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Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Margo Silberstein, EdD, Chair

Leyla Kenny, PhD, Co-Chair

If you seek to increase the effectiveness of your psychotherapeutic interventions, you will feel most gratified to study Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy. ISTDP is a psychodynamic psychotherapy model with incorporates cutting edge neuropsychological findings and current attachment research. ISTDP techniques aim to penetrate the unconscious to  bring about meaningful growth and lasting change.

The program’s  faculty  is passionately committed to the personal and professional growth of the  students. Through supervision and experiential learning students are guided to integrate the psychotherapy  tools and concepts of ISTDP with their personal styles. Students are invited to enter a community of compassionate learners.

Students can expect to learn :

  • How to develop an attuned and engaged therapeutic stance to create a robust therapeutic alliance
  • Assessment of the moment to moment responses of the patient in order to achieve symptom relief and character change.

 Focusing on attachment and response-to-intervention helps therapists to:

  • Identify, address and resolve a wide variety of psychopathology 
  • Help even the most fragile patients to build their capacity to manage anxiety and tolerate feeling
  • Effectively address treatment-resistant and somatoform conditions


Developed by Habib Davanloo, MD in the 1960’s, the theory and technique of ISTDP have been refined and elaborated by later generations of his students around the world. The efficacy of ISTDP has been widely researched and demonstrated with a variety of disorders. All ISTDP therapists understand that a patient’s problems result from defenses that arise in response to the anxiety that is coupled with unconscious feeling. The goal of therapy is to help the patient develop the ability to attend to internal experiences in order to regulate anxiety and give up maladaptive defenses. This allows unconscious emotions to emerge, become integrated, and pave the way for consistent, unfettered access to motivational feelings.


The Washington School of Psychiatry ISTDP Program is one of a few programs worldwide to teach this approach. The foremost clinician-researchers of ISTDP are frequent guest lecturers in the WSP program. Our program has become a leading center for the study of ISTDP and the program’s dedicated students and graduates form a community of supportive and interdependent co-learners.


The school year runs from September through May each year. The ISTDP program is a three-year certificate program. Students can opt to take year-one alone, or pursue the full three-year certificate.  The ISTDP program’s emphasis on skill development makes it distinct among psychotherapy programs. Technique and the theory it rests upon are taught side by side throughout the certificate program.

During The first year of the program students will learn the metapsychology and techniques of ISTDP. Faculty share videos of their clinical work and utilise experiential teaching methods  to engage  students. The first year class meets 20 times in the academic year on Fridays from 3:30 to 5:30PM. Small group supervision follows from 5:45 to 6:45PM, 18 sessions per year.

The second and third year of the program emphasise technique and skill building. St. In-depth lectures and videotape demonstration are combined with role play and supervision of students’ videotaped sessions. Students present their clinical work in order to learn to apply techniques across the spectrum of  suitable patients.Small group supervision for second and third year students is held Fridays, 5:30 to 7:30PM, 10 sessions per year. The second and third year classes meet for three 3-day core-training weekends.



First Year

Basic principles of ISTDP theory

  • Anxiety assessment and regulation
  • Defense identification and restructuring
  • Identification of unconscious emotions
  • Eliciting and elaborating feeling experience
  • Maintaining therapeutic focus and building the alliance
  • Assessing and building will and motivation for change
  • Dismantling resistance
  • ‘Working through’ in ISTDP
  • Variations of the ISTDP technique for special populations

Second and Third Year

Each three-day weekend will address one ISTDP concept and corresponding techniques.

Examples of core training topics include:

  • Psychodiagnosis – Moment-to-moment assessment of ego adaptive capacity and corresponding interventions
  • Superego pathology – identification of malignant internalizations which create character defenses; assessment of their effect on ego functioning; and techniques for helping patients turn against these pathological forces
  • Transference resistance – Techniques for handling defiant, passive, helpless, and uninvolved transference resistances


  1. First year students will be able to conceptualize cases within the ISTDP model; distinguish between feeling, anxiety and defense; and apply basic techniques for anxiety regulation, defense clarification, and facilitation of the emergence of unconscious feeling.
    2. Second year students will become proficient in ongoing psychodiagnosis and in systematically building ego adaptive capacity in fragile, depressed and somatizing patients.
    3. Third year students will learn to identify the superego pathology of highly resistant patients and to block and dismantle character defenses and transference resistance.


  • Graduate degree in a clinical mental health field
  • Experience conducting psychotherapy
  • Training or education in psychodynamic psychotherapy


Margo Silberstein, EdD, Chair
Leyla Kenny, PhD, Co-Chair
Joseph Cooper, PhD
Tim Freitas, PsyD
Jon Frederickson, MSW
Janet R. Merkel, PhD
Esther Rosen-Bernays, PhD

Maury Joseph, PsyD


Stephen Slatkin, MD
Anne Stephansky, MSW
Barbara Suter, PhD


Year 1: $1,200
Year 2: $1,900
Year 3: $1,900

The $50 application fee is nonrefundable.

Limited scholarship money may be available, based on need and merit.

Supervision Fees

First year: $40 per group session, 18 one hour sessions per academic year.

Second year: $80 per group session, 10 two hour sessions per academic year.

Supervision fees are invoiced at the same time as tuition.


Scholarship Application

WSP has very limited scholarship funds. However we will try to help students with a payment plan and scholarship where possible.

About the
Washington School of Psychiatry

Celebrating its 80th year, the School is an accredited provider of post-graduate continuing education.

The Meyer Treatment Center provides low cost access to mental health services. It is an out-of-network facility for insurance purposes.

The Washington School of Psychiatry is an independent non-profit organization. It is not affiliated with the government of the District of Columbia or the government of the United States.

Location and Telephone

5028 Wisconsin Ave NW #400
Washington DC 20016

202-537-6050 Treatment Center

202-237-2700 School

202-237-2730 Fax




Washington School of Psychiatry

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