ISTDP in the UK

Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) was developed during the 1960s by Dr Habib Davanloo, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from Montreal, who grew frustrated with the length and relatively limited efficacy of psychoanalysis. Dr Davanloo’s empirical discoveries were based on extensive videotaping of psychotherapy sessions. Current ISTDP practice applies his clinical understanding and techniques whilst also incorporating insights from interpersonal neurobiology and affective neurosciences.

In the UK there is a tradition of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy dating back to the brief therapy workshops at the Tavistock Clinic initiated by Michael Balint in the 1950s. Dr David Malan, the renowned psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, became part of that group and his subsequent work has done much to advance the understanding and application of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Dr Davanloo subsequently collaborated with Dr David Malan and he and his wife, an educational psychologist, were instrumental in introducing ISTDP to the UK. In 2006, the Malans convened the first ISTDP conference in Oxford where leading clinicians presented video recordings of their work.

At this conference, a great deal of interest in ISTDP was generated and a Core Training in ISTDP began in London later that year. Teaching was subsequently provided by international ISTDP trainers including Allan Abbass, Patricia Coughlin, Josette ten Have-de Labije, Rob Neborsky and Jon Frederickson.  The members of this first Core Training group founded ISTDP-UK in 2008.

Since then, 10 Core training Groups have been formed and the register of qualified ISTDP therapists in the UK is increasing year by year.

Our trainers

ISTDP-UK trainers are experienced clinicians who provide psychotherapy, as well as training and supervision. ISTDP-UK trainers and core training programmes are accredited by the International Association of Experiential Dynamic Therapies (


Alexandra Knowles

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Alexandra Knowles is a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) through the Universities Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (UPCA). She is an Honorary member of The Forum for Independent Psychotherapists which she founded in 1997.

Prior to her ISTDP specialisation, she spent many years in private practice working with individuals and couples. She also worked in The Arbours Therapeutic Communities and the Crisis Centre and was Director of Arbours Training for eight years.

Following the first ISTDP Oxford Conference in 2006, she joined the first group of UK therapists to be trained in ISTDP by Patricia Coughlin, Jon Frederickson, Robert Neborsky and Josette ten have-de Labije. Since then she has presented her work at various national and international conferences.

In her private practice she works with individuals and couples, mainly seeing people for ‘block therapy’. In addition, she is involved in the teaching and supervising of ISTDP. Alexandra is an accredited IEDTA teacher and supervisor.

Course Consultant

Dr Robert Neborsky


Robert J. Neborsky, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Del Mar, California, and a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine and UCLA School of Medicine (Hon). Dr Neborsky initially trained in ISTDP with Dr Habib Davanloo in the 1980s, and in 2003 he was one of the founders of the Southern California Society for IS-TDP. He was also a founding member on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy.

Dr. Neborsky’s professional activities include training students in the techniques of his unique Attachment-Based Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (AB-ISTDP) and presenting at local, national and international symposia. He co-authored Short-Term Therapy for Long Term Change (Norton, 2001) and is a contributing author of Healing Trauma (Norton, 2003). In 2010, he edited and published The Collected Writings of Robert J Neborsky, MD along with The Collected Writings of Josette ten Have de Labije, (Itasca). In 2011, he co-authored Mastering Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy: A Roadmap to the Unconscious.


Leo Russell

Clinical Psychologist

Dr Leo Russell (DClinPsych) is a is a chartered Clinical Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. He is an IEDTA and ISTDP-UK accredited trainer and supervisor. His clinical practice is in the NHS working as service lead for the Functional Neurological Symptoms Service at Devon Partnership Trust where he specialised in ISTDP for medically unexplained symptoms.

Having trained under Dr Neborsky, his work draws on attachment theory and affective neuroscience as a framework for understanding causes of mental health difficulties and somatic symptoms. He has published research on the application and efficacy of ISTDP for functional presentations. He has taught and presented on ISTDP at national conferences, symposiums and seminars, as well as leading a regular programme of ISTDP teaching on the Clinical Psychology Doctorates at Exeter and Plymouth University. He also delivers an ISTDP foundation training programme in his local NHS Trust as a project to increase availability of ISTDP informed practice within specialist NHS services.


