Dynamic Psychotherapy

Dynamic Psychotherapy is a Melbourne Psychology Practice with an ISTDP focus

About ISTDP Therapy

Our Director, Clinical Psychologist Julie Cochrane, is Australia’s most experienced practitioner of Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP).

Julie has been practising ISTDP since 1995, and teaches ISTDP to therapists in Australia, and internationally in many countries.

In this overview of ISTDP, Julie delves into ISTDP’s core principles, distinctive process and profound impact on mental health.

Julie Cochrane Specialist in Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP)

While many therapists have some understanding of basic Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy theory, it takes many years of very specific training and supervision to become proficient as an ISTDP Therapist. Julie Cochrane hand picks from ISTDP therapists and therapists who are currently in-training, to enable Dynamic Psychotherapy to offer fully qualified and highly proficient ISTDP Therapists for in person sessions or via Zoom including online sessions with interstate therapists.


ISTDP Therapy: Unveiling Emotional Insights for Swift Healing

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a revolutionary approach in the realm of psychotherapy. It originates from the innovative work of Montreal-based psychoanalyst and psychiatric researcher Dr Habib Davanloo, with important contributions from British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, David Malan.

Breaking through conventional barriers, ISTDP offers rapid and long-lasting emotional healing by unlocking deep-seated, often unconscious emotions. It has gained significant traction in Australia, where therapists appreciate its efficiency in treating, at a deep level, various emotional and psychological disturbances.

The Genesis of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP)

Transforming Psychotherapy: Dr Davanloo’s Vision

In the 1960s and 1970s, Dr Habib Davanloo, recognising the limitations inherent in conventional methods of psychotherapy, devoted himself to developing a therapeutic approach that would more effectively catalyse change. He observed that traditional psychoanalysis often involve lengthy processes with unreliable outcomes.

Patients frequently faced enduring defense mechanisms, a situation exacerbated by a therapist’s passivity and lack of specific technique for use in addressing defenses. Moreover, issues like regression, dependence, and prolonged therapy without conclusive results were common.

In developing ISTDP, Dr Davanloo empowered therapists with tools to use, in collaboration with the patient, to confront and dismantle emotional blocks or defenses. This confrontation and dismantling resulted in not only relief from distressing psychological symptoms but also deep change in the patient’s relationships, with both themself and with others, and significantly healthier psychological functioning.

This pioneering vision laid the groundwork for ISTDP’s development, setting it apart as an effective, brief, dynamic and impactful therapeutic model.

ISTDP: An Overview

ISTDP: Getting to the core of the approach

ISTDP stands out with its experiential, process-driven approach. Central to ISTDP is the patient’s experience within the therapeutic relationship. Unlike traditional methods, ISTDP is intensive, focusing on the full experience of previously avoided emotions. This intensity is underpinned by a thorough assessment of the patient’s ability to adapt and respond constructively to internal and external rises in emotions.

The therapy’s short-term nature aims for maximum therapeutic impact in the shortest possible time, making it a time-sensitive approach. ISTDP is dynamic, working with unconscious forces and using the Triangles of Person and Conflict for real-time formulation. Techniques such as pressure, challenge and confronting the patient with the destructiveness of their habitual ways of avoiding conflict and feelings, are used in a focused and active way. This approach provides access to the early attachment trauma, facilitating deep emotional understanding and healing.

ISTDP is an Attachment-Based Therapy

Children learn to avoid by using psychological defenses, emotions that cause distance, rupture or anxiety in their important attachment relationships. Experiencing a parent as unable to be fully emotionally present, often due to the parent’s own attachment trauma and anxiety around emotions, triggers complex and conflicting feelings in the child. Attachment trauma takes place on a continuum from mild to severe, and conflict can arise even in relationships that involve much love from the parents. This is so because the parents have their own conflict and anxiety around feelings, whether these feelings arise in themselves or are experienced in others.

A major goal of ISTDP is to enable the patient to face and experience the painful feelings relating to their attachment relationships. When their emotions and memories are faced in the context of a trusting therapeutic relationship, they are able to understand and work through the trauma, and the fusion between feeling and anxiety can be weakened or altogether broken. This process brings healing, emotional growth, and the capacity for deeper connection, greater resilience in life, and the ability to experience feelings without undue anxiety. Deeper and full access to emotions results in increased closeness and fulfillment in relationships.

The ISTDP Therapy Process

Navigating the ISTDP Journey

The ISTDP therapy process unfolds in distinct phases, each critical for emotional breakthroughs. It starts with the ‘dynamic inquiry’  phase, where information is gathered in a collaborative process between therapist and patient, to understand the patient’ s struggles in the context of David Malan’s ‘Two Triangles’.  There is understanding of what is triggering and driving the emotional difficulties and what therapy can do to help the patient.

