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Intensive Psychotherapy: Can This Treatment Help During Rehab?

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Gone are the days of a demure therapist sitting in a chair while calmly asking a client how they’re feeling.

A controversial new method of psychotherapy actually encourages patients to fly into a violent rage, but could break through the subconscious shame and childhood traumas often linked to drug addiction.

Using Tension as a Tool?

Created by Habib Davanloo, MD, Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) involves the therapist intentionally trying to upset their patient and using their childhood traumas to escalate the tension in the room. The goal is to push them to an intense state of mental anguish as quickly as possible until they break down.

The treatment is intended for those patients with symptoms such as anxiety and depression, but who also have symptoms without a medically identifiable cause such as headache, shortness of breath and sudden weakness.

Unintended Consequences

But one of the most well-known practitioners, Dr. Tewfik Said of McGill University in Montreal, admitted that the breaking point can lead a patient to have feelings of literally wanting to kill their therapist. But morbidly, Said revealed that ISTDP therapists actually see this as a positive thing.

“This anxiety is positive because it helps mobilize the therapeutic alliance. Most of the time murderous rage is considered positive anxiety,” Said told VICE. “If, on the other hand, they become detached or disorganized in their anxiety, this signals to me to back off or change the direction of my pressure because their anxiety is unproductive.”

However, there is no true data on the efficacy of ISTDP for treating drug addiction or or general behavioral addictions. Randomized control trials haven’t been conducted on it and those that mention ISTDP didn’t distinguish it from other forms of short-term dynamic psychotherapy. And although its practitioners report high levels of patient satisfaction, this ultimately amounts to little more than testimonials.

Alternative Treatment Options

But if reliving traumas isn’t your style of treatment, there are plenty of other options besides ISTDP. Most people prefer environments of social support, whether it’s through a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or volunteering at a local charity. Nurturing words and actions relieve stress and promote recovery just as effectively, and perhaps even more so, then literally traumatizing the trauma out of someone.


Additional Reading:  New Treatment Drug Also Decreases Desire for Meth



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