​2023 ISTDP Trial Therapy Course


Dr. Joel Town, DClinPsy

I am pleased to announce this new online monthly course for 2023 that should be of interest to clinicians with different levels of experience with ISTDP. If you are newer to ISTDP you’ll see multiple examples of how to establish a dynamic focus and conduct a psychodiagnosis. For more experienced clinicians, you’ll be able to hone your skills in psychodiagnostics, restructuring and mobilisation work with the detailed case review. The online format offers an opportunity for clinicians from different regions and countries to participate in this supportive monthly learning group.

Course Description

In this monthly 6-part ISTDP online course, running from January to June, we will study the trial therapy format. The initial ISTDP session serves an important assessment function for the therapist and client to be able to plan a course of treatment. Both parties ideally feel prepared and confident about working together following the trial. Research demonstrates the effectiveness of the trial therapy which can lead to immediate client gains. Developing skills and knowledge around conducting trial therapies is therefore a central element to being a more effective ISTDP therapist.

In this course, the plan will be to review the entirety of a trial therapy session each month. Case presentations will cover clients with resistance, resistance with repression and fragile character structure. This will allow for a focus on the phases of inquiry, psychodiagnosis, mobilisation of the unconscious, capacity building, unlocking of the unconscious, recapitulation and treatment planning within trials. The decision-making process and rational for transitioning between these different phases, as they apply to different patients, will be assessed through the use of case material and review of the course slides. We will first consider the steps in finding a dynamic focus, to be able to conduct a psychodiagnosis, through inquiry and eliciting an Attachment Theme. The process of establishing a psychodiagnosis will be reviewed with each case using a framework for operationalising the spectrum of ‘resistance’ and ‘fragile character structure’. To do this, at regular intervals during each case review, we will pause the tape and discuss observable psychodiagnostic data based on specific parameters. Common learning challenges around carrying out psychodiagnosis will be considered, and suggestions for therapist learning will be discussed.

Each month a new case will be presented, including objective measures of diagnoses, symptom distress, and anonymised information on mental health and treatment history. The purpose of reviewing this is to provide an opportunity to integrate other sources of assessment information alongside in-session ISTDP psychodiagnostic impressions. Client post-session outcomes on session process and symptoms will also be presented. This will be used to facilitate discussion around the important elements of the trial therapy session.

Time and dates

These 3-hour sessions will start at 10am Pacific Time; 1:00pm Eastern Time; 6:00pm Greenwich Mean Time; 7:00pm Central European Time, on the first Wednesday of each month: January 4th, February 1st, March 1st, April 5th, May 3rd, June 7th.

Course Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe principles for establishing task agreement
  2. Describe how to recognise and respond to barriers to engagement
  3. Explain principles for when to take a history vs dynamic inquiry
  4. Describe the use of an Attachment Theme to structure the interview
  5. Describe the steps in conducting an ISTDP psychodiagnostic assessment
  6. Explain the process of searching for a dynamic focus when there are no signals
  7. Recognise the spectrum of repressive and smooth muscle anxiety responses
  8. Recognise the spectrum of primitive defences and cognitive perceptual anxiety responses
  9. Recognise when to do capacity building or unlock
  10. Learn to use a framework for operationalising ISTDP theory and psychodiagnosing cases of ‘resistance’ and ‘fragility’
  11. Describe principles for treatment planning
  12. Recognise how to integrate assessment information collected through ISTDP psychodiagnosis and mental health assessment
  13. Describe variables for interpreting the impacts and outcomes of a trial therapy


To protect patient confidentiality, all participants will be asked to sign a condition of admittance and need to be registered mental healthcare professionals or students registered in clinical programs. For this online course, participants also need to have completed or are participating in an ISTDP/EDT core training program, or are ISTDP/EDT trainers, or their associates. Please contact me with any questions.

Course Fees & Payment

To register please contact info@dynamichealthservices.ca.

The cost to attend all 6 sessions is 1000 Canadian Dollars. Payment for the full course is requested to reserve a place. I can prorate the cost of the training if you are unable to attend one session. Please contact me for student rate (in full-time education) or if there are financial barriers to you being able to attend.

6080 Young Street, Suite 301, Halifax, Nova Scotia  B3K 5L2

Phone: (902) 444-3443
Fax: (902) 444-3104

Email: info@dynamichealthservices.ca