Testimonials: Reaching Through Resistance

The reader will find numerous clinical vignettes showing how to put theory into practice that leads to enduring change. This model of work is showing some of the most impressive outcomes in psychotherapy research today. If you want to know how to do clinical work that leads to change, this book is essential reading.”

—David Malan, DM, FRCPsych


This masterpiece of clinical acumen and sophisticated technique comes from the researcher-clinician who has done the most to establish empirical backing for short-term dynamic psychotherapy. Allan Abbass has spelled out, with the skillful use of fascinating case material, the principles underlying the practice of Davanloo’s intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy. In exceptionally clear prose, he demonstrates how one can reach behind the resistances of even the most repressed and fragile character types and offer them genuine, lasting change. This book is a gold mine of clinical insight.”

—Stanley B. Messer, PhD, Dean and Distinguished Professor, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University


What a volume! Allan Abbass has masterfully integrated the work of his mentors with his own research, theory, and clinical learning into an organized and graceful approach to short-term psychotherapy for people we all see in psychotherapy. Ultimately, the book is practical and clear in its recommended psychotherapeutic approach that is supported by both theory and empirical research. It is also rich in clinical examples. Dr. Abbass’s ideas are very helpful to practitioners of all levels.”

—Raymond A. Levy, PsyD, Clinical Director, Massachusetts General Hospital Psychotherapy Research Program, Harvard University


In his book, Reaching through Resistance: Advanced Psychotherapy Techniques, the internationally recognized master clinician and researcher Dr. Allan Abbass offers readers one of the most clearly articulated descriptions of how to conduct intensive psychotherapy. This volume presents an in-depth view of the process and techniques of psychotherapy with a broad spectrum of clinical presentations. Using extensive case material and clear descriptions of the technique and process, Abbass demonstrates how to expertly transform the lives of those suffering with crippling psychological disturbances. A must- read for psychotherapists who want to improve their effectiveness and reach the most treatment refractory patients.”

—Jeffrey J. Magnavita, PhD, ABPP, Past President, Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, and coeditor of the Journal of Unified Psychotherapy and Clinical Science


Dr. Abbass makes an important contribution to the clinician’s understanding of the Intensive Dynamic Short Term  Psychotherapy (ISTDP) treatment model, through a well-written and presented book, rich with clinical material based on extensive experience and research. The book provides substantial support to the clinician engaged in treating the ever-increasing population of persons with psychosomatic symptoms.”
–John E. Sarno, MD, Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, NYU School of Medicine


Reaching through Resistance belongs in every psychotherapist’s library. In a tone notable for its respect for the struggles of patients and those who try to help them, Allan Abbass systematically explores the theoretical foundations of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy, illustrates its implementation with verbatim clinical material, and reviews the extensive empirical support for this approach. Unlike therapists who are good at what they do but not so good at communicating it, Abbass is an outstanding teacher. Readers will emerge from their engagement with this masterwork not only with a greater understanding of the phenomenon of resistance but also with much more skill in addressing it.”

—Nancy McWilliams PhD, ABPP, Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology


What occurs in the consulting room leads to change in the patient. Allan Abbass has spent twenty years developing an innovative perspective on engaging the patients, particularly difficult patients, including those who somatize and are initially not aware of their feelings and conflicts. His book is filled with wonderful examples of how to engage patients to lead them to the point where they have transformative experiences. He has recorded most of his work for many years, and the result is a treasure trove of examples, and of ideas generated from studying them. I found myself, an experienced psychoanalyst, enriched by his conceptualizations of when and how to communicate with patients, depending on a careful estimate of the state of the patients’ feelings, defenses, vulnerability, and transference. He illustrates with admirable clarity the purpose of his remarks and their immediate consequences in improving the patients’ awareness of their distress, with immediate benefit to their coping skills. Dr. Abbass’s work springs from a profound and nuanced psychoanalytic understanding of his patients, combined with a highly innovative approach to engaging patients in corrective emotional experiences. He does not hesitate to focus in a powerful way on the feelings patients only hint at that are occurring in the consulting room. The result is astonishing: a high percentage of patients helped substantially in forty sessions or less—and the easier ones in many fewer sessions. I came away wishing that I had read this book twenty years ago—it would have helped me be more effective with my patients. This revolutionary book will richly repay those who devote their time to really study it.”

—Sherwood Waldron, MD, Chair, Psychoanalytic Research Consortium


One of the perennial problems for psychotherapists is the paradoxical situation in which the patient often resists the help offered by the therapist. In this superb new volume, Allan Abbass provides a systematic approach to dealing with that inevitable resistance. Both beginning and advanced therapists will benefit from the clinical wisdom in these pages.

—Glen O. Gabbard, MD, author of Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: A Basic Text


This is a wonderful book on how to work to reach toward people beneath their blocks and encourage maximal treatment engagement. Filled with both theoretical innovations and a myriad of interventions you can use to help patients build psychological strength, become more relationally competent, and process difficult feelings, this book will help you be a more effective therapist.

