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Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy

BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 5, 2022

Woman in therapy with therapist showing empathy.
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Accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy:

Accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) is a branch of psychotherapy focusing on developing client’s skills for processing difficult emotional and relational experiences. Accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy was developed by Dr. Diana Fosha, utilizing established theory from attachment theory, affective neuroscience, and body-focused treatments.

Emotions bring pleasure and pain. Accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy provides guidance in the art of effectively dealing with one’s emotions, both good and bad., and harnessing them in our pursuit of a flourishing life.

Pain and Suffering

Life provides a constant source of wisdom if we only have the skill and desire to learn. Crisis and suffering can awaken extraordinary capacities that lie dormant, unknown and untapped. AEDP guides clients to make the most of these opportunities, guiding the client through healing and transformation.

Four Pillars of AEDP

Faith in the Client’s Capacity for Healings:

Fosha warns that “assumptions about the fragility of patients often are rationalizations for ineffective technique” (2008). A core concept of AEDP is that humans possess the capacity to heal within themselves. A therapist must foster this capacity in the client, believe in them, while creating a place of emotional safety

This pillar of AEDP shares many qualities with Carl Rogers’s concept of unconditional positive regard.  

The Power of Being Seen and Understood:

The biological need to feel understood takes precedence over almost all other goals. When we feel alone in our journey of transformation, the work appears overwhelming. Fosha expands on this, explaining that through “positive receptive experiences (i.e., feeling held, loved, understood, supported) elicit facilitating affects. These include joy, relief, hope and trust, feelings of closeness, strength, and authenticity; they motivate further experience, expression, and communication” (2008).

Perhaps, much like Barbra Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory,  positive emotions facilitate growth.

Working Through Defenses Quickly and Effectively:

Fosha wrote that defenses cut us off from pain that is increasingly intolerable, but they also cut us off from “access to all sources of liveliness” (2008).

These defenses must be dismantled and healthier avenues of emotional regulation employed, allowing clients to feel life.

Discovering a Newfound Ability to Trust and Experience Emotions:

“​Painful feelings, borne alone, can be unendurable; together with a trusted companion, they can be borne, which is the first and crucial step in their eventual transformation” (Fosha, 2008). Trust is developed in healthy childhoods where parents create a emotionally safe home for the child. Yet, many, unfortunately, grow up in emotionally harsh environments where trust hurts, routinely punished with disappointment.

In therapy, building a trusting relationship is paramount, exhibiting to a client the positive affects of trust. The next step is assisting a client in building trusting relationships outside of the therapeutic relationship. Ultimately, discovering emotional safety is foundational to continued growth. The client can curiously examine their emotions without fear or defense, gaining critical wisdom for flourishing in life.

A Few Final Words

Diana Fosha’s concepts of emotion and feeling affect has had a profound influence on my own beliefs on wellness. You will find scattered throughout my articles many of Fosha’s concepts of healing and transformation. Our emotions bless and curse depending on the narrative we build around them. Fosha provides a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the relationship and the experiential requirements to transform feeling affect into a healing journey to flourishing.

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