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Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Outcome Research

Abbass, Allan MD1; Town, Joel DClinPsych1; Driessen, Ellen MSc1

doi: 10.3109/10673229.2012.677347

Habib Davanloo has spent his career developing and teaching methods to accelerate dynamic psychotherapy, including his technique of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy (ISTDP). Over the past 20 years, outcome studies using this treatment have been conducted and published. We performed a systematic review of the literature to obtain studies presenting ISTDP outcome data. We found 21 studies (10 controlled, and 11 uncontrolled) reporting the effects of ISTDP in patients with mood, anxiety, personality, and somatic disorders. Using the random-effects model, we performed meta-analyses including 13 of these studies and found pre- to post-treatment effect sizes (Cohen's d ) ranging from 0.84 (interpersonal problems) to 1.51 (depression). Post-treatment to follow-up effect sizes suggested that these gains were maintained at follow-up. Based on post-treatment effect sizes, ISTDP was significantly more efficacious than control conditions ( d = 1.18; general psychopathology measures). Study quality was highly variable, and there was significant heterogeneity in some analyses. Eight studies using various measures suggested ISTDP was cost-effective. Within limitations of study methodologies, this evidence supports the application of ISTDP across a broad range of populations. Further rigorous and targeted research into this method is warranted.

1 From the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University (Drs. Abbass and Town); Centre for Emotions and Health, Dalhousie, Nova Scotia (Drs. Abbass and Town); Department of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University of Amsterdam (Ms. Driessen).

Correspondence: Allan Abbass, 8203-5909 Veterans Memorial Lane, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 2E2, Canada. Email:

Original manuscript received April 15, 2011; revised manuscript received August 26, 2011; accepted for publication December 9, 2011.

© 2012 President and Fellows of Harvard College
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