recordings from actual therapy sessions. Therefore, all participants must be registered/licensed mental health professionals or postgraduate level students enrolled in mental health-relted degrees.

  • Workshop commences at 9.00am Friday 7 September.
  • Please arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure you can complete Sign In.
  • Arrival tea/coffee, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided on each day.

Registation is available through Eventbrite.