more about ISTDP psychotherapy
istdp - WHat's distinct
ISTDP is not like therapy you might have heard about, seen or experienced before. Working on a significant problem means you will inevitably feel some anxiety but too much anxiety is not good for you. A part of my role as your therapist is to keep that in balance by learning how anxiety shows up for you (whether it is tension in your shoulders, a pit of your stomach sensation, or losing concentration, or some other physical manifestation). Understanding your reactions, moment-to-moment, is important in order to avoid unnecessary distress. I am also responsible for keeping our sense of momentum alive; research shows that this is important for therapeutic change to happen. This also respects your time and money.
ISTDP therapists are trained to work with what is getting in the way and contributing to your suffering. Doing this compassionately is always the goal; it should feel as if you have someone on your side. If not, we will try to fix this -- an experience which is useful for other important relationships.
Trial (Block) therapy
The first session is 2- to 3-hours in duration. You set the agenda: we home in on a problem, something inside yourself that you would like to work on and we go from there. A longer session initially gives you a chance to experience some shift or sense of optimism about taking this route. And 2-3 hours enables me to assess what is happening for you and develop a treatment approach based on your needs. Ideally, I will also be able to offer you an estimate of the timeframe and cost. In some cases, 3-hour trial therapy may be enough to result in significant change.
What you can expect
We start by focusing on a current problem and we work with whatever comes up for you related to this. Current problems may bring up adverse experiences in childhood or early relationships; however, this will depend on your personal history. Either way, being in a safe therapeutic relationship can be the impetus for meaningful patterns to emerge.
Most people start therapy ambivalent – wanting to get better but also feeling the tug of the familiar, habits which may have formed at a time when there was limited choice and over time became second nature. This can create a moment of choice for a client and it can be intense because therapy can only go forward if there is a will to move towards a healthier version of oneself. Active collaboration originates here and continues throughout therapy.
Focusing on emotions
We work together primarily with emotions. This is talk therapy, but it goes beyond just talking about emotions. People sometimes describe emotions as happening just in their head. This kind of therapy deals with this by slowing things down so that you can start to join the dots between a specific situation, how your body reacts and what you are feeling, which is helpful for processes that can happen almost outside of our awareness, sometimes for reasons that can make sense with hindsight.
The capacity to experience emotions physically is therefore an important focus which leads to being able to tolerate a complex mix of emotions, including some that might initially feel unwelcome, even overwhelming. This is the experiential part of the therapy and is important for long-term, fundamental change.
My training /Supervision
Like many other psychotherapists offering this type of therapy, I am involved in additional ISTDP-specific training throughout the year. I also work with regular supervision from licensed Canadian mental health professionals who have extensive experience in ISTDP therapy.