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ISTDP-UK is an organisation dedicated to the promotion and development of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) in the UK. The organisation aims to inform the public about ISTDP, to provide training for therapists in this method of treatment, and to provide information about accredited ISTDP therapists who practice in the UK. The organisation delivers Core Training in ISTDP in addition to hosting conferences and seminars.

ISTDP was initially developed by Dr Habib Davanloo in Montreal in the 1960s. Dr Davanloo subsequently collaborated with the renowned psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr David Malan at the Tavistock Clinic in London.

In 2006, Dr David Malan and his wife Jennie Malan convened the first ISTDP conference in Oxford. At this conference, a great deal of interest in ISTDP was generated and a Core Training in ISTDP began later that year. Teaching was provided by a range of international ISTDP trainers including Patricia Coughlin, Rob Neborsky and Jon Frederickson.  The members of this first Core Training group founded ISTDP-UK in 2008.

Dr Robert Neborsky ( has continued to work closely with ISTDP-UK since its inception. He has travelled frequently to the UK to deliver training and to develop ISTDP within the British context. ISTDP-UK training programmes are strongly influenced by the attachment-based ISTDP approach developed by Dr Neborsky and Dr Josette ten Have-de Labije.

Dr Davanloo’s empirical discoveries, based on scrutiny of extensive videotaping of psychotherapy sessions, led to the development of the technique ISTDP, which emphasizes the importance of experiencing core affect in order to effect cure of psychoneuroses and some personality disorders.

Davanloo’s central thesis was that disrupted attachment bonds caused pain, rage, guilt and grief towards the object and those feelings formed a complex under the control of a self punitive structure which caused the patient to move from adaptive strivings to an unhealthy state of repetition compulsion.

Attachment Based ISTDP builds on this central thesis and goes one step further in stating that the pathological superego repeats the exact attachment trauma in the form of the pathological superego, and the patient’s ego adaptive defences become co-opted to placate the demands of the internalized aggressor.

This understanding has lead to a change in technique wherein the patient is asked to identify the “eyes of the superego,” make conscious its commands or “dictates” and declare freedom from its control. This inevitably results in deep feelings of compassion (self -love) or profound grief over self-sabotage.

Attachment Based ISTDP also relies on research from the child study laboratory of Mary Main regarding the way in which attachment security is reflected in both coherence of autobiographical narrative as well as the development of linguistic structures. In short, the capacity to feel core emotion with love, care and precision makes us healthier, smarter and more resilient.

In addition to Dr Neborsky and UK based trainers Alexandra Knowles and Dr Sharon Lewis, we have a rolling programme of international ISTDP clinicians who continue to present trainings and conferences with ISTDP-UK.

ISTDP-UK trainers and Core Trainings are accredited by the International Association of Experiential Dynamic Therapies (IEDTA). IEDTA is the international accrediting body for the group of psychotherapies that have developed based on ISTDP principles (

Further details about the development of ISTDP can be found in our “Background” section below.

The founding members and officers of ISTDP-UK comprise
senior clinicians and psychotherapists



Sharon Lewis

Training Officer

Alexandra Knowles


Leo Russell

Membership Secretary

Anthony Theuninck


In the U.K. there is a tradition of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy dating back to the brief therapy workshops at the Tavistock Clinic initiated by Michael Balint in the 1950s. David Malan became part of this group and his subsequent work has done much to advance the understanding and application of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy.

The method of ISTDP was developed during the 1960s and 1970s by Habib Davanloo, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from Montreal who grew frustrated with the length and relatively limited efficacy of psychoanalysis. ISTDP applies his clinical interpretations and techniques while incorporating insights from interpersonal neurobiology and affective neurosciences.

David Malan was recruited by Davanloo to consult on the development of ISTDP and later was instrumental in communicating the methods of ISTDP to aspiring practitioners. Malan’s influence continues to be of especially great significant in how ISTDP has developed within the UK.

While ISTDP shares roots with classical psychoanalysis, it also differs in important ways. The ISTDP therapist is an active advocate of change rather than a neutral observer. Instead of making interpretations, the therapist relies on non-interpretive techniques including encouragement to feel; challenge to take responsibility to change; and confrontation of resistance to change.

For an article on the Background of ISTDP, please click here Background_of_ISTDP