There are over four decades of research studies on Control-Mastery Theory (CMT).    All of the research carried out by SFPRG is designed to empirically evaluate CMT hypotheses and predictions.  There is research on how patients’ sense of safety is enhanced, how defenses can be relaxed, how previously warded-off feelings or mental contents emerge during therapy, how therapists can help patients to disconfirm pathogenic beliefs or schemas, and how therapists can enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Since CMT is not a particular brand or technique of therapy, our research does not compare the effectiveness of CMT therapies with other brands.  Instead, we utilize the theory to explain how therapies of various types work or fail to work.  SFPRG has also focused on developing reliable methods for case formulation (the plan formulation method), for assessing pathogenic beliefs, and for developing reliable measures of the degree of compatibility between therapist interventions and attitudes and the patient’s particular problems and goals (plan compatibility of intervention scale).  Taken as a whole, the research shows that therapist responsiveness to the particular patient (plan compatibility) is a strong predictor of productive therapy sessions and treatment outcome.  An overview of the research and many of the research studies can be found in the Publications page.

Some of the research projects and studies that are currently ongoing at SFPRG include:

  • Development and testing of a nomothetic pathogenic belief scale
  • Refinement and expansion of the plan formulation method
  •  Assessment of patient feedback following therapy sessions (patients’    experience of attunement and responsiveness)
  • Assessment of pathogenic schemas using various interview methods   such as the relationship anecdote paradigm (RAP developed by Luborsky and colleagues at PENN) and the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI)

Get involved in the research!  SFPRG strongly encourages interested clinicians, researchers, scholars, and students to participate in our research programs.  We also encourage collaboration with other research colleagues nationally and internationally.  If you would like to participate in our research or discuss possible collaborative studies, send an email to