We asked some of our AEDP faculty and practitioners to come up with a single paragraph describing “How AEDP Works.” Each person brings a unique perspective and touches on a different facet of the process. Taken together, their thoughts capture the essence of AEDP.
Four Pillars of AEDP
AEDP (i) rests on a deep faith in clients' innate capacities, hard-wired and always recoverable, to self-right and heal into their authentic True Self; (ii) privileges the power of new experiences of being seen and understood to heal the deepest injuries and create a new platform for exploration and change; (iii) lasers through defenses to the deepest levels of wounding where healing can be most catalytic to further change; (iv) evokes new trust in the power of experiencing any and every emotion, no matter how frightening, sharing, reflecting, processing, with a safe other to full and sweet self-acceptance and love.
Linda Graham, San Francisco CA
Ode To AEDP
- The AEDP therapist has faith in the humanity in relationship and offers safety and security unsparingly.
- The AEDP therapist participates actively to help a client face the distress that has initiated their healing journey.
- The AEDP therapist sees psychotherapy as a tremendous opportunity for growth and transformation and holds this perspective throughout the course of treatment.
- The AEDP therapist practices the art of guidance, recognizing when and how to assist the client be with their emotional life, and then, when to step out of the way and be present to witness the natural phenomena of cascading emotions and experiences.
- The AEDP therapist trusts the process and recognizes that helping clients face and move through painful experiences can bring them to new places that have the uncanny aspect of feeling true and more deeply real than anything previously imagined.
- The AEDP therapist revels in witnessing clients come to experience themselves freshly with calm knowing and recognition that this is the self they have always been.
- The AEDP therapist celebrates the mystery of human experience and the wonder of the transformational journey. This lives in their being and is part of the interpersonal matrix between client and therapist that supports and fosters healing and discovery.
Karen Pando-Mars, San Francisco CA
On Active Help
In AEDP, we firmly believe that our patients have the potential to make something constructive and meaningful with their life. For that, we hold their hands and stand by them as long as they—with our very active help—keep on working on developing their trust and their curiosity to look inside their souls and find out what is their deepest yearning at that particular stage of their lives.
Andrea Junqueira, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
On Brain Science
Eye contact and moment to moment tracking of emotion and body sensation activates the attachment system, a system with its origins based on survival and therefore with the force of considerable engagement and motivation. AEDP directs that motivation toward the recognition, elaboration and then, realization of the self at best. Today's brain research supports the premise of AEDP, that a positive, responsive, safe relationship produces chemicals and hormones which enhance the development of higher brain function and the regulation of emotions and stress. The plasticity of the brain coupled with the power of a positive relationship are ideas supported with research that have tremendous implications which AEDP fully recognizes and applies to not only help but transform lives.
Colette Linnihan, New York NY
AEDP is a psychotherapeutic approach based on the idea that deep, viscerally felt affective experiences have the inherent capacity to rapidly and comprehensively transform people. Facilitated through a relationship with an actively engaged, emotionally attuned, empathic, affirming therapist, the patient is guided to process emotions deemed too overwhelming to face. Experientially processing these previously avoided emotions activates innate self-righting mechanisms, adaptive action tendencies and other resources that support psychological well-being and optimal functioning.
Jerry Lamagna, New York NY
On Healing Trauma
AEDP works to heal the negative sequelae to attachment trauma and harness the untapped resources for resilience and growth of our patients through the explicit and implicit co-creation of a safe and secure relationship with an attuned, self-actualized, self-reflective therapist. A process of attunement, spontaneous disruption and intentional repair informed by specific, experientially driven intervention strategies, and operating at multiple levels: moment-to-moment, session-to-session and across a whole treatment process, provides the essential, synergistic framework for healing and transformation.
Benjamin Lipton, New York NY
In AEDP reflexive defenses originating deep in the brain of the patient are brought to conscious awareness. Long-standing blocks and walls against felt experience soften into states of emotional flow that lead to relief and heightened clarity and freedom to initiate corrective action in the lived life of the patient. The AEDP therapist advocates and encourages the clear formation of the patient’s corrective impulses, often in the form of imagery of how to apply new behavior in the patient’s current life or in revisiting past situations of helpless aloneness, overt trauma or deprivation. Like a volcano whose eruption creates new land in the ocean, the patient’s unconscious surprises and recognizes itself in AEDP, so the patient’s agency and inner authority take hold and gain freedom to live in new and remarkably stable and resilient ways.
