For the past three years, our colleagues in the Swiss Society for Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy ( have organised a series of training modules with Professor Allan Abbass.

Professor Abbass ( is the Director of the Centre for Emotions and Health at Dalhousie University (  and these events are a welcome opportunity to see his work in Europe. I have so far attended three of these modules, in the Swiss cities of Olten and Bern. Around fifty delegates attend each training, the atmosphere is warm and friendly and there is lots of opportunity to network with ISTDP practitioners from around the world.

Each block consists of three days of training. Over the first two days, Prof Abbass presents a series of video presentations of his cases to illustrate ISTDP techniques. On the final day, he offers video-based supervision of participants’ own cases.

The seminars are divided into specific diagnostic categories, in order to help clinicians to develop a clear understanding of different symptom patterns and to tailor therapy interventions accordingly.  Some of the topics that have been covered include: working with moderate and high resistant patients, as well as those patients who repress emotion in to the body and suffer with physical symptoms (so called “medically unexplained symptoms” or functional medical disorders).

In the most recent block, which took place in March 2018, the focus was on patients who fall on the fragile spectrum. Prof Abbass illustrated how it is possible to work towards psychic integration in the most severe of cases, before moving on to the graded format in order to build increased capacity to experience emotion.  Fascinating case studies were presented, including patients suffering from fugue states, multiple personality disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder.

The final block of the three-year series will take place from 17 to 19 August 2018 in Bern.  This course will provide an overview of the spectrum of patients suitable for ISTDP, with case illustrations and a recap of techniques and interventions. Topics will include:

  • Metapsychology review & update on the state of evidence for ISTDP
  • Initiating ISTDP therapy
  • Working with moderate resistant patients
  • Techniques to work with highly resistant patients
  • Patients presenting with high resistance and repression (eg: into smooth muscle or conversion)
  • Assessment of fragile character structure, depressive and psychotic disorders.

In March 2018, participants from ten countries attended, including Portugal, Australia, the UK and the USA. Given the growing popularity of these events, and Prof Abbass’s enthusiasm, it looks hopeful that the Swiss Society will continue to develop this programme further and to continue to further immersion courses.  For further information contact Dr Pierre-Alain Emmenegger: [email protected] or see

Post by Dr Sharon Lewis, [email protected]