What Is Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP)?

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What Is Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy?

Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) is a healing-based and transformation-oriented model of psychotherapeutic treatment. Developed by American psychologist Diana Fosha, PhD, AEDP views crisis and suffering as opportunities for you to find your ability to heal and experience life-changing transformation.

AEDP is meant to help people find ways to function and flourish, and it's often helpful for people with past trauma, depression, anxiety, or general distress.

AEDP therapy
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As with many other approaches, AEDP integrates a variety of therapeutic disciplines, such as:

As described by the AEDP Institute, the treatment model of AEDP aims to "help our patients, and ourselves, become stronger at the broken places. By working with trauma, loss, and the painful consequences of the limitations of human relatedness, we discover places that have always been strong; places that were never broken."

4 Pillars of AEDP

There are four key pillars that offer foundational support to the model of AEDP:

  1. Faith in the client's capacity for healing: This ability and capacity for healing is hard-wired within us, in our mind and body. We are all capable of accessing this part of ourselves, even after it has been locked down and hidden as a result of emotionally painful experiences.
  2. The power of being seen and understood: This is new to many clients. It helps to heal deep injuries and to create space for exploration and change. When we are used to feeling alone, isolated, and misunderstood, this new experience of being seen and heard can feel both exciting and vulnerable. It is in this space that the AEDP therapist walks alongside to help the client explore.
  3. Working through defenses quickly and effectively: This involves exploring the deepest places of wounding. Healing at these places can be most helpful in creating further change. The AEDP therapist gently walks with clients into those emotions, maintaining safety for the client and allowing them to process the pain that is often hidden from others.
  4. Discovering a newfound ability to trust and experience emotions: This means sharing with another person. Even uncomfortable emotions can be shared and processed. As clients continue to experience emotional safety throughout the counseling process, they are met with corrective emotional experiences. These are experiences that help them challenge their negative ideas about themselves. Clients begin to experience themselves in new ways through their process of healing.

Techniques

Clinicians trained in AEDP actively engage with clients throughout their healing journey. This is not a passive or removed therapeutic style, but one in which you and your therapist work together throughout the process. There are certain things that a trained AEDP therapist will do during the course of healing.

Establishing a Secure Base

A secure base is a necessary part of most forms of therapy, in that it allows for an effective and healthy rapport between you and your therapist. This is particularly so within the model of AEDP.

Your therapist will be open and curious about you, while also being removed from any perceived judgment or bias that might create feelings of uncertainty.

For many people, having someone who is genuinely curious about them and their experiences can feel new and different. It is in this new and different space that you may begin to feel safe and open to the process of sharing your emotions and experiences with another person.

Letting Clients Know They Are Not Alone

One of the key aspects of AEDP is to "undo aloneness." Most of us know the impact of feeling alone and what it can do to us when we are already in pain. Our sense of being alone leaves us feeling isolated and misunderstood and can lead to feelings of hopelessness. AEDP therapists create safety through their active presence with clients, helping them find the courage to explore.

Walking Alongside Clients as They Explore

For clients, having a compassionate, emotionally safe person to join them in their exploration allows them to uncover and walk through painful experiences that may not have been accessed before. Therapists stay compassionately present as clients process uncomfortable emotions.

Staying in the Here and Now

AEDP therapists are attuned to the client's experience in each session, staying aware of body movement, facial expressions, eye movements, tone of voice, and more. Actively tracking clients this way can allow therapists an opportunity to help clients explore what is happening for them, even during their exploration.

Offering Corrective Emotional Experiences

Much of what keeps people from sharing their painful experiences and emotions is fear of how others will respond, if others will see or hear their pain, and if they will be criticized or judged. All of those fears can feel removed within the AEDP experience. New experiences, like feeling seen, heard, and understood by your therapist, allow you to have a corrective emotional experience.

Addressing the Mind and Heart

Some therapeutic approaches tend to keep the mind and heart separate, or not address the heart much at all. In AEDP, your therapist will maintain a balance of attuning to your cognitive and emotional experiences. Doing so will allow you to feel integrated during your treatment, moving away from old patterns such as rationalizing or compartmentalizing.