David Mars, San Francisco CA
AEDP works by harnessing and catalyzing a psychobiological state transformation through activating the extraordinary innate healing capacities, hard wired in the mind and the body. It is mediated by the self-righting tendencies and self-integrating abilities of viscerally felt emotional experience, dyadically regulated, expressed and coordinated with the engaged presence of a cherishing therapist.
Danny Yeung, Toronto
On Safety and Caring
AEDP works through safety and caring. The AEDP therapist creates safety through a warm and emotionally engaged relationship where the patient is valued and respected. Because the patient feels safe and cared for, his defenses against feelings aren't needed as much as in other areas of his life, so the defenses "melt" away with the therapist's help. As the defenses dissolve, the therapist helps the patient to manage the deep feelings that are then free to emerge. These feelings are ones that have almost always been too difficult, frightening, or painful for the patient to experience alone, so feeling them in the company of a caring other is new and freeing. Though painful, being met in the feelings is healing. When the full wave of emotion flows through, the patient feels lighter, grateful, transformed, changed for the better. The therapist then encourages the patient to reflect on the healing and transformational feelings, and this reflection generates deeper and deeper levels of healing and growth.
Candyce Ossefort-Russell, Austin TX
On Safety and Connection
AEDP works through creating a container of emotional and psychic safety that invites and even provokes a deep experience of being connected to ones self and the self of another. The therapist in the practice of AEDP engages an authenticity and vividness of self-expression that invokes a field of safety and interest, which in turn invites and ushers in experiences of heightened emotional presence within the patient. The patient’s deepened emotional experience and expression, then brings in turn, a heightened permeability and awareness within the therapist. What had been held off in the distance within the patient becomes vitally experience-near in each evolving moment to both the therapist and the patient.
David Mars, San Francisco CA
On the Clinician’s Role
The AEDP therapist acts as the secure base for the client so that the client can work through overwhelming experiences. No longer alone, the client's intense emotional experiences, be they painful or joyful, previously defensively excluded in the absence of optimal care giving, can now be processed in the here-and-now towards a corrective emotional experience. Informed by mother-infant develop mentalist studies, the secure base is effectively established through the AEDP therapist’s moment-to-moment tracking of dyadic affective attunement, disruption and repair.
The AEDP therapist further aims to mine the transformative power and adaptive action tendencies inherently embedded in undefended human emotions unleashed in the holding environment of deeply engaged relatedness. Affective neuroscience demonstrates the centrality of the right cerebral hemisphere in emotional processing.
Dyadic affect regulation through psychobiological state attunement has been shown to be mediated through right brain to right brain communication between dyadic partners. Right brain language codes use gaze, play, vocal tones and rhythms, touch, visual imagery, and somatosensory experience; right brain mediated processing of emotion and attachment occurs through this somatic, non-verbal lexicon. And this somatic lexicon is what the AEDP therapist seeks to engage in the therapeutic interaction. Insights in quantum transformations describe the phenomenon of sudden and discontinuous change which the AEDP therapist aims to facilitate in the patient, thereby accelerating the therapeutic process.
Such dramatic phenomena are accomplished through catalyzing a psycho-neurobiological state transformation with the visceral affective experience, expression, coordination and communication in the emotional engaged presence of a empathically attuned AEDP therapist.
Danny Yeung, Toronto
On the Heart
AEDP is about working with the heart. Amazing things happen when both therapist and client tune into their hearts: people feel strengthened, they discover potentials and capacities for healing, growth and transformation that they never thought possible.
Diana Wais, London
On the Mind
AEDP takes seriously and literally the plasticity and fluidity of the mind. Moment to moment the AEDP therapist notices, tracks and seizes upon areas of health and hope in the patient and sets about capitalizing upon them. This focus on the adaptive wired-in already present vitality of the patient leads to an organic resourcing of our patients from the very beginning of treatment.
