Dion Nowoweiski: “We tailor the treatment protocol to the individual”

This is an interview with the Australian ISTDP therapist and researcher Dion Nowoweiski. We reported on one of his recent publications a while back, showing promising effectiveness of ISTDP in the treatment of eating disorders. In the interview we discuss the publication and what makes ISTDP unique in the treatment of eating disorders.

Earlier this year you published one of the first empirical articles on ISTDP in the treatment of eating disorders. How do you feel about the publication? 
We’re very pleased. It took longer than anticipated but it was a real team effort from all of the authors. Each author contributed in a unique way, but it goes without saying that this publication was only possible because of the dataset that Allan Abbass has been accruing over the years.

We were able to find a small sample of patients with eating disorders who had been treated through his service in Halifax. Typically, you would find these kinds of patients presenting to specialist eating disorders services or other non-tertiary mental health services. I think one of the more interesting aspects of this study is that ISTDP may be a suitable alternative to the established eating disorder treatments currently offered, many of which show a less than 50% response rate.

Dion Nowoweiski portrait
Dion Nowoweiski

In my opinion, that’s what makes this study so important. It offers an alternative treatment paradigm for the sub-specialty of eating disorders as many of the traditional treatment paradigms are limited by issues such as poor response, high dropout rates, burnout of professionals, high demand and low capacity of mental health services and high costs associated with inpatient care, amongst some of them.

Can you tell us about the background of the study? 
The study was the brainchild of Allan Abbass. We had already done some work on a previous publication on eating disorders, so he approached me to ask if I would be interested in writing up an article of the datafile he has been collecting. We were trying to see if there was a case for whether ISTDP could be a valid treatment protocol for people with eating disorders and whether there was any evidence as to whether there were any cost savings for cases treated with ISTDP. This study is part of a series of publications that he’s been working on in relation to showing cost savings related to ISTDP in other areas, for example, emergency departments.

Why is ISTDP the treatment of choice for eating disorders? 
I wouldn’t say that ISTDP is the treatment of choice for eating disorders per se. But I do think it’s a very good treatment option for people who suffer from ego-syntonic symptoms. As many of you will know, an eating disorder can be a very difficult condition to treat. I believe that one of the factors that contributes to this is the syntonicity of the symptoms. Through my clinical work, I have found that a large proportion of people with eating disorders tend to value their eating disorder symptoms. They don’t see themselves as separate from their resistance.

Separating patient from resistance. From Allan Abbass’s book “Reaching through resistance” (Seven leaves press, 2015)

For example, for many people suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, there is a strong sense of accomplishment associated with the level of self-denial required to maintain a restrictive intake of food or with the level of self-discipline needed to maintain an excessive exercise regime. Both of these symptoms (restriction and excessive exercising) are criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis.

Yet, imposing conditions on these behaviours – which is common in many treatment models for eating disorders – fails. It’s quite possible that this fails, because the patient values these symptoms as part of a mechanism that helps them maintain a sense of self-control and reduces their fear of harm (either from being overweight or from their own impulses).

In ISTDP for eating disorders, we aren’t trying to take anything away from the patient. We’re trying to help give them choices over their life by identifying the origin of their difficulties and seeing how their eating disorder symptoms function as a mechanism that, while once might have been necessary, is no longer helpful and preventing health. By doing this, it becomes more of a conscious choice for the patient to give up the life of suffering that they had once valued. I see this as a very unique contribution of ISTDP to eating disorders.

Compared to other models that try to encourage abstinence or control over impulses to binge and purge, I find ISTDP a very helpful model as I believe it is more focused on helping people change from the inside rather than forcing someone to change from the outside.

Can you talk us through the specific things to take into consideration when initiating ISTDP for a person struggling with eating disorders? 
Identifying the problem that the patient wants to work on is one of the first steps in the psychotherapy process. When you ask the standard Trial Therapy question of “what problems can I help you with?“, many of them respond by saying “I have an eating disorder“. Obviously, this doesn’t tell us anything about their problem.

How is your eating disorder a problem for you?” is a usual follow up. But that depends on what else is happening when the patient answers my question: non-verbal signals and so on. Without going into those details here, the point I’m wanting to emphasize is that it’s a mistake to believe that the eating disorder is the problem. That’s just a set of symptoms given a label.

But this kind of answer illustrates one type of difficulty often encountered in treating this population. It may seem like the person is saying they see their eating disorder as a problem, but on further examination we find that the eating disorder is a coping mechanism. For some people, that can be clarified early on in the Trial Therapy session. For others, I may not even get to do clarification work as their anxiety tolerance may be more problematic indicating their motivation to change is not the issue we need to address at this early stage. These cases require capacity building prior to any defense work.

The mistake I used to make was to assume that if a patient could formulate a response to my question, that meant they weren’t “over threshold”. But I’ve found that for many people with a significant and chronic eating disorder history, they have adapted to starvation and have learned to function as though they weren’t over threshold – even though they sometimes are. It’s taken time to recognize this, as it’s a different type of presentation of a person who is over threshold in the more usual ways.

Understanding the starvation effects on the brain is vital at this stage and being able to recognize whether the person sitting in front of you can think clearly is so important. They may not look like they’re over threshold or suffering from starvation affects as they can reason, but when that reasoning starts to take on a circularity to it, it’s best to evaluate whether the person is fragile. For example, when you begin to challenge circular reasoning in the form of the patient saying things like “I know I’m underweight”, but if I eat more I will get fat and then I won’t be healthy”, the patient can lose concentration, become confused, appear distant or shut down in some other way. I have learned that this usually signals issue with starvation on the brain and/or poor anxiety tolerance. It’s like saying “if you interrupt my circular reasoning (defense) and I have no other mechanism for dealing with the feelings you just triggered in me by pointing out my flawed logic, I need to protect you from the impulses attached to those feelings by dissociating.

In your recent article you mention that perhaps other treatments aren’t effective for eating disorders because of insufficient attention to “structural deficits”. Can you explain what you mean? Is this an ISTDP-specific thing, or would mainstream psychoanalysis suffice?  
I don’t know whether this comes from ISTDP specifically or if it’s from mainstream psychoanalysis, as I haven’t read much on psychoanalysis. I’m pretty much just an ISTDP practitioner and haven’t branched out very much. I think this helps me as I suspect that trying to blend or combine models would confuse me too much and would result in me exceeding my learning threshold.

What is meant by that statement though (“structural deficits…“) is that as a diagnostic group, people with eating disorders can vary so much. Not understanding the psychological capacity of the individual sitting in front of you is probably not good enough. Some cases may have a neurotic structure as described by Davanloo in that they are a resistant case with little need to restructure defenses or build capacity.

