Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Joseph Cooper, PhD, Co-Chair
Nancy Reder, MSW, Co-Chair

Highly active, incisive and compassionate therapeutic techniques, built upon a foundation of psychodynamic theory and neuroscience, are the hallmarks of Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy. This foundation informs the ISTDP therapist’s ongoing analysis of the patient’s capacity to bear unconscious feelings and anxiety. It also equips the therapist to pinpoint defenses and resistance that block the patient from essential core affective experiences. The therapist’s continuous assessment ensures a flow of timely, accurate, non-interpretive interventions. This attuned and engaged therapeutic stance creates a robust alliance with the patient for the relinquishment of symptom-producing defenses and the embrace of emotions. Precise assessment of the moment-tomoment responses of the patient enables the therapist to achieve symptom relief and character change in less time than traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy.


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 graduates form a community of learners that provides enthusiastic support to its members.


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. Continuing education credits are earned for every class attended and issued at the end of each school year. The ISTDP program’s emphasis on skill development makes it distinct among psychotherapy continuing education programs. Technique and the theory it rests upon are taught side by side throughout the certificate program.

The first year of the program the metapsychology and techniques of ISTDP are illustrated through lecture and the use of faculty videotapes of their sessions. 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 emphasize technique and skill building. Students agree to be part of a community of compassion. In-depth lectures and videotape demonstration are combined with roleplay and supervision of students’ videotaped sessions. All students are expected to present a variety of patients, so they can learn to apply techniques across the spectrum of psychoneurosis. In addition, students are expected to receive supervision in ISTDP between core training weekends. 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, three-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
  • Personal psychodynamic psychotherapy


Joseph Cooper, PhD, Co-Chair
Nancy Reder, MSW, Co-Chair

Jon Frederickson, MSW
Leyla Kenny, PhD
Janet R. Merkel, PhD
Esther Rosen, PhD
Margo Silberstein, EdD
Kara Veigas, MSW

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.  See

Supervision Fees

First year: $35 per group session, 18 one hour sessions per academic year.

Second year: $70 per group session, 10 two hour sessions per academic year.

Student and Faculty website