Patient Services

Decoding emotions

Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is a form of brief psychotherapy. Using ISTDP, we’re able to view psychological disorders through the lens of attachment (the emotional effect of long-term interpersonal relationships, like between a parent and child, or between spouses) and the emotional effects of broken attachments.

When human attachments are interrupted or traumatized, people may face a cascade of complex feelings that can become blocked and avoided. But sometimes events later in life stir up these feelings, and they resurface as anxiety and the defense mechanisms or habitual patterns that go with it.

How does an interrupted or traumatized attachment affect a person?

A patient may be completely unaware of the defensive tactics they’ve incorporated into their life. This can result in a variety of issues, including:

  • avoidant patterns
  • interpersonal problems
  • physical symptoms
  • psychiatric symptoms like anxiety and depression
  • work dysfunction

These blocked emotions can have negative effects on every system in the body including:

  • the gastrointestinal tract
  • the cardiovascular system
  • the respiratory system
  • the immune system
  • the muscular system
  • the skin

The anxiety and defenses resulting from resurfacing blocked emotions can lead to increased worry about health and negative interactions with the healthcare system. Standard medical and psychiatric treatments may not be effective unless these emotions are understood and processed. 

How ISTDP treatment works

The first step in the healing process is developing an understanding of how the unconscious anxiety and defenses operate. Once the patient understands how they work, we’ll take the next step with them by helping them overcome the emotional blocking processes that are causing them to experience this anxiety and defenses.

Once the feelings are unblocked and experienced, the patient may feel an abrupt drop in tension, anxiety and other physical symptoms and defenses. Then, the patient and therapist will be able to see the driving emotional forces they were defending, and they’ll be able to start the healing process. Often, just one of these breakthroughs brings improvements in symptoms, and a series of these breakthroughs often brings major behavioral changes.

If the patient has a very low anxiety tolerance, they may require a series of meetings to build anxiety tolerance prior to focusing on the blocked emotions.

The results

This treatment has been extensively researched and proven to help many patients with depression, anxiety, somatization, substance abuse, eating disorders and personality problems.

At the end of a successful therapy, the patient should notice an absence of somatic anxiety and major defenses, and their health and relationships will be free to develop and persist as they were meant to.


Specialists and mental health professionals can refer to us.