Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP)
Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), developed by Diana Fosha, Ph.D., is a therapeutic model based on the power of positive emotions to develop resilience and to repair the harm done by negative experiences. Like many of the newer, progressive therapy models I have trained in, it focuses on potential and resilience … not pathology.
The experience of an AEDP therapy session often differs from other types of relational psychodynamic therapy sessions. I’ll do my best to describe it, but it’s often better understood by experiencing it than by reading about it. This is because it is a highly right-hemisphere-focused process not easily expressed with words.
A basic tenant of AEDP is it’s attachment-informed stance. This stance is based on infant-caregiver research, as well as research on variations in the long-term impact of trauma. Far exceeding what we usually think of as support, AEDP makes very explicit the intention to “undo unbearable aloneness.” Whatever negative experiences we endure – mild, moderate or severe – the worst outcomes are the result of enduring them in emotional isolation. When we have an authentic connection with someone who is emotionally with us in our pain – someone who really gets what it was like for us – we’re better able to process the event to some completion. This significantly minimizes long-term fallout.
Not having had that someone back then, makes having it in therapy essential now. So, healing unresolved issues or trauma requires the establishment of this deep level of connection and safety. As we know from Stephen Porges’ research on the vagal nerve (called Polyvagal Theory), our nervous system has a critically important response to this deep experience of safety. It releases the defensive “fight, flight or freeze” systems and opens the social engagement system, which makes profound, brain-changing healing possible.
AEDP also utilizes meta processing. This involves reflecting on and discussing clients’ experiences within the emotionally authentic and safe relationship with the therapist in real time. To meta process, AEDP therapists often ask: “What was it like to tell me about that?”
Noticing and amplifying moments of transformance is another AEDP intervention. Our systems want to heal. In AEDP, we focus on moments when our hard-wired capacity to seek positive, safe and health-promoting interactions surface. And in AEDP, we use moment-to-moment tracking to ensure we find these opportunities. As clients feel deeply seen and understood, we are able to tolerate and process our previously blocked true, core emotions. Painful emotions give way to surprisingly positive emotions, such as feeling calm, centered, grateful, confident, proud, compassionate and accepting.
All of these elements of AEDP are informed by neuroscience research, as well as clinical experience. Together they result in corrective reorganization of the brain, allowing us to live more as our best self – grounded, engaged and secure in who we are – and less in our defensive, symptomatic, insecure selves.