What is AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy)?
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
It's hard to imagine my counselling practice without Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP).
As a counsellor in Vancouver, AEDP came into my professional (and personal) life at the best of times. I had been in private practice for a few years and felt an itch for more therapeutic skills and techniques. I was seeking clinical supervision and unbeknownst to me found an AEDP supervisor.
This was a pivotal moment.
After my first supervision session, I left feeling: 1) calm and confident within myself as a Registered Clinical Counsellor, and 2) clear that AEDP was to be a definite part of my practice for better therapeutic outcomes for my clients.
So what is AEDP, anyway?
AEDP is a therapy model developed by Dr. Diana Fosha (founder and director of the AEDP Institute), and recently popularized by the book It's Not Always Depression written by Hilary Jacobs Hendel.
I read Hendel's book while in Vietnam and wrote a book review on It's Not Always Depression that you can read here.
AEDP, which stands for Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, is therapy model that facilitates change and healing by undoing aloneness and safely identifying and experiencing emotions. By creating a secure base with the counsellor, clients are able to get unstuck from their overwhelm, distress or disturbances. Once a therapeutic relationship is established, the duo work with emotional experiences, working experientially (within the body in the here-and-now) toward healing trauma and suffering, as well as working toward expanding emergent positive transformational experiences.¹
AEDP leans into the fundamental premise that there's a healing force - a drive or a motivation to heal and grow towards self-repair - that's operating in every single individual, no matter what history of trauma or suffering they have had.¹ From this perspective, AEDP counsellors acknowledge the part of the client that has shown up for therapy and is ready for change.
This therapy model is Accelerated in that it is a short-term dynamic psychotherapy. It is both experience-based and transformationally-focused, which speeds up treatment.² This means that a counsellor will gently encourage the client to turn away from their storyline and drop into their physical body, where the emotional energy of their story resides.
So in this way, AEDP is Experiential because it steps away from people's stories, narratives - out of their heads - and starts to focus on what's happening in their bodies and on their subjective sense of self. Counsellors ask clients to pay close attention to physical sensations - by dropping down into their bodies - that are visceral and somatically-based to become informed about the felt-side of their experiences.²
And it is also Dynamic because there's an understanding that our past relationships and experiences contribute to shaping our perceptions and experiences of current events.²
What does this mean for me in therapy?
In essence, AEDP is a therapy model that I now use to help clients create change in their emotional state to feel better. This therapy shows up in session when I ask clients, who have just shared a story that has caused them trauma and suffering, to drop into their bodies and get curious about the physical sensations that might be showing up. Once clients can name some sensations, together we ask what core emotions these might be: "What is the tightness in your chest telling you? Could it be fear? Sadness? Anger?" When clients tune into their experience in this way they intuitively know what core emotion(s) resides there. With the identification of the core emotion(s), we gently and safely make space for the emotion(s) to exist. We honour and valid it by acknowledging, naming, or describing it. We sit together witnessing the emotion(s) through breath and compassion. Eventually the physical sensations lessens and the emotional energy that it contained gets released. At this point, clients might feel relieved, lighter, calmer, or more grounded within themselves. This is the openhearted state of their authentic self. This is them - calm, courageous, confident.
I might even share with clients this map, The Change Triangle, to help them know (cognitively) that what they are doing creates movement towards their authentic self.