What AEDP Can Help With

AEDP can be used with a wide variety of populations. Since the healing is based on the platform of emotional attunement and client safety, many different issues can be addressed, like:

Benefits of AEDP

Many therapeutic models focus on relieving suffering and emotional pain. Helping people feel less pain is, of course, very important in the therapy process. People seek out help when they are in emotional pain and look for hope and guidance out of those uncomfortable spaces. However, the model of AEDP doesn't stop there.

Beyond simply changing behaviors or attitudes, AEDP focuses on healing and changing on a core level. The goal of treatment is not only to minimize negative symptoms or alleviate suffering; it's to encourage you to find true transformation through this experience, so you can grow and flourish.

AEDP treatment may help people feel less like they're languishing with their symptoms and more like they're functioning and flourishing. This may hold true for people with symptoms ranging from severe to more moderate—meaning AEDP may be an effective preventive measure for people who are at risk of developing serious mental conditions.

AEDP for Couples

Just as AEDP for individuals is focused on things like attunement, safe exploration, and corrective emotional experiences, AEDP for couples offers this same energy to partners. AEDP provides a positive and affirming setting, which may help clients improve their relationship skills.

AEDP for couples may help each partner:

  • Deal with any history of painful or traumatic experiences that took place within or outside of their dynamic
  • Explore the experiences of each person in the relationship with the help of the therapist
  • Learn how to become curious, feel connected, and stay present in interactions within the relationship
  • Identify possible roadblocks that might be getting in the way of true intimacy and vulnerability with their partner
  • Build greater levels of intimacy and grow more closely connected

Effectiveness

AEDP encourages people to develop a secure attachment so they can physically experience and process difficult emotions. In this approach, the therapist establishes a safe, supportive relationship with the client, and that relationship provides the environment needed for change to occur.

Case studies show that AEDP can open the door for people to work through difficult emotions and traumatic past experiences. The therapist is present, positive, and affirming throughout this process, helping the client to:

  • Soften their defenses
  • Feel safe enough to experience traumatic memories and feelings
  • Reflect on their experience
  • Communicate about difficult emotions
  • Feel a sense of relief
  • Build up their resilience and improve their functioning

AEDP may be particularly helpful for people with serious depression, anxiety, emotional dysregulation, distress, and avoidance. It appears to work as well as other forms of therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and experiential therapy.

Things to Consider

One component of AEDP, called "metaprocessing," could be a challenging experience for some people. Metaprocessing means noticing and experiencing the process of change as it occurs. During AEDP, your therapist will ask you to tune in to your bodily sensations while you're dealing with emotions, and they will direct your attention to your relationship with them. This exercise is meant to develop a safe and secure attachment between you and your therapist.

Metaprocessing may feel uncomfortable at first, and it could take some time to acclimate to. Some critics suggest that metaprocessing may be more difficult for people who have very established defense mechanisms or are feeling hostility.

Metaprocessing could also be counterproductive for people experiencing depersonalization or derealization, as it may encourage them to feel even more separated from themselves.

How to Get Started

If you're interested in beginning AEDP, look for a state-licensed professional who is certified to offer this approach. The AEDP Institute offers a database of therapists, psychologists, and other mental health practitioners who have advanced training or certification in this model of therapy.

Because there are growing populations of trained AEDP therapists, particularly in the United States, there are established regional communities that you can contact for help in locating an AEDP therapist in your area.

During your first therapy session, your therapist may explain more about what to expect from treatment. Your therapist will encourage you to tune into your bodily experiences throughout treatment and may ask you to step out of a purely cognitive or intellectual mindset. They may ask about your gestures, body language, or facial expressions to find out more about what you're experiencing.

AEDP sessions can be emotional, as this form of therapy encourages you to experience feelings associated with negative experiences while drawing your attention to the therapeutic process. Your therapist will help you through this, acting as a positive and affirming supporter.

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Article Sources
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