Transforming lives with Dynamic Psychotherapy

Jack Hayes

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

These words from C.S. Lewis form the foundations and practice of Carlton based psychologists, Dynamic Psychotherapy.

The Drummond St practice specialises in Intensive Short-term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP), an “accelerated form of psychodynamic psychotherapy designed to provide rapid access to the unconscious and deep and lasting change.”

Founder and director of Dynamic Psychotherapy Dr Julie Cochrane has already had a long and decorated career in the field of psychology, however, the journey to opening her own practice started with a formative beginning in the police force.

“With that you see a lot of people who are suffering both in the community and the police system,” Dr Cochrane said. “There was something in that that drove me to want to find skills that would give people a chance to suffer less emotionally.”

“I saw these young people come in who were incredibly idealistic and want to be a positive change for the community but that constant exposure to trauma can erode even the most positive spirit.”

In 1996, after studying the work of ISTDP founder, Dr Habib Davanloo, and the teachings of British author, David Malan, Dr Cochrane became Australia’s first practitioner of ISTDP.

Given her lived experience, Dr Cochrane has a particular interest in working with first responders experiencing PTSD.

“Trauma doesn’t have to shape the rest of your life. Sometimes it can mean having a crisis to change your life and give you a better future,” Dr Cochrane said.

“We aren’t trying to minimise people having crises, but it can be a catalyst to bring about positive change in their lives.”

“All of the clinical psychologists, psychologists and therapists who work with us are passionate about that one goal; to alleviate pain and suffering.”

ISTDP focuses from the beginning, trying to understand repetitive patterns in relationships that result in suffering.

According to Dr Cochrane, feelings and impulses that early caregivers did not tolerate, evoke anxiety and are covered by cognitions, behaviours or other feelings, known as avoidance mechanisms or defences. 

If the avoidance mechanism or defences work well, little or no anxiety is experienced. If the avoidance mechanisms or defences fail in keeping the feelings down, anxiety rises at the prospect of the feelings rising to the surface.   

The practice and teachings of ISTDP and related psychotherapeutic modality, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), have underpinned the foundations of Dynamic Psychotherapy, so much so, the practice currently runs a number of core trainings, and co-runs advanced trainings with Jon Frederickson MSW, fostering a new generation of ISTDP experts.

“There is something special about the kind of psychologists who spend six or seven years at university and then want to commit to another three years of intensive training,” Dr Cochrane said.

“It has grown organically where we initially had one training course, then more and more, now we have seven training courses a year, which last for three years.”

“All of our therapists are committed to the goal of relieving the pain and suffering for people experiencing trauma, PTSD, relationship difficulties, eating disorders, phobias including social anxiety, family conflict, presentations of anxiety like OCD, and depression.”

One of Dynamic Psychotherapy’s new generation therapists is Terry Kung, a provisional psychologist who is in the process of completing ISTDP training.

“I see a really strong value in ISTDP to hold clients in their emotional space and regulate their anxiety so we can help fully experience what is going on in their world,” Mr Kung said.

 

“What that might look like in therapy is assisting the client to pay more attention and be mindful of their inner experiences, emotions and thoughts. Watching your physiological sensations that arise without being entangled by them; it is closely related to the practice of mindfulness.”

 

“A helpful tool that anyone can use at any time of any day is as simple as breathing. The ability to switch your attention in a gentle way, you can focus on slow, deep breathing through the belly.”

“What is important to notice during that process is where our mind and thoughts tend to go to and the sensations that might arise as we do that, but to practice when they arise to gently guide our attention back to your breath to regulate physiologically, but at the same time through the watching of your thoughts and sensations, it provides a clarity and an awareness of what is going on in your world.”

Mr Kung said one of the true strengths of Dynamic Psychotherapy was the suite of diverse and energetic therapists who came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages.

“With an area like Carlton, and the inner city as whole, our therapists can be more readily available to tap into and share lived experience with our clients,” he said.

Mr Kung offers low-cost therapy for individuals experiencing financial hardship. •

For more information: dynamicpsychotherapy.com.au

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