Other cases may have suffered from overwhelming attachment disruptions at an earlier age and therefore they haven’t developed the same level of ego capacity as other cases. For these cases, under some level of activation of the somatic pathway of emotions, they run into problems if they only have access to the less mature defense mechanisms of projection, splitting and projective identification. Trying to offer these cases the same treatment as those with a more intact psychological structure seems unfair to me. It’s like asking someone with one leg to race against Usain Bolt and get upset with them if they lose.

I prefer a model where we tailor the treatment protocol to the individual rather than making the individual fit the treatment protocol. Unfortunately I’ve worked in specialist eating disorder services where the latter is the common service model and it used to frustrate me to see how patient’s would be selected for treatment based on whether they met the requirements of a specific treatment modality based purely on the history of the person, without even considering the psychological makeup of the person.

What are some of the main challenges doing ISTDP for ED?
Many of the challenges I’ve encountered when working with people suffering from an eating disorder from an ISTDP perspective can be categorised as 1) relating to the individual and 2) relating to the broader treatment system.

The issues relating to the individual are linked to what I mention earlier and is about working with a syntonic defensive system and working with fragile clients where capacity building is needed. As you know, and as explained by Allan, in ISTDP we need to complete a thorough psychodiagnostics assessment. This begins at the outset of treatment and is focused on helping us identify the structure/organisation of the defensive system we’re working with and the degree to which the defenses are syntonic to the patient. We also need to know about the anxiety discharge pathways and whether there is a threshold to smooth muscle activation or cognitive-perceptual disruption. And at what level of rise in the complex transference feelings the different thresholds are crossed.

Although these may sound like simple enough concepts on paper, the ability to recognize what this looks like in the room, when we’re working with a patient, is something that needed to develop over time and came with doing more treatment for me. As I’ve did more and more treatment, my ability to be confident with my skills improved as I felt more comfortable with my assessment of what’s going on in the patient. This was something that I found needed to be done more collaboratively with patients than what I had been doing early on in my career. In the beginning of my career, this was something that I didn’t understood properly. But over time I found that the more I collaborated with the patient on what I was observing, the more feedback I got and the more conscious alliance it created.

The other issues relates to doing ISTDP work in a field that appears to be quite static (as opposed to dynamic). The mainstream models of treatment for eating disorders are sometimes quite narrow and I found them somewhat punitive at times. During my time working on inpatient services, I found that the model was very rigid and my efforts to step outside of that framework were usually met with quite a bit of resistance from others.  What I learned from this has been invaluable for me, because it really taught me that we operate – as therapists – within systems and these systems can be resistant too. So, if you’re working within the eating disorder field, my advice is to take the skills you have gained through ISTDP about working with resistance and use them to help you make the system more open to different ways of working with people.

Moving on to you, what are you struggling to learn right now? 
Humility……but that’s my lifelong struggle. In relation to ISTDP, my focus currently is on learning how to teach ISTDP. I’ve been lucky in my ISTDP training to learn from so many skilled and kind people, but I know there are lots of other people I haven’t learned from. So, I’m trying to take what I’ve learned from people like Allan Abbass, Joel Town and Steve Arthey and to apply it in a way that allows me to remain consistent to the model, but flexible enough to still be me and to engage learners in the model.

It’s a complex model and it takes time to learn and I truly think it works best when we’re ourselves because the model is really about connecting. When I started out, I used phrases that came from articles and books, or from watching other people’s tapes. I think this is completely normal, but as I progressed I noticed that I did less of that and that seemed to make a difference. I still used pressure, clarification and challenge, but I was doing it as me. So my struggle is about translating that into my training of others.

Do you have other studies in the pipeline? Will we see an Australian RCT of ISTDP for ED in the future? 
Currently I’m taking a break from writing. It’s a labour of love that I currently don’t have the love for. But everyday is a research day in the office. Every day is about gathering the data and analyzing it with my co-researchers (the patients). Although I’m not doing RCT:s at the moment, I still consider myself a researcher and encourage everyone doing this work to adopt a similar approach. Every session is about gathering the data and looking at it and making sense of it and putting it to good use with the patient, whenever I can.

If you dream a bit, where would you like ISTDP and the treatment of eating disorders to go within the next 5 or 10 years? 
That’s an easy one to answer… it’s been my dream from the start: To see ISTDP-based residential treatment facilities for eating disorders. I think the model has so much to offer and that it could make such an important contribution to the development of eating disorders treatment. I suspect that offering it in that format would help bring about some great results. My utmost respect goes out to people like Kristy Lamb from BOLD Health who set out down that path for addictions, and so many of the other amazing researchers in ISTDP like Katie Aafjes-Van Doorn at Yeshiva University, Joel Town and Allan Abbass at the Centre of Emotions and Health in Halifax, Canada. We’re so lucky to have those people producing empirical research for the rest of us to have. It’s that kind of leadership that will help us bring more ISTDP therapy into the world.

Want to read more about ISTDP and eating disorders? Make sure you check out this old gem by Dion, Steve Arthey and Allan Abbass on eating disorders and fragility: Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy for Severe Behavioural Disorders: A Focus on Eating Disorders

If you liked this Dion Nowoweiski interview, you might find some of our other interviews interesting. Related to this one, you might be interested in the interviews with Kristy Lamb, Allan Abbass or José Verpoort-Douw. Here’s a list of our eight latest interviews:

Är challenge nödvändigt? Ny studie

I dagarna har Fateh Rahmani med kollegor vid Kurdiska Universitetet i Iran publicerat ytterligare en RCT-studie på ISTDP för socialt ångestsyndrom, där de också undersökt om challenge är ett nödvändigt element i ISTDP. Här sammanfattar vi några av slutsatserna från studien.

Fateh Rahmani har publicerat ny studie på ISTDP för social ångest
Fateh Rahmani


I arbetet med personer som lider av känslomässig överkontroll – eller högt motstånd som Davanloo kallar det – kännetecknas ISTDP av mer konfrontativa interventioner. Högt motstånd åsyftar alltså personer som har god tillgång till intellektualiserande och rationaliserande försvar, men som är fast i dessa på ett mycket oflexibelt sätt. Detta kan leda till upplevelsen av att vara känslomässigt avstängd, distanserad och att man är som en observatör i sitt eget liv. När Davanloo utvecklade ISTDP var det bland annat för att hitta en sätt att hjälpa denna grupp av patienter att bli kvitt sitt motstånd, i en tid när de av många betraktades som omöjliga att hjälpa.

