Studies indicate a direct relationship between brief psychodynamic therapy and improvements in a range of symptoms (Barber et al., 1996; Gaston et al., 1998), and also with specific therapist techniques aimed at emotional experiencing (Hilsenroth et al., 2003; Town et al. 2017b).
Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (Davanloo, 1990, 2000) in particular has a strong evidence base as just such an approach to healing (Abbass et al., 2013; Town & Driessen, 2013; Solbakken & Abbass, 2016; Lilliengren et al. 2017; Town et al., 2017a; Town et al. 2017b, for example). This unique therapeutic modality is supported for use with a large range of psychological problems, including (but not limited to) depression (Ajilchi et al., 2016; Ajilchi et al, 2020), major depressive disorders (Abbass et al., 2012), treatment resistant depression (Abbass, 2006; Town et al., 2017a), and other treatment resistant personality disorders (Abbass, Town, & Driessen, 2012; Solbakken & Abbass, 2015).
From a client’s perspective, the goals of ISTDP therapy are often symptom elimination, and sometimes even, character change (Abbass, 2015). Target complaints often involve anxiety/depression, relational difficulties, and social role dysfunction (Solbakken & Abbass, 2015).
It’s also worth mentioning that this way of working has been proven relatively cost effective as a result of shorter treatment times compared to many other methods of treatment (Abbass, 2006; Abbass & Katzman, 2013; Abbass et al., 2015; Solbakken and Abbass, 2016; Abbass et al., 2019). This is a bonus for me in my desire to bring ISTDP to marginalized populations - demographics for whom many barriers to therapy exist.
My own personal experience of ISTDP as a client is what drives my desire to practice this challenging modality and what gives me such confidence in its effectiveness. I became a therapist specifically with the intention of bringing its healing power to others - as was brought to me.
Abbass, A. (2006). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy of treatment-resistant depression: A pilot study. Depression and Anxiety, 23, 449-452. doi: 10.1002/da.20203
Abbass, A., Katzman, J. (2013). The cost-effectiveness of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy. Psychiatric Annals, 43, 496–501. https://doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20131105-04.
Abbass, A., Kisely, S., Rasic, D., Town, J.M., Johansson, R. (2015). Long-term healthcare cost reduction with Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy in a tertiary psychiatric service. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 64, 114–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.03.001.
Abbass, A., Town, J. M., & Bernier, D. C. (2013). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy associated with decreases in electroconvulsive therapy on adult acute care inpatient ward. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 82, 406–407. doi: 10.1159/000350576
Abbass, A., Town, J. M., & Driessen, E. (2012). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis of outcome research. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 20 (2), 97-108. doi: 10.3109/10673229.2012.677347
Abbass, A., Town, J., Johansson, R., Lahti, M., Kisely, S. (2019). Sustained reduction in health care service usage after adjunctive treatment of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy in patients with Bipolar Disorder. Psychodynamic Psychiatry. 47, 99–112.
Ajilchi, B., Kisely, S., Nejati, V., & Frederickson, J. (2020). Effects of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy on social cognition in major depression.
Journal of Mental Health, 29 (1): 40–44. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2018.1466035
Ajilchi, B., Nejati, V., Town, J. M., Wilson, R., & Abbass, A. (2016). Effects of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy on depressive symptoms and executive functioning in major depression. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204 (7), 500–505. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000518
Barber, J. P., Crits-Christoph, P. & Luborsky, L. (1996). Effects of therapist adherence and competence on patient outcome in brief dynamic therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64 (3), 619–622. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.64.3.619
Davanloo, H. (1990). Unlocking the Unconscious: Selected Papers of Habib Davanloo, MD. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester, England.
Davanloo, H. (2000). Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy: Selected Papers of Habib Davanloo, MD. John Wiley & Sons: Chichester, England.
Gaston, L., Thompson, L., Gallagher, D., Cournoyer, L.-G. & Gagnon, R. (1998). Alliance, technique, and their interactions in predicting outcome of behavioral, cognitive, and brief dynamic therapy. Psychotherapy Research, 8 (2), 190–209. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptr/8.2.190
Hilsenroth, M. J., Ackerman, S. J., Blagys, M. D., Baity, M. R. & Mooney, M. A. (2003). Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for depression: an examination of statistical, clinically significant, and technique-specific change. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 191 (6): 349-57. doi: 10.1097/01.NMD.0000071582.11781.67. PMID: 12826915.
Lilliengren, P., Johansson, R., Lindqvist, K., Mechler, J. & Andersson, G., 2016. Efficacy of experiential dynamic therapy for psychiatric conditions: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Psychotherapy (Chic), 53, pp. 90–104. https://doi.org/10.1037/pst0000024.
Solbakken, O. A. & Abbass, A. (2015). Intensive short-term dynamic residential treatment program for patients with treatment-resistant disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders, 181, pp. 67–77. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.04.003
Solbakken, O.A. & Abbass, A. (2016). Symptom- and personality disorder changes in intensive short-term dynamic residential treatment for treatment resistant anxiety and depressive disorders. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 28, pp. 57–271. https://doi.org/10.1017/neu.2016.5.
Town, J. M., Abbass, A., Stride, C. & Bernier, D. (2017a). A randomised controlled trial of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy for treatment resistant depression: The Halifax depression study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 214, pp. 15–25. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.02.03
Town, J. M. & Driessen, E. (2013). Emerging evidence for Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy with personality disorders and somatic disorders. Psychiatric Annals, 43, pp. 502–507. http://dx.doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20131105-05
Town, J. M., Falkenström, F., Salvadori, A., Bradley, S. & Hardy, G. (2017b). Is affect experiencing therapeutic in major depressive disorder? Examining associations between affect experiencing and changes to the alliance and outcome in intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 54 (2), pp. 148–158. doi: 10.1037/pst0000108
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health