About IS-TDP

This page provides information About ISTDP and Davanloo's Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy.  Please click on the topics below for more information.

What is IS-TDP

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (IS-TDP) is a powerful accelerated form of experiential psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy that was systematically developed, beginning in the 1960s, by Habib Davanloo, M.D., a clinical researcher at McGill University and Montreal General Hospital.  The result of his pioneering research is a comprehensive and precise form of Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (STDP) that aims to bring rapid resolution to a wide range of psychological/psychiatric problems and self-defeating behavioral and relational patterns. Top of Page

How is IS-TDP similar to other psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy?

All forms of IS-TDP share the important key goal of other psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy: to help the patient overcome internal resistances/defenses to the experience of core feelings that have been avoided because they were too intense, frightening, or painful. By this process, the patient is freed from self-defeating relational patterns and distressing symptoms liberates blocked energies, and acquires a deep knowledge of the self and others. Top of Page

How is Davanloo's IS-TDP different from other psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapy?

Davanloo’s IS-TDP differs from other classical and short-term models of dynamic psychotherapy in its empirical roots, understanding of the unconscious, speed of action, and the ambitious nature of its goals. Davanloo's IS-TDP is also unique in the intensity of its focus on the barriers suffering people often erect to intimacy and closeness. This focus derives from Davanloo’s deep understanding of the harmful manifestations of attachment trauma on the health of the unconscious mind and later relational functioning. These traumatic experiences can be large as well as subtle; they are most often experienced in important early relationships. Davanloo’s IS-TDP is also unique in its understanding of the necessary therapeutic experiences to facilitate the restoration of the patient’s neurobiological pathways of emotion to optimal levels of functioning.

In addition, the following characteristics differentiate Davanloo’s IS-TDP from all other forms of STDP’s and IS-TDP/Experiential Dynamic Therapy (i.e., therapeutic methods that have been influenced by Davanloo’s discoveries): a) the therapist's unrelenting focused and caring attention to the patient-therapist relational interactions, b) the therapist's knowledge of and engagement with the patient’s unconscious self-sabotaging forces (i.e., resistances/defenses), c) the therapist's deep understanding of the landscape of the unconscious mind and especially unconscious guilt, and d) the tools with which to educate and join forces with the patient to experientially access the deepest layers of blocked unconscious feeling, thereby providing freedom from crippling defenses and self-defeating patterns. Top of Page

How does IS-TDP provide freedom?

The IS-TDP therapist is equipped with a sophisticated knowledge of the unconscious, core attachment needs, and relational processes along with a highly powerful set of therapeutic and technical skills.  Armed with this arsenal, the therapist joins forces with the patient to achieve freedom from their pain and suffering.  Rather than find the patient’s internal resistance to experiencing feelings about past and present conflicts problematic, the IS-TDP therapist welcomes and engages this resistance.

Through a precise set of interventions, therapist and patient work to transform the tension between the dialectical forces of defenses/resistance and the "unconscious therapeutic alliance" (i.e. the part of the patient that seeks change and relief from suffering) into the fuel that mobilizes the patient to fight for freedom and against the prison of their resistance.  This results in the deep experience of unconscious feelings (e.g., rage, murderous rage, guilt, grief, love, and forgiveness). The passage of deeply held feelings is physically experienced, rather than through a cognitive process that remains in thoughts and fantasies, or a destructive process that results in acting them out. By reaching deep layers of the unconscious, IS-TDP succeeds in the creation of permanent changes, including symptom removal, multiple changes to persistent entrenched maladaptive coping strategies, difficulties with emotional regulation, the liberation of blocked energy and creativity, improving cognitive and emotional clarity, and freeing the deep human capacity for intimacy and closeness. Top of Page

Who is Habib Davanloo, M.D.?
Davanloo is an Iranian-born psychiatrist who originally trained as a surgeon and later in classical psychoanalysis at Harvard.  His research and teaching career began in the 1960s. An innovator, professor, and clinical researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, he was a true pioneer and many decades ahead of his time. Davanloo’s innovations and discoveries include:
  • He was the first to make and systematically analyze audio-visual recordings of the therapeutic process.
Based on the empirical findings from this research:
  • He was among the first to recognize the role of trauma to early attachment bonds on the development of lifelong patterns of suffering and symptom formation.
  • He developed a systematic set of revolutionary therapeutic techniques to achieve rapid access to deep layers of the unconscious mind and bring about rapid, long-lasting change.
  • He developed a new psychoanalytic system of short-term duration.
  • He discovered a new metapsychology of the unconscious mind and a deep knowledge of the underlying structures and functions of the dynamic unconscious mind.
Dr. Davanloo has continued to refine, expand and develop his work throughout his career.  This work continues up to and including his current ongoing training, research, and supervision groups held in Montreal, Canada.  In addition, the generative and heuristic value of Davanloo’s groundbreaking research and discoveries can be seen in the development of all “Experiential Dynamic Therapy”, an umbrella term for methods influenced by his work. Top of Page

Is there empirical research support for IS-TDP?
Yes. Davanloo developed his techniques and based his new metapsychology of the unconscious based exclusively on his empirical research.  This work is reported in the Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 2005, and earlier editions and numerous past and current independent peer-reviewed studies. A sampling of additional research on Davanloo's IS-TDP and reviews of IS-TDP and STDP based research can be viewed by clicking the links below. Top of Page

Links and Articles

Wikipedia article on Davanloo's Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Somatization:  Diagnosing it sooner through emotion-focused interviewing

Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy Found Effective In Several Disorders

Short-Term Dynamic Therapy gets Boost in new Efficacy Study

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Copyright 2015 Linda Smoling Moore, Ph.D.  All images and copy.  All rights reserved.

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