Interventioner av gradvis ökande känslomässig intensitet - från småprat till challenge
Schematisk illustration av interventioner med gradvis ökande känslomässig intensitet

Efter en första stund av arbete med att kartlägga försvaren, deras funktion och de negativa konsekvenserna av dem, så menade Davanloo att terapeuten bör övergå till att använda sig av challenge. Det här är förmodligen ett av Davanloos mest originella bidrag till psykoterapin. Från att terapeuten till en början uppmuntrar patienten att göra positiva saker (känna känslor, gå i riktning mot sina mål, undersöka sig själv och så vidare) så skiftar terapeuten här fokus till att uppmuntra patienten att sluta göra något som är negativt för dem. Så här kan en fas av challenge se ut, något förenklat:

Terapeuten: Nu har vi pratat en stund om hur du går upp i dina tankar istället för att känna efter (Intervention: Prata om försvaret: intellektualisering).

Patienten: Mm (suckar).

T: Att du går upp i tankarna är hur du undviker att vara i kontakt med vad du känner. Och undviker att vara i kontakt med mig. (Intervention: Prata om funktionen av försvaret)

P: Mm (suckar).

T: Och så länge du gör så, går upp i tankarna, kommer vi ju inte att kunna hjälpa dig i den här terapin. Eller vad tror du? (Intervention: Prata om de negativa konsekvenserna av att göra försvar)

P: Nej… jag är bara så fast i att tänka. (suckar)

T: Så vad kan vi göra åt att du fortsätter gå upp i tankarna istället för att känna efter? (Intervention: Uppmuntran att vända sig mot försvaret)

P: (suckar)

T: Vad känner du just nu om du inte går upp i dina tankar? (Intervention: Challenge)

P: Jag vet inte… (suckar)

T: Igen går du upp i tankarna. Märker du det? Så om du inte tänker efter, vad är det för känslor som dyker upp just nu? (Intervention: Challenge)

P: (suckar)

Att patienten suckar är här ett tecken på att interventionerna faller väl ut och att patienten både tolererar och kanske till och med behöver challenge för att närma sig känslor. Men challenge är ett tveeggat svärd. På grund av den konfrontativa aspekten så är interventionen något som många terapeuter har svårt att bemästra.

Om man använder sig av challenge innan patienten tydligt har sett sitt försvar, funktionen av det och priset av det, så riskerar man att skada alliansen. Patienten kan uppleva det som att samarbetet brister och att terapeuten är kritisk. Detta kallas för prematur challenge, eller “challenge at low rise”.

Och om man använder sig av challenge i arbetet med sköra patienter så tenderar detta att mobilisera så mycket känslor på en gång att patienten går långt över sin ångesttröskel och blir överväldigad. Snarare än att känslor långsamt får mobiliseras och försiktigt närma sig tröskeln så leder challenge alltså till väldigt tvära kast, med risk för alliansbrott och omfattande regressiva processer.

Den aktuella studien

I den föreliggande studien ville Rahmani med kollegor undersöka dels om ISTDP är effektivt vid socialt ångestsyndrom, och dels om challenge verkligen är en nödvändig intervention för en effektiv ISTDP-behandling. De randomiserade 42 deltagare med social ångest till antingen väntelista, ISTDP eller ISTDP utan challenge (“Interpretation-based ISTDP”, IB-ISTDP). Det var samma terapeuter som bedrev de båda behandlingarna, och de gick en kort utbildning för försäkra sig om att de på ett kompetent sätt skulle kunna arbeta utan challenge. Behandlingarna var korta, åtta sessioner. Det här upplägget påminner om den andra RCT som Rahmani med kollegor publicerade tidigare i år, där de jämförde ISTDP med känslofokus och ISTDP med försvarsfokus. Det påminner även om en välkänd studie av interpersonell terapi, “Is exposure necessary?“, där två olika traumabehandlingar – en med och en utan exponering – jämförts med varandra.

Utfallet visade att de båda behandlingsgrupperna hade stora effekter jämfört med väntelista, både efter behandling och vid sexmånadersuppföljning. Författarna själva rapporterar inte antalet patienter som gått i remission, men medelvärdet på självskattningsskalan LSAS-SR minskade med mer än 50% för båda behandlingsgrupperna och slutade under klinisk cut-off på LSAS-SR (LSAS-SR < 30 helskalepoäng). Detta indikerar en väldigt god behandlingseffekt.

Är challenge nödvändigt?

Så är det nödvändigt att använda challenge för att uppnå goda resultat inom ramarna för en ISTDP-behandling? Korta svaret: nej. Den här studien fann inget stöd för att challenge gav någon tilläggseffekt utöver de andra teknikerna som ingår i ISTDP (pressure, clarification, recap). Författarna själva tolkar detta resultat som att challenge antagligen inte behövs eftersom känslor ändå aktiveras tillräckligt mycket.

“It may be that a more gradual mobilization without prominent use of challenge, results in adequate activation of these dynamic forces in enough cases to not reveal significant differences in outcomes between groups.” (Rahmani et al., 2020).

En förklaring till detta är att många personer med socialt ångestsyndrom inte lider av överkontroll/högt motstånd utan snarare är drabbade av känslomässig underkontroll – vad vi inom ISTDP kallar för repression och skörhet. Med dessa patienter är challenge oftast kontraindicerat, eftersom det sätter för mycket press på patienten. Om vi använder challenge med en patient som är skör så kommer detta sannolikt leda till att ångesten blir för hög eller att olika primitiva försvar, såsom splitting och projektion, drar igång. ISTDP för sköra patienter kännetecknas av ett mer försiktigt tillvägagångssätt som betonar psykoedukation, kognitiva sammanfattningar och andra övningar i att intellektualisera. Antagligen var det precis detta de flesta av deltagarna i studien behövde.

Ett mer finmaskigt svar på frågan om challenge är nödvändigt skulle alltså behöva selektera en grupp patienter med högt motstånd och randomisera dem till ISTDP med eller utan challenge.

Ytterligare en möjlig förklaring till att ISTDP utan challenge klarar sig så bra är dodo bird-effekten. När två bona fide-behandlingar jämförs hittar man generellt sett inga skillnader i effekt.

Rahmani, F., Abbass, A., Hemmati, A., Ghaffari, N., Mirghaed, S.R., (2020) Challenging the role of challenge in intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Psychology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jclp.22993

Här är våra senaste artiklar om forskning på ISTDP:

Hur delta i Immersion 2020?

I slutet av sommaren, 26-28:e augusti 2020, kommer Allan Abbass hålla sin årliga svenska Immersion, på temat Trial therapy. Här diskuterar vi de olika alternativen för hur du kan delta.

Till skillnad från många andra terapiformer så inleds ISTDP inte med anamnesupptagning och en teoretisk fallkonceptualisering – istället börjar en ISTDP-behandling med en så kallad provterapi: Trial therapy. Genom att direkt fokusera på upplevelsen av känslor så kan vi skapa oss en bild av vilka problem som terapin ska handla om, vilka diagnostiska avväganden som behöver göras, och hur behandlingen bör struktureras. Allt detta samtidigt som vi gör ett terapeutiskt arbete tillsammans. Flera studier har visat att detta första samtal kan ha positiva effekter på både psykiatriska symptom och interpersonella problem.