—Leslie S. Greenberg, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, York University


Using compelling clinical illustrations, Dr. Abbass has crafted a conceptually rich, empirically robust, and technically clear guide to the practice of intensive short term psychotherapy.

—Molyn Leszcz, MD, FRCPC, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto


In Reaching through Resistance, Dr. Allan Abbass presents a host of refined techniques designed to assess and treat the resistances that all too frequently undermine treatment efforts. Since we are still failing to help almost 50 percent of the patients who seek psychotherapy, this book is desperately needed in our field. Written in clear language, this volume is packed with research data, as well as detailed illustrations and case vignettes that bring the concepts to life. Not for the novice or the faint of heart, this is a sophisticated text for therapists who, like Abbass himself, are dedicated to going all out to help even the most troubled and treatment-resistant patients. It is ultimately a book of hope.”

—Patricia Coughlin, PhD, Clinical Professor, UNM School of Medicine, author of Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, and coauthor of Lives Transformed


Abbass presents in clear and jargon-free prose an approach to therapy that some may find congenial, some may find challenging, and many will experience as a highly stimulating blend of both. Richly illustrated with clinical detail, the book presents an active version of psychodynamic therapy that has been tested in the crucible of systematic research.”

—Paul L. Wachtel, PhD, Distinguished Professor,

Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, City University of New York


Allan Abbass unveils his process of conducting ISTDP by providing clear and concise guidelines that are useful to the beginner, intermediate, and master clinician. He presents vignettes from psychotherapy sessions for almost any scenario a therapist and patient might face together when working deeply with emotions. This book is a must-read for learning the art and science of ISTDP!”

—Kristin A. R. Osborn, MA, LMHC, Harvard Medical School, and President, International Experiential Dynamic Therapy Association


Allan Abbass’s new book Reaching through Resistance, provides an excellent update of intensive short-term dynamic therapy. In the first part, a new metapsychology of the unconscious is presented. In the second part, the clinical application of ISTDP is described. Finally, the evidence for ISTDP is reviewed. The book builds on the rich clinical experience of the author and is full of very helpful examples for psychotherapeutic interventions using ISTDP. A must for therapists treating patients with various levels and forms of resistance.”

—Falk Leichsenring, University of Giessen, Germany


Many patients do not respond to an appropriate course of therapy. In this book, Dr. Allan Abbass describes a systematic way to address such cases of ‘treatment resistance.’ I particularly liked the detailed case vignettes, which illustrate how to connect to the person who is suffering beneath the symptoms.”

—Michael Thase, MD


Abbass has presented an approach to short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy that is both sophisticated and readable. The copious use of case material adds to the interest and accessibility of the book.”

—George Stricker, PhD, Professor, American School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University, Washington DC


In Reaching through Resistance: Advanced Psychotherapy Techniques, Dr. Abbass offers a model of understanding early attachment patterns, trauma, emotions, anxiety, and bodily reactions in psychotherapy. In addition, he discusses a range of specific techniques for intervening with these issues. I believe the most significant feature of this volume is the very extensive and detailed verbatim clinical vignettes that are provided throughout as examples for the various technical discussions. In fact, I would say this book provides some of the most extensive clinical vignettes used to illustrate the many varied technical interventions presented that I have ever seen. This provides readers with a very clear understanding of how they might intervene in relation to the model of therapy being presented, which makes the book a useful resource for clinicians at any level of experience.”

—Mark Hilsenroth, Professor, Adelphi University


Dr. Allan Abbass is a giant in the field of short-term dynamic therapy, and this book is a tour de force. The combination of detailed cases and comprehensive explanatory material from a preeminent researcher and teacher makes Reaching through Resistance a must-read.”

—Howard Schubiner, MD, author of Unlearn Your Pain; Director, Mind-Body Program, Providence Hospital, Southfield, Michigan; and Clinical Professor, Wayne State University


In the tradition of Davanloo and Malan, Abbass is exploring methods to rapidly get beyond resistance to modify central conflicts. The intense focus on the current relationship between therapist and patient provides an avenue for both assessment of levels of pathology and change.”

—John F. Clarkin, Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College




In Reaching through Resistance, Allan Abbass, MD, a master clinician, provides the reader with a crisp rendition of the setting of intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy and then gently rains a lovely series of illustrative examples of how an astute clinician can accurately pace the patient and use the scaffolding erected by what feels like resistance as a guide to relieving the double-binds and internal admonitions of troubled people who have been hobbled by unconscious self-protective strategies gone awry. Both newly minted and experienced ISTDP psychotherapists will find Reaching a satisfying thesaurus of what could be said in the thick of intense engagements that both respect the patient’s adaptive defenses and helps the patient join the clinician in putting them aside and growing. I highly recommend Reaching through Resistance.”

—Richard A. Chefetz, MD, private practice, Washington, DC, author of Intensive Psychotherapy for Persistent Dissociative Processes

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