An important component of ISTDP is to keep the patient’s anxiety regulated during this process to ensure that the therapist and patient are working within the patient’s capacity.  Often capacity building work is necessary before the patient can fully identify and experience emotions.   

Each time the patient reaches a threshold that shows they are at their current capacity for tolerating feelings and anxiety, specific interventions are used to restructure anxiety and defenses and increase ego capacity. This work alone, aside from the work that follows, can help  the patient become better able to stay emotionally regulated and tolerate a greater range and intensity of feelings.

The patient is given the opportunity to identify and experience the specific emotions that are triggering their anxiety and defenses. As these feelings are mobilised in the therapy session, defenses naturally arise, providing the opportunity, in the moment, for the patient and therapist to recognise and understand the patient’s defense mechanisms. The cost of the use of these defense mechanisms becomes evident and the patient can choose whether to stay with the harmful defenses or, with the therapist’s help, overcome them and face the anxiety-evoking feelings involved in the attachment trauma.

Emotions are often explored in real time as they arise  in the session with the therapist.  Sometimes the exploration is of current relationships but often the exploration is of the feelings and reactions that arise towards the therapist. Working in what is known as ‘the transference’ gives a first-hand opportunity, in the moment, to get clear on what feelings trigger anxiety, when they trigger anxiety, and how defenses operate.  Therapy provides a microcosm of the patient’s relational patterns; it shines light on what works and what does not work for them, and enables emotional conflict to be understood and faced.

We understand that when conflicted emotions can be experienced at a deep level, a process known in ISTDP as the ‘Unlocking of the Unconscious’ takes place, resulting in the patient re-experiencing long-suppressed emotions related to attachment relationships. The specific memories of where these feelings were infused with anxiety spontaneously come to the conscious mind, enabling the attachment trauma to be faced, understood, and worked through. This phase is often where significant therapeutic change takes place.

The final phase of ISTDP involves jointly reviewing the therapy process. The patient’s understanding of the interplay between emotions, anxiety, and defense mechanisms is solidified and they gain greater clarity on where ruptures in the attachment process took place. This comprehensive approach is tailored to each individual, ensuring a personalised and effective therapy experience.

Efficacy of ISTDP

Proven Outcomes in Emotional Health

ISTDP has shown remarkable effectiveness across various emotional and psychological conditions. Research indicates its success in treating depression, anxiety, personality disorders, somatisation, functional neurological disorders, and more. ISTDP particularly excels in cases where patients have not responded to traditional therapies. Its ability to address root emotional causes contributes to its high success rate. Studies reveal ISTDP’s efficacy in improving symptoms related to a wide range of DSM- 5 diagnostic categories.

Patients undergoing ISTDP often report significant improvements in their mental well-being. These include reduced anxiety and depression symptoms, enhanced interpersonal relationships, and better coping mechanisms. The therapy’s impact extends beyond symptom relief, often leading to profound personal growth and increased life satisfaction.

Notably, ISTDP’s effectiveness is not only psychological but also cost-effective. It offers a quicker path to healing compared to longer-term therapies, making it a practical choice for many. Its comprehensive approach, coupled with the potential for long-term benefits, positions ISTDP as a valuable therapeutic option in modern psychotherapy.

We expect that the gains made through ISTDP, at the end of therapy, are not only stable but increase over the coming years. 

ISTDP in Australia: Current Landscape

Embracing ISTDP in the Australian Therapeutic Community

In Australia, ISTDP is gaining notable recognition among mental health professionals. This growth reflects a broader understanding of ISTDP’s effectiveness in addressing complex emotional disorders. Australian therapists trained in ISTDP adhere to high standards, ensuring they are well-equipped to guide patients through this intense therapeutic process.

The Australian therapeutic community values ISTDP for its evidence-based approach and efficiency. ISTDP practitioners in Australia come from diverse backgrounds, including psychology, psychiatry, and counselling. This diversity enriches the practice, making it accessible to a wider range of patients. Australian ISTDP therapists focus on creating a safe, empathetic environment where patients can explore and resolve deep-seated emotional issues.

The increasing popularity of ISTDP in Australia is also due to its practicality and adaptability, and that it offers a time-efficient solution to long-standing emotional challenges. Moreover, ISTDP’s effectiveness in a shorter time frame aligns well with the needs of patients seeking swift, lasting change in their mental health.