Som vi skrivit om tidigare så kommer årets Immersion att handla om detta inledande 2-3 timmar långa terapisamtalet. På grund av den pågående pandemin så kommer kursen hållas online (via Zoom) och till ett mycket förmånligt pris (ca 4000 SEK). Genom att följa den här länken kan du köpa biljetter och finna mer information.


För att värna sekretessen kring de specifika fall som kommer diskuteras så kommer bara de som går eller har gått Coreutbildning (inom ISTDP, APT, AEDP eller någon annan form av EDT) kunna delta från sina egna hem.

Om du går/gått Core kan du köpa biljett och så småningom kommer du att få en inbjudan att delta via Zoom från ditt hem.

Om du INTE går/har gått Core kan du köpa biljett och sedan sitta hemma hos någon som går/gått Core som du själv kontaktar, till exempel en kollega eller bekant. Du anger vem du sitter med när du köper biljetten.


Några av oss som är engagerade i Svenska föreningen för ISTDP kommer att bistå med lokaler i Stockholm, Göteborg och Lund för att följa kursen tillsammans. Det handlar om lokaler där möjlighet till fysisk distansering kommer finnas och deltagarantalet är begränsat med anledning av den pågående pandemin.

När du köper biljetten ska du ange att du ska sitta med “Swedish society for ISTDP c/o Thomas Hesslow” på frågan om “who will you attend this course with?“. Kontakta sedan thomas.hesslow@gmail.com för att anmäla att du vill följa Immersion från någon av lokalerna (Stockholm, Lund eller Göteborg). Ange vilken stad som är aktuell för dig.

Om du är medlem i föreningen och vill bidra till att öppna fler lokaler kan du vända dig till mig, Thomas, för att diskutera detta.

Allan Abbass: “At first doing ISTDP felt unnatural”

At the end of the summer, on the 26-28th of August, Allan Abbass invites you to his 9th Swedish ISTDP Immersion course. We did an interview with him about the ISTDP trial therapy, and his development as a therapist.

Allan at Stockholm Immersion 2019
Allan Abbass at the 8th Swedish Immersion in late summer 2019

How does it feel to do yet another Immersion in Sweden? 
I am very much looking forward to providing another ISTDP immersion to all of the Swedish colleagues and in collaboration with the Swedish ISTDP trainers.

The theme of this year’s Immersion is the initial session, the trial therapy. How come you put so much emphasis on this part of the treatment? 
The trial therapy is in itself a treatment but also is the basis on which further treatment sessions are built. This first session is the most important part of the treatment. When this process goes well and helps the therapist to understand the patient, and the patient to understand the process, it strongly predicts a good treatment outcome.

How do you prepare for a trial therapy? Do you plan ahead in any way on what you want to aim for? 
The main preparation for the trial therapy is being knowledgeable on ISTDP psychodiagnosis and treatment processes for different groups of patients. This requires the full ISTDP training including immersions, video review of cases and so on.

As for a specific case, as a general principle I do not want to have too much knowledge about the patient ahead of time. I want to develop my own understanding of the patient and their problems.

The way I currently work is that people are referred and I look at the referral information in case there are some reasons I need more information prior to a trial therapy. Then the patient goes on a long waitlist so that by the time I see the person I don’t recall much of those details I looked at before. This way it is a fresh look at the patient and his problems

How has your understanding of the trial therapy evolved over the years? What are some of the key things you have learned? 
One of the key things that I’ve come to learn is the issue of how much conscious alliance is required versus how much the process relies on mobilizing the unconscious therapeutic alliance. This balance is different depending on the patient category. For moderate resistant patients, conscious therapeutic alliance is already present so there is no need to spend time building this. For much more complicated patients (eg. fragile patients) more time is required to build a conscious alliance coupled with some focus on unconscious processes and signaling to the patient that the unconscious will be known at some point. It is very important toward developing hope that the more disturbed patients know that their unconscious will eventually become known.

The other issue is how important psychodiagnosis is. In the early years of my work I was often not clear about the psychodiagnosis and that lead to dropouts and misalliances as well as limited treatment effects in some of those cases. With improved psychodiagnostic skills, dropouts and misalliance are less frequent.

What did Davanloo have to say about your trial therapies, if anything?
When I was in supervision with Davanloo we typically would study the trial therapy sessions. Of course that feedback varied greatly from patient to patient. Full range of feedback varied from him overly challenging me about things I had done or had not done, all the way up to saying that the treatment trial was great teaching material. It was great to get his feedback and to make adjustments in those cases where I was missing the understanding of the patient’s problems or was not having properly timed interventions.

You’ve said that doing block therapy requires a lot of knowledge about how to proceed through the different stages of therapy, and that it might not be suitable for beginning therapists. In what way does this apply to trial therapy? Should the structure and goals of the trial therapy be different for different levels of trainee development? 
One thing that varies with therapist experience is how much time it takes for trial therapy. When I started this work in 1990, I would leave the whole afternoon open for a trial therapy starting at 13.00 and sometimes would go into the early evening. When I was in training with Davanloo at McGill University in Montreal, the trial therapies would be all day long on the Monday from 08.30-17.00. He would come out and teach in between segments. Suffice it to say these were not quick trial therapies. As part of my work there, it was my job to analyze videos and produce reports as part of the research. It was quite helpful to take the time to do that.

Over time my trial therapies have shortened substantially. Now I just leave two hours, and if I need another segment of two hours I will go ahead and plan that.

For the new therapist, I do recommend leaving enough time for you to establish a conscious therapeutic alliance, gather history, do the psychodiagnosis, and see if it is possible to mobilize the unconscious therapeutic alliance in the trial. You also need time to recap, review the process, close it up and plan forward.

What do you think other treatment models could adapt from the concept of the trial therapy?
There’s no question that the information from the metapsychology of ISTDP is useful in any psychological assessment. Capacity to recognize unconscious emotional processes as well as unconscious anxiety and unconscious behavioral defenses can aid any psychotherapist doing assessment or treatment regardless of the model.

This is simply because attachment occurs in every psychotherapy model and every assessment interview. When attachment related feelings are activated, anxiety and defenses occur within the unconscious of the patient and have quite an effect on the interactional process. At the same time attachment-related feelings can activate in the psychologist and have a dramatic effect on the interactional process from this perspective.

The ISTDP framework allows the therapist to be conscious of what he is doing for his sake and the sake of the patient.

Throughout the years you’ve shown some great trial therapies at your Immersions in Stockholm. I assume these are some of your best work. How does an average or below average trial play out for you?
There are a range of responses to the trial therapy. On average there are symptom reductions and interpersonal gains based on some hundreds of trial therapies we have studied. When the trial is less effective or not effective, there are a combination of causes.

