Though I have received some peripheral training and supervision from different ISTDP supervisors, the bulk and majority of my training comes from Marvin Skorman, LMHC. Mr. Skorman has been practicing psychotherapy, teaching, and supervising for nearly 40-years. He was a very prominent student of Dr. Davanloo in the late 80's, and again worked briefly with Dr. Davanloo in 2015.
Influenced by Mr. Skorman, but combined with my own values and clinical proclivities, the overwhelming emphasis in my therapeutic orientation stresses flexibility, empathy, and trying to deeply understand what is on the client's mind and what the client is communicating before moving forward. Though from an outside perspective this approach of relationship building and thorough inquiry may appear to slow down the process, this “slower” approach tends to lay the groundwork for a very strong therapeutic alliance that ultimately allows for the deep work to take hold and yield the most productive and therapeutic results. From this perspective, the "slower path," in the end, is often the fastest path.
A more in-depth, technical description:
This style of ISTDP is reminiscent of aspects of Rogerian/client-centered therapy, as exemplified by a comment that Mr. Skorman repeats from time to time: "Psychotherapy is the act of working out a relationship."
This client-centered approach may seem in opposition to some of the common conceptions of more pressure and challenge-forward views of ISTDP. I place great value on all aspects of Dr. Davanloo’s Central Dynamic Sequence, but my style and flavor of ISTDP place special emphasis on the conscious therapeutic alliance.
Part of the conscious therapeutic alliance entails attempting to understand the unique dynamics involved with each client and avoiding the act of mechanically executing a technique. Early psychotherapy transcripts of Dr. Davanloo conducting therapy with his patients clarify that this was very much his approach, building a strong conscious therapeutic alliance while methodically and often painstakingly working both of the "triangles." The transcripts also show that Dr. Davanloo was not exclusively obsessed with breakthroughs (unlocking the unconscious) or "building a high rise" in complex transference feelings, but instead, insight, understanding, and bringing the patient along with him appeared to be his primary focus. An interesting aside is that the transcripts show creativity and an intuitive dimension to his work that is antithetical to some of the unfortunate stereotypes of Dr. Davanloo's approach.
This conscious therapeutic alliance also consists of ensuring that the client clearly understands why they are symptomatic and therefore have clarity on the therapeutic task. The client must clearly understand how the way the therapist is working with them addresses what brought them in for therapy. If the client does not clearly see and understand how the way the therapist focuses and works with them addresses their unique concerns and priorities, pressure and challenge is generally not helpful and leads to misalliance and/or breakthroughs that are founded on compliance and thus ultimately not genuinely healing.
The prime directive in my work is not to achieve emotional brakthroughs, what some call "unlocking the unconscious," but instead my prime directive is to ensure that the client's will and priorities are guiding the course of the treatment. When the client's will is center stage, emotional breakthroughs often occur, and they tend to be more therapeutic when they occur in this way, rather when they are horsed through with pressure that leaves behind the client's conscious will.
Creating or nurturing the conscious therapeutic alliance helps in freeing up the "unconscious therapeutic alliance."