A Different Approach to Talk Therapy

Jack N. Tawil, Annapolis Psychotherapist

A Different Approach To Talk Therapy

It is often said that psychotherapy is both an art and a science. The art of it is related to the therapist’s intuition, spontaneity, empathy, and natural creativity in guiding someone through the healing process. The science is found in the knowledge of human behavior. But, perhaps more importantly, putting this knowledge into practice and maximizing skills that make a difference in helping others1.


Let Me Give You An Example

Dirk Nowviski was born and raised in Germany. As a tall lanky kid playing basketball he had the size but not the skills. Holger Geschwinder, a former German professional basketball player, saw this disparity in size and talent and decided to train him from a young age.
Holger, nicknamed the “Mad Scientist”, had a training style that was quite unorthodox and his training transformed Dirk from a tall, lanky kid with few skills to one the greatest international players of all time.

Naturally, Dirk had his eyes set on the NBA. From watching videos of Dirk, Holger scientifically broke down what skills Dirk needed to maximize his game and gain entry into the NBA. This included analyzing his shot angle so that instead of jumping straight up on his jump shots, he would jump backward at a particular angle, making it virtually impossible for opposing players to block his shot.

Dirk was an agile student and practiced this move thousands of times until it was mastered. They did this for other skills as well until they figured out what was needed to improve his game and reach his goal. Dirk became a perennial NBA All-Star and is destined to be a Hall of Famer.

What Does This Have To Do With Therapy?

Simply put, effective therapy is beyond good conversation and support. It is a highly purposeful process by which a therapist helps you separate from the behaviors that get in your way and hurt you, so that you can experience parts of yourself that you tend to avoid. This requires a therapist to possess highly specialized relational skills in order to be successful. Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) is one of the only training models of therapy adept at helping the therapist achieve results like Dirk Nowitzki.

What Exactly is ISTDP?

Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP) was developed by a psychiatrist Habid Davanloo back in the 1960’s. Frustrated by the slow pace of therapy and that people often did not get better, he took a strongly scientific approach and watched thousands of hours of videotaped therapy sessions to tease out the most essential ingredients that create healing in therapy.

What he developed was very similar to Coach Holger, and is called Deliberate Practice (DP). The concept is very similar to what many professionals do in their respective fields, from music to golf to becoming masters. Deliberate Practice is essentially figuring out what works through careful analysis and repeating what works until it is mastered.

Psychotherapy, in the way it is often delivered, does not emphasize a deliberate practice as part of the healing model. In my work, I do and my clients achieve incredible results from this experience.

What does ISTDP look like?

Davanloo drew from his study of physiology, neuroscience, attachment theory, and psychoanalytic theory in his research. Today, ISTDP is more than simply a model of therapy, I consider ISTDP to be an attitude and approach to healing that leads to repeated, measurable results in your life.

So what happens in an ISTDP session?

In many ways, ISTDP can look like a standard talk therapy session. If, for example, the client comes in with great sadness and tears, we explore what’s happening and then process the thoughts and feelings.

If a client comes in emotionally guarded with hands crossed and a detached body posture, in a state of resistance and anger, we surely deal with this differently.

Each session begins with meeting the client where they are with no judgments. What is unique about ISTDP is that it allows me to separate the person from behaviors that have hurt them. Then, I can help them face the emotions they are both feeling and avoiding.

I also videotape some of the sessions. With this footage, we’re able to merge the art of therapy with the science of human behavior and pay careful attention to details that are often lost in conversations.

This includes:

Why Do I Videotape Sessions?

Videotaping is not required to begin psychotherapy. It is simply an option for you to consider. It is a tool that helps me help you. In order to be videotaped, you must sign a consent form that explains all of the risks and benefits.

Video sessions allow me to see what is going on so I can evaluate what is working and what is not. It allows me to evaluate my own performance. It also may allow me to get help from another licensed professional if there is something that I am not able to figure out or understand.

I also use videotape material to practice mindfulness and listening skills so I am able to be present to and bear powerful & uncomfortable emotions. A therapist is not able to bear someone else’s pain if they are not able to bear it themselves.

Security of videotaped Material Is my hights priority

I follow strict local, state, and federal confidentiality, privacy, security rules, and guidelines outlined by professional licensure.

It is also important to know that because video is used for training and educational purposes, none of the material can become part of your permanent medical record.

I am enormously grateful to all of my current and past clients who have allowed me to videotape my sessions. This has allowed me to become a more effective therapist and to train other therapists to become more effective. The end result is less human suffering and better lives.

How Effective is Videotaping?

The International Center for Clinical Excellence, an organization dedicated to improving the delivery of mental health services through clinician performance feedback and deliberate practice, views videotaping as an invaluable tool for helping therapists become more effective.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Psychotherapy, the widely respected publication of the American Psychological Association, found that videotaping of therapy sessions is associated with the most highly skilled therapists. This study documented 25 different types of activities that therapists could engage in to improve their work (called Deliberate Practices). Of these 25 practices, videotaping, in this study, was the only one associated with the most highly skilled therapists1.

This study supports many previous studies documenting the effectiveness of using videotaping as a tool for therapist improvement 2 3 4

Get In Touch With Me

If you’re ready for this kind of support, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. My services are cash-based and I am accepting clients now.

My office is in Annapolis, MD and you can reach me for a consultation by calling (410) 562-9647 or sending me an email at mail@annapolispsychotherapy.com