Digital Desire and the Online Imposter: Catfishing

Digital Desire and the Online Imposter: Catfishing

Macht Auditorium at Cambridge Hospital

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Date(s) - 11/02/2019
9:30 am - 12:30 pm

Freud considered the unconscious a site of repressed wishes and desires whose influence extends to the farthest reach of conscious life. Today, such desires find new expression on the internet, which allows anonymity and accessibility. Replacing “real world” skins with digital ones, users create virtual personas to promote their secret passions. The virtual space of consciousness is well matched to the virtual space of the web, though sexual and social enactments within the latter can have dangerous real-world consequences. Examining the darker side of the marriage between desire and communication technology, focused through the phenomenon of “catfishing,” this paper raises questions about the nature of the human self and the role it plays in deception. Understanding how patients use the internet helps provide access to their unconscious desires.

Presenter: Danielle Knafo, Ph.D.

Discussant: Stacey Novack, Psy.D.


This program is free

Danielle Knafo, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, a prolific author, and a popular speaker. She is also a professor at LIU-Post in its clinical psychology doctoral program. Additionally, she is faculty and supervisor at NYU’s Postdoctoral Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. She writes and lectures on many subjects, including creativity, trauma, psychosis, sexuality and gender, and technology. She maintains a private practice in Manhattan and Great Neck, NY.

Stacey Novack, Psy.D,  is a graduate and faculty member of MIP where she teaches courses in comparative theory and object relations theory. She is in private practice in Northampton, MA.

For social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and licensed mental health care providers with introductory, intermediate, or advanced understanding of this topic


  1. At the end of this program you will be able to describe the phenomenon of catfishing, a new form of perversion rampant in the digital dating scene.
  2. At the end of this program you will be able to identify the intricate psychodynamics and defensive functions on both sides of the catfishing relationship.
  3. At the end of this program you will be able to consider the similarities between virtual selves and common concepts of the self.


Bosco, R. L., & Knafo, D. (2016). The age of perversion: Desire and technology in psychoanalysis and culture. Routledge.

Knafo, Danielle. (2019). Catfishing: In Theory and Clinical Practice. In Willock, B., Sapountzis, I., & Curtis, R. C. (Eds.) Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Knowing and Being Known: In Theory and Clinical Practice. (pp. 161-174) Routledge.

Knafo, D. (2015). Technology, Perversion, and Dehumanization: Response to Discussions of My Paper. Psychoanal. Dial., 25(4):524-531.



This program is free and non-MIP members can purchase 2.5 CE for $37. After the program, when we have confirmed attendance, you will receive an email to purchase credits. MIP members receive CE for free.

Psychologists: The Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis (MIP) is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. MIP maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Please note: Per APA requirements, psychologists must attend 100% of a course in order to be eligible for continuing education credit.

Physicians: The Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, Inc. is accredited by The Massachusetts Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Social Workers: An application for social work continuing education credits has been submitted. Please contact Liz Martin at for the status of social work CE accreditation. Please note: Per NASW requirements, social workers must attend 80% of a course in order to be eligible for continuing education credit.

LMHC: When an LMHC attends a CE event that has not been approved for CE, an individual may seek approval retroactively by meeting the criteria for approval outlined in the MMCEP LMHC Consumer Guidelines and the CMR 262 Regulations for LMHCs. With Retroactive Approval, the CEs can be applied to the CE requirement to renew a license. Visit for information.

Please address any questions or concerns about this or any program or event sponsored by MIP to the Institute Administrator Liz Martin at  617-469-2777 OR
(617) 469-2777

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