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What is ISTDP?

All psychotherapies are not created equal. Also known as “talk therapy,” some types of psychotherapy have been demonstrated scientifically to be more effective than others.

ISTDP is an acronym for Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), a therapeutic technique created and systematically developed beginning in the 1960’s by Habib Davanloo, M.D., a clinical researcher at McGill University and Montreal General Hospital.

Davanloo’s ISTDP is an advanced form of rapid psychotherapy developed using over 50 years of videotaped research—one of the few types of therapy benefiting from this approach—and has been clearly demonstrated to enjoy advantages few other therapies can approach. These advantages include effectiveness for a wide range of conditions, rapidity of response, and unique access to the psychological underpinnings of illness allowing treatment at the root of the problem.

The technique is precise and is particularly effective in treating depression, anxiety, somatoform disorders, personality disorders, among others. It aims to rapidly bring about the following results:

  • Complete removal of the symptoms that the patient finds disturbing
  • Elimination of any undue or excessive anxiety
  • Insight into the basis for the patient’s current and past problems
  • Cessation of any self-defeating behavior patterns, allowing pursuit and development of one’s talents and full potential
  • Changes in any aspects of the patient’s character or personality that cause difficulty
  • Improved ability to experience emotions in a productive manner
  • Improved interpersonal relationships by increasing the capacity for emotional closeness, intimacy, and productive communication
  • More favorable long-term prognosis
  • Increased likelihood of independence from medication
  • Confidence in handling life challenges

These results are obtained, in part, by enabling the patient to experience his or her true emotions as they pertain to the past or present, as rapidly and to the maximum degree possible. This experience, with the help of the psychiatrist, brings to the forefront the core unconscious driving forces behind the patient’s problems, so that the patient can recognize them, work through them, and finally win liberation from them.

Over a decade of patient follow-up suggests that significant proportions of those who successfully complete ISTDP enter remission, do not relapse, and may not require medication. This is particularly true for those patients who have a significant psychological component to their illnesses.