Choosing an ISTDP Therapist in Australia

Finding the Right Fit for Your Therapeutic Journey

Choosing an ISTDP therapist in Australia needs careful thought to make sure the patient has a successful therapeutic experience. When searching for a therapist, it’s important to verify their credentials and training in ISTDP. A qualified therapist should have a strong foundation in psychotherapy and specific training in the ISTDP approach with the minimum qualification being the three-year Core Training in ISTDP.

Prospective patients should ask about the therapist’s experience with cases similar to their own. Understanding the therapist’s approach to ISTDP and their success stories can provide insight into their expertise. It’s also useful for a prospective patient to discuss the expected duration and intensity of the therapy, so their expectations are aligned with the therapist’s methods.

Before beginning ISTDP, it’s crucial to establish a comfortable rapport with the therapist. The intense nature of ISTDP demands a strong therapeutic relationship based on trust and openness. Patients should feel at ease discussing their emotions and experiences with the therapist.

In Australia, many ISTDP therapists offer initial consultations of two+ hours in length. This enables a more thorough assessment and with interventions that can begin the journey of change. 

Conclusion: The Transformative Power of ISTDP

ISTDP: A Path to Deeper Emotional Health

ISTDP represents a significant advancement in psychotherapy, offering a profound and efficient route to emotional healing. This therapy stands out for its ability to quickly reach the core of emotional issues and foster lasting change. ISTDP’s effectiveness in treating a wide range of mental health conditions has been well-documented, making it a reliable choice for those seeking therapy.

In Australia, ISTDP has become increasingly sought after for its practicality and depth. The therapy’s growing presence reflects the Australian mental health community’s commitment to innovative and effective treatments. ISTDP’s focus on unlocking deep-seated emotions offers a unique therapeutic experience, distinguishing it from other forms of psychotherapy.

For individuals embarking on their mental health journey, ISTDP presents an opportunity to explore and resolve emotional challenges in a supportive and dynamic environment. Its evidence-based approach ensures that patients receive care grounded in proven techniques, while its personalised nature caters to individual needs.

As ISTDP continues to evolve and gain recognition, it remains a testament to the ever-advancing field of psychotherapy. It offers hope and healing to those navigating the complexities of emotional and psychological well-being.

References and Further Reading

Expanding Your Understanding of ISTDP

For those interested in delving deeper into Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy a wealth of resources is available. Academic journals, clinical studies, and publications by Dr  Habib Davanloo and other experts offer in-depth insights. These materials not only reinforce the therapy’s credibility but also provide a comprehensive view of its development, principles, and applications.

Key resources include peer-reviewed articles that detail ISTDP’s efficacy in treating various mental health conditions. Books and publications by Dr. Davanloo and practitioners of ISTDP offer firsthand accounts of the therapy’s evolution and its impact on patients. Websites dedicated to ISTDP, particularly those from Australian and international ISTDP institutes, serve as valuable sources of information and updates.

Additionally, patient testimonials and case studies can be insightful, highlighting real-life applications of ISTDP and its transformative effects.

Dynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne and Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP)

At Dynamic Psychotherapy, we seek that each individual should become authentic and whole, able to fully engage and participate in life, without being hampered by painful emotions and maladaptive ways of relating and behaving.
It is a treatment model that is consistent with the latest neuroscientific evidence on how the adult brain changes. Research shows that the results obtained in ISTDP are not only stable but generally over time lead to further positive growth and change in relationships even after therapy has ended.

While Julie Cochrane has a very long waiting list, if you provide details of the help you are seeking, and whether you wish to wait for a fully qualified therapist or are willing to see someone in training, she will attempt to match you with a suitable therapist.

You can refer to the ISTDP Australia Therapists’ Directory to find a list of therapists who have completed ISTDP Training or who are in training in ISTDP.   If you are seeking ISTDP and are unsure of a therapist’s qualifications, ask them about the type and length of training in ISTDP that they have completed.

Learn more about psychotherapy as a broader concept here.

About Dynamic Psychotherapy

Dynamic Psychotherapy is dedicated to helping people in Melbourne achieve meaningful change.

Helping people achieve meaningful change

Practice Director Julie Cochrane as been practicing ISTDP since 1995, She founded Dynamic Psychotherapy in Carlton, Victoria, with the aim of bringing the benefits of ISTDP to as many people as possible.

25 Therapists, 2 Buildings, 1 Mission

Since then, Dynamic Pyschotherapy has grown significantly, and now operates across two buildings in Carlton, just outside of the Melbourne CBD. The team and footprint may have grown, but the mission remains the same – helping people achieve transformational change through therapy.

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Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less.

-Marie Curie

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