Everyone would like to solve problems quickly. Patients want quick results, they want to feel better and do better. Therapists don’t want to waste time, they want to be effective and efficient. Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (STDP) is a brief, experiential, dynamic therapy developed with these goals in mind. STDP therapists are active and problems are solved in weeks or months rather than years.Often patients don’t know how to clearly describe their problems. In STDP this lack of clarity can be reframed as an opportunity to solve a puzzle. It’s an invitation to personal growth. STDP therapists want to help patients grow healthier as well as solve problems.
When problems are due to the overuse of defenses, STDP therapists quickly point out the defense mechanisms so that the patients automatic use of them is disrupted. Patients who habitually try to block out thoughts and feelings begin to learn how their avoidance increases their suffering and how doing the opposite, exploring their thoughts and feelings, decreases their suffering.
STDP explores both your cognitions (what you think) and your experiences (what you feel physically) while persistently focusing on emotions. Understanding and explaining the underpinnings of feelings and emotions are key elements of the treatment. These underpinnings are the neuromuscular, endocrine, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal processes responsible for the feelings and emotions.
Explaining these processes reduces fear and confusion. For example, if you understand that your heart is racing because your body needs to get blood to your head and muscles so you can be empowered to deal with a crisis, the racing sensation of your blood can become reassuring rather than frightening.
STDP also relies on learning theory and nonverbal sensory techniques. Repetition and practice are used to master skills. Nonverbal techniques uncover buried treasures. We come into the world as nonverbal beings that rely on reading facial expressions and physical sensations to connect with our caregivers. As we become more verbal, we tend to rely less on the nonverbal and may even lose track of essential nonverbal skills, experiences and sensations. Notice a young child’s joy in just touching things, how he relishes variety in texture and temperature. Regaining that non-verbal capacity not only helps us solve problems, it enriches each day.
Another element of STDP is empathic interaction. When empathizing with a patient, the therapist ”walks in the patient’s shoes,” thinking the patient’s thoughts and feeling the physical sensations the patient is feeling.
An example of an empathic interaction is when the therapist tells a distraught patient about the physical sensation, such as a tightening of the chest, that the therapist experiences when empathizing with patient. Such disclosure links patient and therapist and together they can better face powerful sensations connected with fear, pain, or rage. The patient now moves from avoidance to engagement.
There are many STDP variants that share the core STDP goals. A variant that focuses on the use of empathy and empathic interaction, is Accelerated Empathic Therapy. You can read more about this approach in “Accelerated Empathic Therapy (AET).”
Copyright © 2013 The STDP Institute.