From infant-mother research, AEDP takes the stance of a real, relating, caring other. A real person who responds authentically and honestly is inherently a secure base. From this place the AEDP therapist is always working with a dual attention: the relationship and the emotional experience of patient and therapist. This dual focus accelerates change.
The AEDP therapist has a protocol to follow and a phenomenology to anchor the work: the theoretical flowchart of AEDP tracks the patient from (i) anxiety and defense, to (ii) core affect, and then (iii) core state. As an emotion-based therapy the focus is always on helping the patient feel, and have the experience of feeling. Finally, metaprocessing teaches patients that there is value in talking about experience, that everything can be talked about, and that talking cements experience.
Natasha Prenn, New York NY
On the True Other
We all have strivings toward connection, understanding, growth and transformation. The more these yearnings are thwarted by deprivation, misattunement, trauma or loss, the more profound and painful the longings and needs can become. The AEDP therapist seeks to awaken and restore these basic human drives through becoming a safe, nurturing, and responsive “true other.” If a deep, caring and authentic relationship is the vehicle for change, then it is feelings and full emotional processing that fuel the process of transformation, delivering patient and therapist alike to a place of peace, inner wisdom, self-actualization, energy, mutual delight and fulfillment.
Kari Gleiser, Hanover NH
A patient arrives for her appointment, angst-ridden, full of despair and diffuse pain. She is ashamed and feels weak for not being able to pick herself up by the bootstraps and cope. The AEDP therapist invites fuller disclosure of her feelings, emphasizing her perseverance and courage for sharing them. The patient looks up surprised, a new light in her eyes, as she holds the gaze of her therapist, drinking in permission, understanding, new self-perception. Then, as the therapist gently leads the dyad deeper into the pool of pain and grief and aloneness inside, always maintaining a shared, tolerable edge to the emotional experience, the patient sobs deeply. In the wake of this wave of emotion, they explore the patient’s sense of relief, self-compassion, lightness, gratitude. She leaves feeling transformed, freer, cared for and full of hope.
Kari Gleiser, Hanover NH
On Undoing Aloneness I
The most powerful tenets of AEDP are to establish safety and undo aloneness. From the first moments together the therapist and client are developing a relationship from which to explore
unresolved and painful issues from the past and even more importantly to experience and process how they change and what comes from their new experiences.
Karen Pando Mars, San Francisco CA
On Undoing Aloneness II
Given that AEDP understands psychopathology as that which results from the individual’s unwilled and unwanted aloneness in the face of overwhelming emotional experiences, in AEDP treatment, from the first moments of the first session and throughout thereafter, it is the aim of the AEDP therapist to undo the patient’s aloneness in the face of overwhelming emotions, so that together, patient and therapist can then process those feared-to-be unbearable emotional experiences, so that these emotions can be regulated and worked through and their resources thus reaped and brought into the self. And in the process, the patient therapist connection grows stronger, and so does the patient’s resilience.
Diana Fosha, New York, NY
On Undoing Aloneness III
In AEDP, we seek to be with the people we work with, and accompany them, in their processing of both negative and positive emotions: both traumatic experiences that need to be healed, and transformative experiences, which also need processing and accompaniment. We seek to accompany our patients on their emotion processing journeys, be those journeys of processing the difficult and feared-to-be-unbearable or the transformative, joyful and awe-some.
Diana Fosha, New York, NY
Corrective Emotional Experience (how's that for less?)
Steve Shapiro, Malverne PA
Both psychotherapy and integrative framework, AEDP seeks to theoretically elucidate and clinically harness healing transformational processes. A whole-brain therapy, through its attachment-based stance, AEDP entrains right-brain-mediated affective experiences; works with subcortically generated primary emotions; and recruits left brain organization for the articulation of emotional experience. Then, alternating waves of experience and reflection give rise to the best the prefrontal cortex (especially the right pre-frontal cortex where emotionally meaningful autobiographical narratives are mediated) has to offer: integrative states of flow, clarity, ease, wisdom, compassion, curiosity, generosity, creativity, and calm, where the sense of the truth promotes deep acceptance and self-acceptance.