Study Group – Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy: Working with Anxiety and Resistance
Facilitated by Liz Alfson, MD

3 Fridays | April 26 – May 10, 2024

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM (Central Time)
via Zoom

4.5 CEU/CE Credits (1.5 per session)


Full Member: $75
Student/Retired Member: $45
Non-Members: $90
Fanon Fund (Black or indigenous participants): Free
Please contact for information on the Fanon Fund.

Instructional Level: Beginner – Advanced

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is an experiential therapy created by Habib Davanloo. In this study group, we will learn the basics of ISTDP with a dual focus on moment-to-moment interventions to address resistance and to regulate excessive anxiety, both of which can present significant barriers to therapeutic progress. We will review psychotherapy video in order to see these techniques in practice, tracking one patient’s progress over multiple sessions. The content will be accessible to mental health professionals at all levels of training who are not familiar with ISTDP.

Session 1: April 26, 2024
Reading: Chapters 1-5
1. Describe the basics of ISTDP and what differentiates ISTDP from traditional psychodynamic therapy.
2. Describe Malan’s triangles and how these are used to guide moment-to-moment intervention.
Session 2: May 3, 2024
Reading: Chapters 9-11; optional reading Chapter 14
1. Describe interventions to address defenses and resistance in ISTDP.
2. Identify nonverbal signs of syntonic resistance.
Session 3: May 10, 2024
Reading: Chapter 15; optional reading: Chapters 16 and 17
1. Identify different kinds of nonverbal anxiety signals.
2. Describe ISTDP interventions to address elevated anxiety in session.
3. Describe how ISTDP treatment is modified in patients with high anxiety and primitive defenses.

Liz Alfson, MD, is a psychiatrist in private practice in Austin, doing nearly exclusively psychotherapy with or without medication management. She attended medical school at the University of Virginia and residency training at Harvard Longwood in Boston, MA, where she was a chief resident. She has completed a core training in ISTDP with Allan Abbass, MD and Joel Town, PhD and has been involved in learning ISTDP since 2016. She is affiliate faculty at the University of Virginia, where she teaches a course on ISTDP to PGY3 and PGY4 residents.


Abbass AA, Kisely SR, Town JM, Leichsenring F, Driessen E, DeMaat S, Gerber A, Dekker J, Rabung S, Rusalovska S, Crowe E (2014). Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapies for common mental disorders (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 7.

Town JM, Abbass A, Stride C, Bernier D (2017). A randomised controlled trial of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy for treatment resistant depression: the Halifax Depression Study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 214:15-25.

Solbakken OA, Abbass A (2015). Intensive short-term dynamic residential treatment program for patients with treatment-resistant disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders 181:67-77.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content.  Austin Psychoanalytic is approved by the Texas State Board of Social Workers Examiners (Provider # 5501) to provide continuing education for social workers and the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (Provider #1138). We also meet the requirements to provide continuing education for the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. This program, when attended in its entirety, is available for 1.5 continuing education credits. Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities. Division 39 is also committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns and any complaints to There is no commercial support for this program nor are there any relationships between the CE Sponsor, presenting organization, presenter, program content, research, grants, or other funding that could reasonably be construed as conflicts of interest. Participants will be informed of the utility/validity of the content/approach discussed (including the basis for the statements about validity/utility), as well as the limitations of the approach and most common (and severe) risks, if any, associated with the program’s content.