Dr Angela Cooper

Talk Description

Diagnosing and Treating Emotional Factors in Mind-Body Symptoms

Patients with mind body symptoms (MBS) often present with physical difficulties for which investigations fail to reveal any organic pathology. The blockage of psychological and emotional processes in these patients is thought to result in altered autonomic, endocrine, and immune system activity related to the development of somatic presentations. This population can be complex and difficult to engage with just supportive medical management and if the psychological and emotional factors underlying these conditions are not addressed, this can lead to multiple and unnecessary investigations.

ISTDP is an effective, low risk, cost efficient psychological assessment and treatment method. The model focuses on emotions and how they can be converted into bodily symptoms; it seeks to interrupt this process to bring about healthier means of emotional expression, self-care, decreases in symptoms and growth in wellbeing across various areas of functioning.

In this talk you will discover:

    • Key theories of emotion, emotional dysregulation and pain
    • Identify 3 discharge pathways of unconscious anxiety and the development of chronic symptoms
    • The central role of guilt in the development of mind-body symptoms
    • Clinical video excerpts demonstrating the pathways of unconscious anxiety and their connection with MBS, excerpts of treatment phases including emotional experiencing and symptom reduction
    • Brief exploration of one’s own emotional processes to build awareness


Dr Angela Cooper is an Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada and a Chartered Clinical Psychologist specializing in Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP). She has completed 4 years of post-doctoral ISTDP training with Dr Patricia Coughlin and 2 years of advanced supervision with Dr Allan Abbass specializing in medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). This comprehensive training has significantly deepened her therapeutic knowledge, enabling her to assess and treat a diverse range of mental health difficulties and psychopathology.

Dr Cooper currently works at the Centre for Emotions and Health and is undertaking a three-year pilot project to provide consultation, assessment, treatment, teaching and research using ISTDP to address the unconscious emotional processes that are believed to underlie many physical and somatic difficulties such as chronic pain, chest pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, headache, migraine, memory difficulties, muscle weakness and other mind body problems. These difficulties are often co-morbid with anxiety, depression, personality issues and/or trauma. The aim of the project is to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of this approach as applied in a primary care setting. This includes evaluating the direct therapeutic outcomes with patients, as well as the impact of teaching and training on physicians and other health care professionals.

Dr Cooper offers face to face or online supervision, teaching and training in ISTDP. She has an ongoing passion for disseminating the ideas and learning from ISTDP in ways that all health professionals can benefit from.

Visit Angela Cooper’s website