These include misreading of the front of the system, inadequate work on defenses, inadequate anxiety reduction which make the process uncomfortable for the patients. In these cases, the patient is too anxious or the process is too flat. Patient factors include heavily syntonic defense systems, conscious obstacles to engagement that the person does not share with therapist and medical factors which interrupt the process. The likelihood of these difficulties reduces after doing 100 or more trial therapies or after 2000 hours of therapy and case reviews.

Do you find you have specific patterns where you consistently find yourself being less effective during the trial therapy? Or did you have such patterns before?
In the early work I was doing, there were certain patient styles, including those with significant repression who would disappear from the treatment process and slip into a passive regressive position. With those individuals early in my training I was tending to withdraw rather than to move in and clarify and challenge these defenses. To overcome this pattern it was important for me to self-review videos and try to determine the emotions that were being triggered in me during these processes. Such video self-review is a great tool to help us access our own emotional processes in the patient interactions.

What are you currently working on improving as a therapist right now?
The area I am currently working on is that with those patients who have severe personality dysfunction including dissociative identity and psychotic disorders. There are multiple moving challenges with these patient populations.

How are you proceeding on improving your work with this patient group?
I’m using the same process I’ve used with each other patient category. Namely the review of videos, reading about these cases, feedback from the patients, trial and evaluation of different interventions at different points in time and on some occasions peer input. I’m convinced that there are some severely ill patient populations that none of us should be working in isolation with. We should all have an opportunity to review cases with someone on an as needed basis.

We’ve previously talked about the different phases in your development as a therapist. There was an early phase in the nineties, a therapist style which you’ve described as “applying a technique”, and over the years a transition to a second phase, which you’ve described as “living the technique”. Can you say something more about the development of your therapeutic style?
When I first started to learn this method, I considered myself to be a warm person who liked people and liked to talk to people and learn about them. As a beginning ISTDP therapist, I had to incorporate certain observation skills and procedural skills on top of my personality. At first it felt unnatural in some ways and felt less “warm”. The process felt mechanical. I think I lost some therapeutic efficacy in some ways in the early stages.

This mostly affected the patients who were more resistant or fragile. I found that this did not affect working with more lower resistance patients from the beginning because I was more comfortable and natural in those settings and did not need to use challenge as a therapeutic technique. Working with those low resistance patients mobilized less emotions and anxiety and defense in me as well. As my own underlying feelings started to be mobilized and could be experienced, it was vastly easier to sit and experience the feelings the patient had without resorting to mechanical techniques or other defenses.

As I got comfortable with more resistant patients and fragile patients, it became more and more natural to engage the person with my natural self. In the interviews I will show in the Immersion you will see two older ones and four newer ones that will give you an idea of these changes over time.

Really, some of the keys to becoming a successful therapist include being comfortable, having access to our own feelings and coupled with this, having technical knowledge of timing of interventions.

Anything else you’d like to add ahead of the event? 
I am looking forward to working with you. It looks like this immersion will be held online. That being the case you’ll have the privacy of your own house, as long as your kids and pets aren’t interrupting you too much, to have a personal experience while studying this trial therapy process. All the best to you in your work.

The 9th Swedish Immersion is held online at the end of the summer, 26-28th of August.

If you enjoyed this Allan Abbass interview, you might be interested in our other interviews. For more thoughts about ISTDP training, you can check out the interviews with Patricia Coughlin and Jon Frederickson. We also did a short piece with Allan last fall, which you can find here. You can find all of our english content by following this link. Below you’ll find our latest interviews:

ISTDP effektivt i långtidsuppföljning: ny studie

Under de senaste veckorna har flera studier om ISTDP vid depression publicerats. Här sammanfattar vi Joel Town med kollegors långtidsuppföljning från Halifax Depression Study.

I dagarna publicerades 18-månadersuppföljningen från Halifax Depression Study som genomfördes av Joel Town med kollegor för några år sedan. I studien randomiserades sextio personer med depression som inte fått effekt i minst ett tidigare behandlingsförsök till antingen 20 sessioner ISTDP eller sedvanlig behandling (TAU). Nästan 90% av studiedeltagarna uppfyllde kriterierna för något personlighetssyndrom, och ungefär lika många av dem hade något kroniskt somatiskt tillstånd. Enligt Allan Abbass hade hälften av patienterna “fragile character structure” enligt ISTDP-diagnostiken.

joel town portrait
Joel Town

Effekterna i den ursprungliga studien var väldigt goda, då hela 36,0% av de som fått ISTDP var i remission sex månader efter behandlingen, jämfört med 3,7% i kontrollgruppen. Det visade sig att denna goda effekt för ISTDP-gruppen höll i sig vid långtidsuppföljningen, och ytterligare några deltagare var i full remission efter 18 månader (40%). I kontrollgruppen var det också många fler som gått i remission, 29%, vilket möjligen går att förklara med att de erhållit signifikant mer farmakologisk och psykologisk behandling under uppföljningsperioden.

Unika fynd

Den höga graden av remission vid 18 månader är sannolikt det som gör den här studien unik, och inga andra studier har kunnat visa så höga remissionssiffror vid långtidsuppföljning. Även om andra studier visat höga remissionstal vid kortare uppföljning så har dessa inte hållit i sig. Så här skriver Town med kollegor i diskussionsdelen av artikeln:

“The numerical remission rates following ISTDP at 18 months (40%) are comparable to the largest remission rates at 12 months in other published RCTs for TRD (40% (Wiles et al., 2013); 37.5% (Eisendrath et al., 2016)). The remission rates at longer-term follow-up reported in previous trials for TRD are lower (28% at 46 months (Wiles et al., 2016); 14.9% at 42 months (Fonagy et al., 2015)) than those at 18 months following ISTDP. Based on the remission rates reported over time in the CoBALT study (Wiles et al., 2016), the effectiveness of CBT for TRD may decline over long-term follow-up. In residual depression, the effects of CBT in preventing relapse and recurrence were initially found to persist, but were lost at longer-term follow-up (Paykel et al., 2005). Although the Tavistock Depression Study found that decrease in depression scores continued after long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy, 18 months post-treatment remission rates were ‘infrequent’ (Fonagy et al., 2015). It is unclear whether smaller treatment effects at long-term follow- up based on the complex needs of people with TRD are to be expected. Future research needs to better understand if therapy could be optimised, extended or medically augmented to facilitate remission.”

billig terapi?

Som vanligt i studier från Halifaxkliniken så finns det även en kostnadseffektivitetsanalys. Jämfört med sedvanlig vård så var de direkta kostnaderna för ISTDP något billigare (i snitt ca 34400 SEK per ISTDP-patient jämfört med ca 38100 SEK för sedvanlig behandling). Eftersom effekten både kort- och långsiktigt var större så innebar detta tydliga fördelar vad gällde kostnader. I analysen var sannolikheten 64,5% att ISTDP skulle vara mer kostnadseffektivt än sedvanlig behandling.


