Do you strive to be more effective as a therapist? Do you want to build your skills to be optimally responsive to your patients' therapeutic needs? Want to learn assessment and intervention skills that can improve outcomes and reduce dropout? ISTDP is an evidence-based therapy model that offers an attachment-focused system of assessment and intervention that can help you increase your attunement and effectiveness with a wide range of patients.

The focus on attachment and response-to-intervention in ISTDP training helps therapists to:

  • Identify and address interpersonal avoidance behaviors that can block therapy success
  • Identify and address a wide range of anxiety responses sot hat patients can gain the courage to face what they usually avoid
  • Help even the most fragile clients to build their capacity to overcome avoidance and anxiety so they can experience and learn from their emotions and memories

ISTDP has been found to be uniquely effective with treatment-resistant and somatoform conditions, and has been found to be cost-effective, with shortened treatment lengths, across a wide range of conditions. The faculty of the ISTDP program are committed to a culture of compassion in which we co-create with you a culture of compassion in which we can learn new ways to be with ourselves and our patients. Graduates of our program tell us that they not only learned theory and skills; they became more effective because they were helped to integrate the model with their own personal strengths and style.


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.


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

Learning Objectives

  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.


Program Structure

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. 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, 4:00 to 6:00PM, 10 sessions per year. The second and third year classes meet for three 3-day core-training weekends.

All classes will be virtual for 2020-21.


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


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.


Stuart Andrews, PhD, Chair

Janet Merkel, PhD, Co-Chair

Jon Fredrickson, MSW

Timothy Freitas, PsyD

Maurice Joseph, PsyD

Margo Silberstein, EdD

Jack Tawil, MSW

Guest Faculty:

Michelle May, LPC

Joy McCrady, MS, LCPC

Diane Miller,  MSW


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



The Washington School of Psychiatry

5028 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20016-4118

Call us at 202-237-2700 or 202-537-6050

Celebrating its 84th year, the School is an accredited provider of post-graduate continuing education.

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.

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