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ISTDP Therapy

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a highly effective evidence based therapeutic approach developed by Dr Habib Davanloo. ISTDP is an accelerated form of Psychodynamic Therapy that believes that the healthy experience and expression of emotions is central to good mental health. ISTDP aims to help individuals identify and resolve unconscious barriers to experiencing emotions and interpersonal intimacy, so that closeness can become possible.

ISTDP is grounded in psychodynamic theory of human attachment and operates from the understanding that psychological problems often stem from attachment difficulties experienced in early life. Specifically, children often learn to avoid feelings that their caretakers were not able to tolerate by developing psychological, emotional and behavioural coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms are called "defences", which work to avoid or minimise the feelings triggered by painful early childhood experiences. Defences are adaptive during childhood, however as adults they often fail us and become barriers to emotional closeness. Further, using coping strategies from childhood means we can often lose the ability to respond to conflict in adult life in more sophisticated, healthy ways. By preventing us from fully experiencing our emotions, these defences can interfere with our capacity to form close, healthy and intimate relationships with others and to live in a way which is authentic and fulfilling.

ISTDP believes the healing process is a collaborative approach where therapist and client work together to identify defence mechanisms, regulate and manage anxiety and face emotions which have previously been avoided, in an effort to foster emotional closeness. ISTDP therapists seek to help individuals address the roots of their emotional and interpersonal problems, by helping them overcome unhelpful defence mechanisms and encouraging them to feel their emotions deeply, in order to reconnect to themselves and to others.

ISTDP incorporates: 

1. Accepting and being mindfully aware of ones present experience, including identifying and regulating anxiety,

2. Addressing unhelpful thinking habits and patterns of behaviour, and

3. Addressing underlying feelings that have been previously avoided. 


ISTDP is based on the understanding that intellectual insight into thinking styles and maladaptive behaviours is not always enough to facilitate long-lasting change, and that to facilitate long-term relief, anxiety inducing emotions and memories should be faced and experienced.  

​To find out more about ISTDP, you can visit the following website: 

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