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Treating Medically Unexplained Symptoms with Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy

Friday 23rd October 2020

The Met Hotel, King Street, Leeds, LS1 2HQ

9.00am Registration, 9.30am Welcome and 4.30pm Close


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A number of patients experience bodily symptoms for which no clear physical cause can be identified. These difficulties may be referred to as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), psychosomatic  or functional neurological disorders. Symptoms of MUS range from chronic pain to pseudo-seizures as well as various neurological symptoms such as dizziness or weakness.

There is strong evidence to indicate that for some patients MUS are caused by emotional dysregulation and traumatic experiences, but without effective strategies to diagnose and treat emotional factors, these patients at risk of incurring unnecessary invasive procedures and medications.

ISTDP is an emotion-focused, accelerated form of dynamic psychotherapy which has been shown to be effective in diagnosing and treating patients presenting with MUS. ISTDP focuses on the unconscious emotional processes that are believed to underlie many physical and somatic difficulties such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, headache, muscle weakness and other mind body problems. This active approach comprises a targeted set of techniques focused on processing emotional blockages responsible for symptoms of psychological distress. ISTDP has a robust evidence base with over forty studies demonstrating effectiveness for a broad spectrum of psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, somatization, medically unexplained symptoms and personality problems. Research indicates that positive outcomes are long lasting and that patients continue to improve after termination.

Led by Dr Sharon Lewis, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, ISTDP London, this one-day workshop will provide an overview of the theoretical framework of ISTDP and a review of the current evidence base. The unique elements of ISTDP will be highlighted, including: the emphasis on the somatic experience of emotions in the here and now; monitoring unconscious signalling of anxiety in the body; and an active approach to maladaptive defence mechanisms. 

The workshop will outline specific interview techniques to directly diagnose emotional factors and video presentations of clinical sessions will be shown to demonstrate the key treatment principles for patients presenting with MUS.

After attending this course delegates will be able to…

  • Understand the theoretical framework of ISTDP
  • Understand specific interview techniques used to diagnose
    emotional factors causing physical symptoms
  • Understand how unconscious anxiety and other emotional processes may underlie
    many physical and somatic difficulties

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