James Louis


Dr James Louis is a Consultant Psychiatrist in North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. He is also a qualified practitioner of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy. He completed his core training in ISTDP with Josette ten Have-de Labije and Dr Rob Neborsky.

He specialises in working with adults with a range of complex difficulties and is also endorsed by the General Medical Council in the treatment and management of mental health problems associated with physical health issues. In addition, he also provides training, consultation, and supervision to mental health professionals including trainee psychiatrists based both within and outside of the UK.

In addition to being a member of ISTDP UK and an Advanced Member of IEDTA, Dr James Louis is a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and also of the British Society of Clinical Hypnosis.

Our shadowers (Trainers in training)

ISTDP-UK shadowers (or “Trainers in Training”) are senior clinicians who have completed a 3-year core training in ISTDP and are undertaking further training to advance both their therapeutic and training skills.

Ofra Anker

Ofra (MA) is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and ISTDP Practitioner. She is a UKCP Listed Supervisor. She has over 25 years experience working as a psychotherapist with individuals and couples. In addition to her practice, her work included: over 20 years teaching, training and group facilitating in a private Psychotherapy School in North London. She was a member of UKCP Board of Directors for 3 years and a UKCP/HIPC Chair of Assessment Board for almost 10 years. She is currently running a private practice in Central and North London.

Patsy McGill

Patsy McGill (MSc Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy) is registered and accredited by the BACP. She works both in private practice and psychological services, providing assessment and treatment to adults. She has experience as a Clinical Lead in an IAPT service, providing managerial support and clinical supervision to therapists, as well as providing short-term psychotherapy. Patsy was part of the Core 6 (2015) group and has further advanced training with ISTDP-UK.

Dr Javier Malda Castillo

Dr Javier Malda Castillo (DClinPsych) is a chartered Clinical Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.  He is an accredited MBT therapist by the Anna Freud Centre, a Group Analytic Practitioner and associate member of the Institute of Group Analysis (IGA) and completed psychodynamic psychotherapy (D58) training in the Tavistock Clinic.

His ISTDP journey started in Core 8 under the supervision of Dr Sharon Lewis, Dr Neborsky and Alexandra Knowles. Since then, his work integrates ISTDP, attachment theory as well as independent school psychoanalytic principles. He has a particular interest in working with adults who have experienced complex trauma as well as medically unexplained symptoms.

Heather McCartney

Heather is an analytical psychotherapist with long experience of training psychotherapists. She completed Core Training in ISTDP with ISTDP UK and  offers ISTDP therapy in private practice online and face to face (in Cheltenham). She has a firm grounding in psychoanalytic concepts and loves the way in which ISTDP distils the essence of psychoanalysis into an accessible, briefer modality in a highly effective way.

Dr Seh Rho, Counselling Psychologist, central London

Dr Seh Rho is a Counselling Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. She has worked in the NHS for over a decade as a clinician and supervisor as well as enjoys her role as Visiting Lecturer at City University of London’s Counselling Psychology doctorate programme. She has experience working with a range of emotional and physical health difficulties from anxiety, depression to medically unexplained symptoms with a specialist interest in cross-cultural issues. She currently has availability and offers both online and face-to-face sessions; her consultation room is 5 minutes’ walking distance from Victoria station.

Dr Anthony Wharton, Clinical Psychologist, Plymouth

Dr Anthony Wharton is a Clinical Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Dr Wharton works in a rural NHS community adult mental health team in Devon and in a systemic family therapy service, part-time. He has worked in the NHS for over 16 years and is experienced in providing psychotherapy to people who suffer from a wide range of social, emotional, physical and mental health problems that are underpinned by complex trauma. Anthony has a particular interest in working with health, depression, anxiety and emotional regulation, relational and embodied trauma, inclusive of somatic or medically unexplained physical symptoms.
Dr Wharton is currently taking on new referrals for private practice.

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Data Controller
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PO Box 3390

Data Protection Officer
Alexandra Knowles
ISTDP UK Limited

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