What is ISTDP?

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (for short, ISTDP) is a scientifically supported treatment that was developed to bring about positive, long-term change in patients – quickly. Another distinguishing feature of ISTDP is its focus on treating the underlying causes of suffering, as opposed to managing symptoms. In this way, ISTDP therapists strive to help patients live to their fullest.

Research in Canada and internationally has shown ISTDP to be effective for many clinical presentations, including depression, anxiety, medically unexplained symptoms, substance abuse, personality difficulties, psychological trauma, and more. Importantly, ISTDP has been effective where other psychotherapeutic approaches have had little-to-no effect.

How does it work?

Since psychological distress is commonly linked to difficulties with emotional awareness and regulation, a main curative element of ISTDP is its focus on building capacity for emotions. Briefly, we invite our patients to examine and evaluate harmful habits that perpetuate turmoil and separate true feelings from awareness. We provide ways to replace these old habits with new ones that enrich emotional experiences and do away with suffering.  

Another important aspect of ISTDP is the way in which patients learn to recognize and regulate anxiety. A significant proportion of patients experience anxiety in response to emotions triggered by an event. Often, anxiety – sometimes noticed, sometimes not – can get in the way of functioning. Learning to master anxiety, then, is a critical step to developing a healthy relationship with emotions.

What can I expect?

ISTDP is a collaboration between patient and clinician. It is unlike forms of therapy where the clinician assumes a teaching role and assigns homework. In ISTDP, therapy flows somewhat like a conversation. In a moment-by-moment process of feedback and exchange with the patient, the therapist is keenly focused on getting to the core of the person stuck below the surface of symptoms. In the process, patients are invited to take up new ways of relating to themselves and others, while discovering and overcoming the causes of their difficulties.

If you would like to learn more about ISTDP, it has been featured in an article by the Globe and Mail:

Anderssen, E. (2018, December 8). Their pain is real – and for patients with mystery illnesses, help is coming from an unexpected source. The Globe and Mail. Click here for a link to article.