What is ISTDP?

"ISTDP is a form of Experiential Dynamic Therapy which is the general term for methods derived from [Habib] Davanloo's original technique."

Dr David Malan Consultant Psychiatrist

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) has been developed over the last 45 years, initially by Dr Habib Davanloo in Montreal, Canada and more recently by a number of therapists who have trained with him. ISTDP is a brief, focused therapy that has been shown to be effective with a wide range of psychological/psychiatric problems. It works from the theory that most psychological problems arise from attachment problems that we experienced when we were growing up.

Difficulties in these early relationships create intense feelings, including rage, guilt about that rage and grief about the emotional distance that exists within those relationships. To cope with these feelings, people gradually develop what are known as ‘defences’. These are psychological, emotional and behavioural mechanisms that enable us to avoid the emotional pain we carry from these early relationships. However, these defences spread throughout most or all aspects of our lives, but are particularly intense in our interpersonal relationships, where we often experience a sense of distance or not feeling truly connected to the people we care about.

Defences can become the problems in our lives. They are experienced in a range of ways, including depression, anxiety, compulsive actions, physical complaints that have no medical explanation, avoidance behaviours, obsessive and ruminative thinking, self-sabotaging actions in relationships and/or careers, and problems with intimacy and closeness.

ISTDP is an interactive therapy where both the therapist and client work together to identify the way the client experiences their anxiety and the defences that arise to block the painful feelings from surfacing. Through working together, the therapist and client can overcome these defences, allow the previously avoided feelings to come to the surface and then work through these feelings and the thoughts and memories that are attached to them. This resolves these inner conflicts and restructures the defensive system into a healthy one that can allow close, intimate relationships and has no limiting or destructive aspects, including the resolution of your psychological problems.