The primary goal of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is to enable change through the mobilization of complex feelings linked to a past attachment bond and trauma that have been displaced and are creating the internal behaviours towards the self and the external behaviours in relationship that have ultimately driven the client to seek counselling (Abbass 2015).
This focus on feeling is for me of particular importance. I view it as leading to the development of a secure attachment to the self, and consequently, in relationship to others. This fits with my own experience of the difficulties that brought me to therapy as a client ultimately being a result of an inability to simply allow myself to feel my own complex feelings. It fits with my own experience of therapy, whereby the identifying and deactivating of my defences and an increase in my awareness of anxiety lead to the unlocking of unconscious complex feelings in me that had resulted from my own attachment trauma and had been negatively active, in many different ways, throughout my adult life.
The ISTDP technique may be extremely challenging for both client and therapist alike. It involves the practitioner taking an active stance, and there is potential for their own unconscious activation as well – hence the challenge. Yet, when “resistance is penetrated there is a marked and unmistakable increase in the strength of the therapeutic alliance” (Davanloo, 1990, 2000). Such challenging techniques are, to me and thanks to my experience of them, fully worth the effort.
The beauty of this work lies, for me, at the junction of being actively and genuinely caring and compassionate for the client, while tirelessly addressing the resistance to what lies untouched in their heart. The ultimate goal for the psychodynamic practitioner is to assist the client in resolving the core conflicts in their dynamic unconscious (Abbass 2015), and it is my heart’s desire to bring this healing work to marginalized folks, as it was once brought to me.
Abbass, A. (2015). Reaching Through Resistance. Seven Leaves Press: Kansas City, MO.
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.
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health