Dynamic Psychotherapy

Dynamic Psychotherapy is a Melbourne Psychology Practice with an ISTDP focus


If you are experiencing stress, we are here to help.

What is Stress?

Stress is a response to physical and emotional pressure. At low to moderate levels, stress is considered optimal and an adaptive response to life stressors. Optimal levels of stress can increase motivation, lead to greater proactiveness, increase focus and help you grow and achieve as a person. Life involves stress – there’s no avoiding it – but we want to keep the levels of stress within an optimal range.

When faced with a challenge, our body releases hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, activating both the autonomic and the central nervous systems. Brief periods of moderate activation of these hormones can be useful – providing us with more energy and focus – but chronic elevation of stress hormones can lead to depletion, ‘crashes’, and chronic fatigue.

The stress response is crucial for adapting to environmental changes, and it can be lifesaving in acute situations – for example, if you need to move quickly to avoid a physical threat, elevated hormones help you do that; or if you need greater attention and focus at times of an emotional crisis, elevated hormones promote that. However, if the triggers persist over a prolonged period, the resulting sustained levels of activation can lead to serious, chronic physical and psychological health issues. Not only does high stress cause physical and emotional damage, but it also adversely affects quality of life and life satisfaction.

Biologically, people have different capacities to manage stress. Markers of excessive stress can be very individual in determining when stress changes from being adaptive to being a problem that needs to be addressed. However, there are some common markers of stress, such as high blood pressure, chronically elevated cortisol levels, insomnia, and mood issues. Such markers indicate that stress has become a problem, even if the person with them is yet to pay attention to what they are experiencing physically and emotionally.

Request an Appointment

Ready to start managing your stress more effectively? Use our secure Jotform booking form, and we will get back to you within one business day.

Incidence of stress in Australia

Incidence of stress in Australians is high and particularly increases from age 25, with 25 to 44 years of age being the group that reports the highest stress. Australians aged over 65 report lower levels of stress, but these levels are expected to rise as economic factors increasingly impact on older Australians.

Addressing stress before it becomes a problem is vital, not only for immediate well-being, but also to prevent damage that can take some time to repair. This involves, first, recognising the early indications of problematic levels of stress, and then seeking help before the issue becomes chronic and debilitating. Recognising the signs and getting help are the keys, not just to managing stress but also to building resilience, which protects your well-being.

Symptoms of Stress

Physical symptoms of stress include:

The emotional impact of stress can include:

Prolonged stress can be a trigger for anger outbursts and a general decreased capacity to cope. There is also a correlation between chronic stress and depression.

Problematic behaviours can appear or increase. These include:

These maladaptive coping mechanisms can contribute to further stress and decrease your capacity for dealing with a stressful situation, resulting in increasing levels of suffering and incapacitation.

Stress Management

How do we intervene to address stress before it becomes problematic?

There are many changes you can make to reduce stress and manage it in a way that prevents it becoming harmful. Some of the main changes are:

  • establishing priorities
  • keeping perspective
  • taking adequate breaks
  • relaxation techniques including breathing re-training
  • meditation
  • exercise
  • getting support from trusted family members and friends.

When managing stress on your own isn’t enough, it’s a good idea to seek professional help, ideally before your suffering becomes acute.

At Dynamic Psychotherapy we offer a range of therapeutic approaches to increase your capacity to manage stress, and also to address the way you respond to specific triggers for stress. Counselling gives you a safe and supportive environment to gain an understanding of what is going wrong and what can be done about it so you can return to optimal levels of healthy stress. Ideally, high levels of stress should be addressed before they become entrenched and problematic and impact you and your relationships.

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) and Stress Management

ISTDP addresses stress by helping you build more capacity to tolerate stress and use it adaptively, or to reduce the stress triggered in certain relationships and/or situations.

ISTDP aims to gain clarity about the specific factors contributing to your distress. In this therapy, we look at not only the current triggers for stress, but also unresolved issues stemming from your early attachment relationships, which are being activated. Together with a therapist, you decide whether the issue is to build your capacity to tolerate emotional conflict without excessive anxiety, and/or to change some of your patterns of behaviour in life and relationships, to reduce the stress these cause.

With better emotional awareness and capacity, you can lead a more balanced life, where stress itself enhances your growth and development.

Increasing Anxiety Regulation Capacity:

A primary goal of ISTDP is to help people increase their capacity to recognise unhealthy rises in anxiety and to stay more regulated. Anxiety is a response to internal emotional conflicts and unconscious feelings. The triggers for these conflicts can be different for different people. ISTDP helps you identify the triggers for your stress and to face the emotions that arise without this generating excessive anxiety. It enables you to tolerate, understand and process emotions without the overwhelm that excessive stress can create.

As you become more adept at managing your anxiety, you are less likely to experience the debilitating effects of distress and more likely to handle stressors effectively. And this leads to increased and optimal functioning in yourself, and in your relationships, study, and workplace.

Restructuring Defenses

Defence mechanisms are psychological strategies used unconsciously to protect ourselves from anxiety-provoking emotions. While they can be protective, defenses often become maladaptive, leading to increased distress.

In ISTDP, the therapist works with a patient to identify and understand these defence mechanisms, and how they contribute to the patient’s psychological distress. For example, if you use compliance and self-neglect in relationships, you may tend to take on too much responsibility, whether in close personal relationships, workplace relationships, or in sporting or interest groups. Taking on more than a reasonable share of responsibility can result in stress. ISTDP therapy would help you notice how you operate in relationships and to identify the emotional conflicts you avoid in doing so. It would help you set goals for healthier ways of operating, build capacity to face conflicted emotions without excessive anxiety, and, ultimately, make healthier choices, thus reducing stress. ISTDP restructures your defences into more adaptive coping strategies so you can more effectively deal with internal conflicts and stressors.

In conclusion, ISTDP’s focus on increasing capacity to recognise, tolerate, and effectively use emotions increases a person’s ability to use emotions adaptively. Anxiety regulation is improved. Harmful defenses are replaced with adaptive coping strategies, helping to transform distress into beneficial eustress. ISTDP helps individuals identify situations in which they are behaving less than optimally and to build capacity to make necessary changes. There is a focus not only on what is not working in the individual’s current life, but addressing and re-working past relationships in which these patterns of responding to emotions was formed.

So, ISTDP addresses the root causes of distress, fosters a healthier relationship with stress, and empowers you to either reduce stress or to experience it as a motivating and growth-promoting force. The outcome is better mental health, resilience, and overall well-being.

Request an Appointment

Ready to start managing your stress more effectively? Use our secure Jotform booking form, and we will get back to you within one business day.

Get in Touch.

Not sure which psychologist or therapist is best for your needs? Get in touch with our friendly reception team via the button below – regardless of whether you are seeking in-person consults at our Melbourne psychotherapy clinic located in Carlton, or telehealth therapy anywhere in Australia, we can help you find the right therapist for your needs

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