En ny översikt av ISTDP vid förstämningssyndrom lyfter fram Halifax Depression Study som den hittills mest högkvalitativa ISTDP-studien som de kunde hitta vid behandling av depression och bipolaritet. Exempelvis så har Town med kollegor använt sig av strukturerade bedömningsförfaranden såsom strukturerade diagnostiska intervjuer (MINI och SCID-II), självskattningar och bedömarskattat primärt utfallsmått (HAM-D). De har även en randomiserad design och de har bedömt behandlingens följsamhet (“treatment integrity”) strukturerat med hjälp av CPPS. Detta skiljer ut studien från många andra underfinansierade ISTDP-studier. Det största problemet med studien som hindrar definitiva slutsatser från att dras är att stickprovet (N=60) är så litet. Vidare diskuterar författarna själva att forskargruppen är jävig i relation till ISTDP (“allegiance effects”), och att kostnadsdatan har luckor.

Ytterligare en potentiell brist är att studieterapeuterna utgörs av “expertterapeuter”, vilket gör att det är svårt att veta om resultaten vi ser är effekten av en metod – ISTDP – eller av det faktum att det är experter som ger behandlingen. En tidigare studie av Robert Johansson med flera visade att Allan Abbass hade signifikant större effekter än hans kollegor, och problemet med “experteffekter” har tidigare diskuterats i relation till ISTDP i en systematisk översikt.

Town, J.M., Abbass, A., Stride, C., Nunes, A., Bernier, D., Berrigan, P. (2020) Efficacy and Cost-Effectiveness of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy for Treatment Resistant Depression: 18-Month Follow-Up of The Halifax Depression Trial, Journal of Affective Disorders https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.04.035

ISTDP för kronisk smärta: ny studie

I dagarna publicerade Peter Lilliengren med kollegor en ny naturalistisk studie på ISTDP för kronisk smärta. Även om det har gjorts en hel del studier på psykologisk behandling för kronisk smärta under de senaste åren, med lovande resultat, så fortsätter detta vara en av de absolut vanligaste anledningarna till sjukskrivning i Sverige. De faktorer som orsakar och vidmakthåller tillstånden är helt enkelt inte fullt ut utforskade än.

Ny studie på ISTDP för kronisk smärta av Peter Lilliengren
Peter Lilliengren

ISTDP är en lovande behandlingsform vid kronisk smärta och det finns redan några studier. Iranska forskare ledda av Behzad Chavooshi med kollegor publicerade fyra randomiserade studier under 2016 och 2017 på ISTDP för medicinskt oförklarad smärta. Dessutom har Howard Schubiners forskargrupp utvecklat en ISTDP-inspirerad smärtbehandling, Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy – EAET – som har visat sig effektivt vid bland annat fibromyalgi och IBS. Forskarna Daniel Maroti och Robert Johansson håller just nu på att undersöka EAET i internetformat vid Stockholms Universitet/Karolinska Institutet. Dessutom kommer Schubiner till Stockholm under hösten 2020.

ISTDP och smärtproblematik

Inom ISTDP så brukar man tänka på två varianter av smärtproblematik.

  • Den vanligaste varianten: ångest. En långvarig aktivering av något av kroppens tre inbyggda ångestsystem kan orsakar smärta. Inom ISTDP pratar vi om tre olika rädslo- eller ångestkanaler: tvärstrimmig muskulatur, glatt muskulatur och kognitiv-perceptuell svikt. Om man går runt och spänner sig lågintensivt under lång tid kan detta leda till exempelvis nacksmärtor (tvärstrimmig muskulatur). Om man har en överaktivering i glatt muskulatur kan detta leda till exempelvis magsmärtor eller migrän. Och slutligen kan en överaktivering av dorsala vagusnerven leda till kognitiv-perceptuell svikt och exempelvis olika former av kramper. När det är ångest som orsakar smärtan följer den oftast de tydliga mönster som dessa tre olika system är förknippade med. Genom att öka personens känsloreglerande kapacitet genom att gradvis närma sig känslor kan denna typ av smärta avta över tid.
  • Den andra varianten: somatisering. Om man hanterar känslor genom att somatisera dem så kan detta leda till olika former av smärtproblematik. Om man går runt och bär på starka omedvetna känslor kan dessa fastna på någon plats i kroppen. Exempelvis kan vissa beskriva att det känns som att det “brinner” i någon kroppsdel. Under ett terapiförlopp kan det visa sig att det finns någon form av omedveten önskan som hänger samman med detta fysiska uttryck. När man verbaliserar och visualiserar denna önskan kan detta leda till att somatiseringen upphör – och smärtan försvinner. Du kan läsa mer om detta på Jon Fredericksons blogg.

Den aktuella studien

I den aktuella studien har Lilliengren med kollegor utvärderat 228 patienter med kronisk smärta som fått behandling av Allan Abbass och kollegor vid Halifax Centre for Emotions and Health. Behandlingarna var generellt sett korta och innehöll i genomsnitt 6,1 sessioner, även om spannet var 1-100 sessioner. Efter avslutad behandling så fann man stora minskningar i smärtsymptom (Cohen’s d = 0,76), och interpersonella problem (Cohen’s d = 0,76). Precis som i de andra naturalistiska studierna från Halifax såg man även stora kostnadsbesparingar efter behandlingen. I grova drag ledde behandlingarna i genomsnitt till besparingar om 100 000 SEK per patient, tack vare minskade kostnader för inneliggande vård och läkarbesök.

Studien har några viktiga begränsningar, i form av avsaknad av kontrollgrupp, bristande diagnostik, trubbigt primärt utfallsmått med mera. Trots detta är studien ett viktigt bidrag som, om man väger samman den med de randomiserade studier som gjorts, visar på väldigt lovande resultat för en typ av problematik som är mycket svårbehandlad.

Lilliengren, P., Cooper, A., Town, J. M., Kisely, S., & Abbass, A. (2020). Clinical- and cost-effectiveness of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy for chronic pain in a tertiary psychotherapy service. Australasian Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1177/1039856220901478
Här hittar du manuset på Researchgate.

[MOVED ONLINE] Allan Abbass Immersion 2020: Mastering the Trial Therapy

Abbass at Stockholm Immersion 2019
Allan Abbass at Stockholm Immersion 2019

The 2020 Swedish Immersion in Davanloo’s ISTDP with Dr. Allan Abbass has been moved online. Se updated information below.

Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) begins with an intensive and comprehensive evaluation and treatment session called the Trial Therapy. The trial therapy seeks to establish both a conscious and unconscious therapeutic alliance, gather a complete history of problem areas, past and present relationships, and related medical and social factors, while testing a client’s response to this therapeutic mobilization of the unconscious. By the end of the interview, therapist and patient should both have information about the suitability of this treatment, and what format of the treatment may be most beneficial. The trial therapy is typically conducted in one session, but sometimes over more than one session.

Based on a study of several hundred trial therapies, we have found that the trial therapy is effective in reducing symptoms and interpersonal problems, and also effective in reducing excess healthcare use. There is evidence that it is beneficial in the hands of new learners, and that is more effective than standard psychiatric intake interviews.

In this 9th Swedish Immersion in ISTDP, Dr. Allan Abbass and colleagues will provide a detailed video–based study of a series of trial therapies from across the two spectra of patients. Hence, we will look at entire trial therapies of patients with low to moderate resistance, high resistance, as well as patients who suffer from repression and significant fragility. The goal of this course is to assist attendees to master the understanding of functions and processes involved in the trial therapy to help build momentum from the very first session of their treatment courses.


Dr. Allan Abbass is Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, Director of Psychiatric Education, and founding Director of the Centre for Emotions and Health at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He is a leading award-winning teacher and researcher in the area of Short -Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, with over 250 publications and 300 invited presentations over the globe. Some of these articles can be viewed at www.allanabbass.com

He is known for simplifying the theory and technical aspects of the ISTDP model, with the use of algorithms, and through highlighting moment-to-moment processes that inform interventions. He has received numerous teaching awards, including two national awards in psychiatry, and has been honored with visiting professorships at several international universities and institutions, holds recurrent intensive training programs in Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland
and Canada, and provides internet-based training to professionals and groups around the world.

Dr. Abbass’ critically acclaimed textbook on ISTDP Reaching Through Resistance: Advanced Psychotherapy Techniques was published in 2015. His latest book, Hidden from View: A
Clinician’s Guide to Psychophysiologic Disorders
(Abbass and Schubiner, 2018), deals with psychophysiologic disorders and how health professionals can diagnose and manage these conditions including the use of ISTDP techniques.


Location: Zoom.

Dates: 26-28th of August, 2020.

Time: 9.00-17.00 local Swedish time

Fee: 525 canadian dollars.

Registration is mandatory as seating is limited. The course sold out last year so register now to avoid disappointment.


Follow this link: Eventbrite.com

ISTDP effektivt vid ätstörningar: ny studie

För några veckor sedan publicerade Dion Nowoweiski med flera en observationell studie av ISTDP för ätstörningar. Psykologisk behandling av ätstörningar har visat sig vara en stor utmaning. Det finns ett stort antal studier där resultaten tyvärr varit nedslående. Vad gäller psykodynamisk terapi så blev det rubriker inom terapivärlden under 2013. Då hade en dansk forskargrupp ledd av Stig Poulsen publicerat en ny studie om behandling av bulimi. I studien (som jag tidigare beskrivit på psykodynamiskt.nu) var KBT tre gånger mer effektivt än objektrelationell psykoanalytisk behandling. Skulle det visa sig att Bruce Wampolds common factors-teori inte stämde för ätstörningar?

Forskningsläge ätstörningar

Vad gäller psykologisk behandling av bulimi finns det mer forskning på KBT än någon annan metod. En Cochraneöversikt från 2009 visade att det fanns ett visst empiriskt stöd för KBT vid bulimi. Vidare finns det några jämförande studier av KBT och IPT där man visat att de båda behandlingarna har liknande effekt. Dock sker förbättringen snabbare i KBT. Efter den danska studien (se ovan) har det kommit fler studier på PDT vid bulimi med bättre resultat. Bland annat en jämförande studie där KBT och PDT visade sig vara jämbördiga för tonåringar med bulimi (runt 30% remission). I denna studie var den psykodynamiska behandlingen tydligt strukturerad och fokuserad på bulimisymptomen. Detta skilde den från Poulsens behandling som snarare instruerade terapeuten att fokusera på personlighetsorganisation.

För anorexi finns det också ett antal studier, men resultaten är dessvärre sällan särskilt övertygande. En Cochraneöversikt från 2015 menar att ingen behandling på ett övertygande sätt har visat sig överlägsen treatment-as-usual i en välkontrollerad studie. Ett undantag från detta är en forskargrupp ledda av Stephan Zipfel som 2014 publicerade en stor studie där psykodynamisk behandling jämförts med KBT. I den här studien fann man att den psykodynamiska behandlingen hade en viss fördel vid 12-månadersuppföljningen, men att KBT hade en snabbare verkningseffekt. Andelen som uppnådde “full återhämtning” var dock, nedslående nog, få: mellan 14 och 19%. Detta trots att patienterna fått runt 40 sessioner terapi.

Slutsatsen är alltså att det finns andra behandlingar som sannolikt är effektiva för ätstörningar, men att de tyvärr bara hjälper en liten andel av patienterna.

ISTDP för ätstörningar

“A potential explanation of the poor response rate to ED treatments may be due to structural deficits in the psychic organization of this patient population.” – Nowoweiski et al., 2020.

Redan 2013 publicerade Allan Abbass med kollegor en artikel där de beskriver ISTDP för ätstörningar. Artikeln, som ger en teoretisk grund för ISTDP vid ätstörningar, betonar att patientgruppen i hög utsträckning har omfattande känsloregleringsbrister (vad vi kallar för “repression” och “skörhet” i ISTDP). Kanske kan ett starkare fokus på dessa brister leda till bättre utfall? Abbass med kollegor diskuterar även att behandlingslängden då kan behöva vara långt mycket längre än “korttidsbehandling”. Uppemot 100 sessioner för de mest sköra fallen.

I den nypublicerade studien har man för första gången gjort en empirisk utvärdering av ISTDP vid ätstörningar. Det var den australiensiska psykologen Dion Nowoweiski som var studiens huvudförfattare. Studien beskriver 27 personer med anorexi, bulimi eller ätstörning-UNS som sökte behandling vid Halifaxkliniken. De hade en stor grad av samsjuklighet inklusive depression, somatoforma störningar, ångestproblematik och personlighetssyndrom. Efter i genomsnitt 9,81 sessioner ISTDP hade de erhållit stora effekter. Detta gällde både psykiatriska symptom (cohen’s d = 1,43) och på interpersonella svårigheter (cohen’s d = 1,74).

