Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy

Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a form of short-term psychotherapy developed through empirical, video-recorded research by Habib Davanloo, MD.[1]

The therapy's primary goal is to help the patient overcome internal resistance to experiencing true feelings about the present and past which have been warded off because they are either too frightening or too painful. The technique is intensive in that it aims to help the patient experience these warded-off feelings to the maximum degree possible; it is short-term in that it tries to achieve this experience as quickly as possible; it is dynamic because it involves working with unconscious forces and transference feelings.[2][3]

Patients come to therapy because of either symptoms or interpersonal difficulties. Symptoms include traditional psychological problems like anxiety and depression, but they also include physical symptoms without medically identifiable cause, such as headache, shortness of breath, diarrhea, or sudden weakness. The ISTDP model attributes these to the occurrence of distressing situations where painful or forbidden emotions are triggered outside of awareness.[4][5] Within psychiatry, these phenomena are classified as "Somatoform Disorders" in DSM-IV-TR.[6]

The therapy itself was developed during the 1960s to 1990s by Habib Davanloo, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from Montreal. He video recorded patient sessions and watched the recordings in minute detail to determine as precisely as possible what sorts of interventions were most effective in overcoming resistance, which he believed was acting to keep painful or frightening feelings out of awareness and prevent interpersonal closeness.[7]

ISTDP is taught by Habib Davanaloo at McGill University, as well as in other University and post-graduate settings around the world. The ISTDP Institute offers on-line ISTDP training materials, including introductory videos and skill-building exercises.