Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy


Humans have an inept need to connect with others and create secure relationships. From the moment we are born we begin to interact with the people around us and this has an effect on our own lives for the better or worse. The experiences that we go through may not provide us with the validation that we need or desire. Protecting ourselves from others is often the result of what has been encountered in our early years. The barriers that we build can prevent some of us from building healthy connections with other people. Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy is an approach that is based on emotional suffering and damaged attachments. The emotions that are associated with the therapy tend to reveal themselves when a topic is triggered. Therapy can lead to changes in the patient and relieve anxiety or symptoms that tend to disengage the individual from other people.

Goals of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

The majority of psychodynamic therapy aims toward helping the client understand how their suffering is the result of unconscious emotions. The therapist will reveal how the defenses are obstructing the patient from living a healthy life. The goal of treatment is to link current problems with the painful events that have happened throughout the individual's life. Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy or ISTDP has the patient focus on the experiences directly which can be difficult toward the beginning. It is an active approach that will help the patient experience deeper feelings. The therapist's goal is to identify these defenses and then keep the client from accessing them to avoid being vulnerable.

It's often that STDP will succeed in patients when other therapies do not help them progress; this is because of the focus on the unconscious defenses. The therapy is based on the idea that being able to grasp a problem often isn't enough to get rid of it. Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy is created to initiate change quickly.

When is Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy Used?

ISTDP is used when individuals are anxious in their own lives because of a given circumstance. These patients often experience damaging feelings that are creating a conflict in them and in their relationships with other. Patients will use the defense strategies to stay away from feelings and anxiety. The clients that can benefit from Intensive Short-Term Psychotherapy are the individuals who have habitual defense mechanisms preventing them from enjoying life. When current suffering is painful these individuals need to understand their unconscious feelings. ISTDP is used to link current problems to past conflicts. It is recommended most to those that are experiencing difficulty in maintaining relationships with parents, children, siblings or loved ones.

How Intensive Short-Term Therapy Works

The first session of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy may or may not be videotaped depending on whether or not the client agrees upon it. The sessions allow the therapist to review what is happening and how the client is reacting so that they can identify some of the defense mechanisms. They will speak to the individual and gain a deeper understanding of their problem. The first session is more of a breakthrough trial period which could lead to clarity in the client and motivate them to keep moving ahead with the sessions.

The therapist will take an active stance in assisting the patient when they are dealing with the repressed feelings. They will look at the defenses and start to figure out how the defense mechanisms can be taken away from the client so that they can begin to face their emotions headstrong. Anxiety is often addressed during the session so that the client knows that it is a result of feelings emerging. Patients will begin to see what types of feelings have been avoided and how it has affected the patient's satisfaction in life and relationships.

The patient soon begins to notice that this form of therapy is not a typical treatment in which the therapist goes through the sessions slowly. Goals are going to be created at the beginning of the treatment plan. When the sessions start the interaction may appear strange to the patient. The beginning if ISTDP consists of the therapist taking a direct approach which can feel intense to the patient. They will soon begin to understand why the therapist is doing it and why the therapy is observing the way that they are reacting when speaking about certain situations. The client will soon learn that there is trust and respect in the conversation being made between them and the therapist.


Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (istdp). (n.d.). Retrieved from

What is istdp?. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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