Dion Nowoweiski, författare till studien om ätstörningar
Dion Nowoweiski


I kostnadseffektivitetsanalysen visade man vidare att behandlingen ledde till stora kostnadsbesparingar. Man sparade runt $15000 kanadensiska dollar per patient över de tre år som följde behandlingen. Detta beror på minskade sjukhus- och läkarkostnader. Om jag räknar om det till svenska kronor och avrundar så ger alltså en investering om 10 000 SEK per patient en besparing om 110000 SEK. För varje investerad krona får samhället alltså tillbaka tio. (Läs mer om kostnadseffektivitet här eller här)

Trots sina begränsningar (litet stickprov, ostrukturerad diagnostik, inget specifikt ätstörningsmått, ingen kontrollgrupp osv.) så är det här en viktig publikation. Inte minst som ett steg på vägen mot framtida studier som kan ge mer definitiva svar på om ISTDP erbjuder en ny väg för ätstörningsbehandlingar. Ett nytt hopp för en patientgrupp där vården inte har så mycket att erbjuda.

Nowoweiski D, Abbass A, Town J, Keshen A, Kisely S. An observational study of the treatment and cost effectiveness of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy on a cohort of eating disorder patients. J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2020; 3(1): 1030. 

ISTDP för social ångest: ny studie

I dagarna har en forskargrupp vid Kurdiska Universitetet i Iran ledda av Fateh Rahmani och Allan Abbass publicerat den första RCT-studien på ISTDP vid social ångest. I studien randomiserades 41 universitetsstudenter med social ångest till ISTDP eller väntelistekontroll. Korta behandlingsserier om 8-10 sessioner ledde till stora effekter på social ångest och socialt undvikande (cohen’s d = 1,2-1,5) jämfört med kontrollgruppen.

Fateh Rahmani som lett studien som undersökt ISTDP vid social ångest
Fateh Rahmani

I studien hade man delat in deltagarna som fick ISTDP i två grupper. En som betonade omstrukturerande av försvar (Defense focused-ISTDP, DF-ISTDP) och en som betonade upplevelsen av känslor (Feeling focused-ISTDP, FF-ISTDP). Såhär beskriver författarna de olika interventionerna:

Feeling focused-ISTDP had less attention to defense reconstructing versus Defense focused-ISTDP where every single defense and its role in the patient’s life and psychopathology was clarified. This comprehensive focus on defense modification aimed at removing the resistance.

Inga skillnader mellan behandlingarna

Precis som det brukar vara i psykoterapiforskning så fann man inga skillnader mellan de båda aktiva interventionerna. Författarna själva menar att detta kan ha att göra med stickprovets litenhet. Givetvis kan det också ha att göra med det återkommande fyndet i psykoterapiforskningen att behandlingsmanualen brukar stå för en väldigt liten del av den förklarade variansen. För ISTDP som forskningsfält är det givetvis ett intressant fynd, då det kanske kan innebära att man tar fram en “nedbantad” version av ISTDP på sikt. En version som inte är lika svår att lära sig.

Detta är ju vad man gjort inom KBT-fältet med Beteendeaktivering, som ursprungligen bara var en av många komponenter i Becks depressionsbehandling. Se till exempel den här klassiska studien på olika varianter av KBT för depression som inte heller fann några skillnader mellan den “enklare” och den “mer komplexa” behandlingsvarianten.

Studien har ett antal viktiga begränsningar, såsom att stickprovet var litet, att diagnostiska bedömningar inte gjordes strukturerat och att studien bara hade två terapeuter. Trots detta så är den ett välkommet bidrag till den ökande evidensbasen för ISTDP.

Rahmani, F., Abbass, A., Hemmati, A., Mirghaed, Sahar R., Ghaffari, N. (2020) The Efficacy of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy for Social Anxiety Disorder Randomized Trial and Substudy of Emphasizing Feeling Versus Defense Work. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, ahead of print.

Allan Abbass: “It is very important for mainstream medicine to realize the impact of attachment trauma on healthcare use”

At the IEDTA conference in Boston a few weeks ago, the board of the IEDTA announced that the president of the association, Nat Kuhn, would be substituted by Allan Abbass. Here’s a short interview with Allan on the topic of his presidency, the conference and the future.

Allan at the Stockholm Immersion, august 2019

How does it feel to be the new president of the IEDTA?
I’m very pleased and honored to be the president of this organization. The IEDTA is now a fairly robust group of trainers, researchers and psychotherapy enthusiasts who have a primary interest in the roles of emotion and attachment in accelerated psychotherapy models.

What are your plans as the new president?
My three main goals for the coming two years include 1) encouraging people to research and publish in the treatment methods, 2) disseminate the information about the range of application and effectiveness of the EDT methods, and 3) wider engagement toward broadening our collaborative community of professionals and its connection to the wider field of psychotherapy. I believe that an academic focus on these treatments is very important in order to reach wider audiences, demonstrate the method, and illustrate its strengths and limitations as a healing method. More broadly it is very important for mainstream medicine to realize the impact of attachment trauma on healthcare use, social burden and general population health: in this way the efforts of Malan, Davanloo and others can inform a reorganization of healthcare where the person and his or her attachment system are place front and center for a more holistic approach.

Do you have any specific ideas as to how you’d like to develop this academic focus or get EDT into the mainstream?
One idea is to develop a research section on the IEDTA webpage. There have been many new articles and psychology journal articles in Scandinavia, Canada and beyond reviewing EDT methods.Another plan in the works is to develop an Academic Email group that would include the 150+ people who do research or teach in EDT methods so they can share ideas.Ultimately it will be people in their local areas who show their videos, teach colleagues and share their ideas that will widen knowledge and access about these powerful methods.

What are some of the challenges facing the association in the coming years?
The association relies on volunteers to conduct its activity. This can make certain activities more of a challenge. However, there are a significant number of energetic and capable volunteers including my fellow board members Chip Cooper, Leon Baruh, Ron Albucher and previous presidents Nat Kuhn, Kristin Osborn, Jessica Bolton, Ferruccio Osimo and Allen Kalpin and the many colleagues who helped make this last IEDTA conference and previous ones great successes.

What did you find the most surprising or exciting at the conference in Boston?
As usual it was a very enjoyable and collegial atmosphere where a broad range of case material and theories were examined. There was a pleasant social environment with openness to presenting and learning from one another. For people who haven’t been at these meetings, it is quite warm and encouraging meeting attended by people from all over the world at various stages of their careers and from various backgrounds: the world was there.

What would you like say to people thinking about going to the next conference in Venice in 2021?
Having presented and collaborated with the Italian ISTDP trainers and researchers over the past 10 years, this Italian conference promises to be an and enjoyable one set in the historical city of Venice. Stay tuned for updates as conference planning proceeds but it will be in October 2021 so mark your calendar!

Do you have anything else you’d like to comment on before we wrap up the interview?
Historically psychoanalysts were expected to weigh in public policies and political issues. The knowledge of human emotions, behaviors and attachment compels us to want to make the world a better place beyond just treating individual patients. So with knowledge comes responsibility and burden to contribute to the world, to try to improve the lives of people and to try to improve self-care and the care of vulnerable others in this world.