Conscious and Unconscious Processes of Change in Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy:
Understanding and Treating Patients with Repressive and/or Psychosomatic Disorders
Presenter: Dr Stephen Arthey
Venue: TBA, Toowoomba, QLD
Psychosomatic disorders are common presentations to general medical practices, hospital emergency departments, specialist medical units and the offices of psychologists and psychiatrists. Common psychosomatic conditions include irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, loss of limb function, pain, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, muscle spasms, and visual disturbances, concentration and memory problems, among many others.
These symptoms can be reactive, typically to increased stress, and pass relatively quickly or they can be chronic physical conditions. The symptoms are poorly explained, or unexplainable, medically and medications have minimal effects. It is also common for the patients to experience a cluster of physical complaints, such as fibromyalgia, and to gradually have this set of symptoms to abate only to have another set of physical symptoms, that cause similar levels of impairment, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, emerge.
These medically unexplained symptoms and disorders are driven by repression. Repression is the automatic, or unconscious, transformation of emotions into physical symptoms. It typically develops in childhood, where family dynamics create strong, conflicting emotions in the child towards their caregivers that the child is unable to understand and work through. These emotions are internalized into physical symptoms such as headaches, tummy aches, etc. that are typically more acceptable to the caregivers than are their child’s strong emotions. This internalizing pattern can persist and evolve over time.
Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is an empirically validated therapy for repression and psychosomatic disorders. It is specifically designed to help people bring unconscious emotions into conscious awareness, through a type of graded exposure to their repressed emotions. As this occurs, psychosomatic symptoms remit.
In this 2-day workshop we will focus on the application of ISTDP to patients with repression and/or psychosomatic disorders. This will include:
Building a conscious and unconscious therapeutic alliance
Helping patients to understand the psychological drivers of their physical symptoms
Assessing the capacity of patients to tolerate their unconscious emotions
Includes assessing whether physical symptoms are psychosomatic
Building the capacity of patients through a graded exposure to unconscious emotions
Achieving a reduction and remission of psychosomatic symptoms