Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Q & A with Berni Fried – What Is Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP)?

Berni Fried
Accelerated experiential-dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on healing-oriented techniques and aims to achieve a transformation in client behavior by exploring the in-depth processing of difficult emotional and relational experiences. This innovative method was developed by Dr. Diana Fosha and has roots in several disciplines, mainly attachment theory, affective neuroscience, and body-focused approaches. According to therapist and public speaker Berni Fried, Accelerated Experiential-Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) has produced numerous benefits for many clients. Berni Fried says that by focusing on behavioral transformation, AEDP helps clients to address and overcome painful traumas from their past.

Q: Who is credited with developing AEDP? 

Berni Fried: Dr. Diana Fosha established this method after studying a number of modalities. Her training was psychoanalytic, psychodynamic and also developmental. Dr. Fosha started questioning the length of traditional psychoanalysis and its relatively cavalier attitude towards effectiveness and results. Dr. Foscha discovered short-term dynamic psychotherapy in the work of David Malan and others, She was inspired with a new way of working unlike Psychoanalysis which tends to be long term treatment and based on psychopathology and diagnosis. Dr. Fosha recognized the need to empower the client and work from a more attachment based model. She than developed the AEDP model of treatment.

Q: How does AEDP differ from other treatment approaches?

Berni Fried: Most models of psychotherapy are born out of the idea that there is something essentially wrong with the patient. The idea that the client needs to be “fixed” is often the case with most therapies. One of the core characteristics of AEDP is that it assumes healing is already there to access from the first contact with the client, including the most traumatized person that we encounter it proceeds from the assumption of healing as a process and healing as a phenomenon something to be fostered and nurtured. Trauma experiences can actually be used as a learning tool to advance their efforts. It is through the connection with the client and the therapist that a sense of safety and trust is fostered. Often times through this therapy the client maybe for the first time feels “safe” and is allowed to explore his/her core feelings. The idea that the client is actually “seen” helps to create a new experience for the client and his relationship to himself and the world. AEDP focuses on allowing for the client who has been invisible or unseen this creates a deep sense of connection and wholeness to the therapy experience. This is rooted in attachment and the early dysregulation of the clients relationship with his caregivers. The reparation of these early traumas is possible in a safe nurturing environment created by the therapist and client working together through the AEDP methodology.

Q: Why is Transformation a center point of AEDP Therapy?

Berni Fried: AEDP work allows for the client to go from a state of Anxiety, Depression, trauma and panic to a place where the client feels understood, appreciated, helped,and a sense of safety. Healing effects often arise in response to the therapist who “sees” the client. The belief that therapy can foster a feeling of being loved safe or understood allows for a transformative experience. Clients report that the experience that follows in the wake of positive receptive experiences is one of relaxation an almost physical sense of letting go of yet another layer of defense. One description of an AEDP client is “A stillness descended upon me, I sighed a deep sigh, as if i had slipped suddenly out of a skin. I felt old, content. The shock of recognition had passed through my body like a powerful current I had been home.” AEDP utilizes the belief that all that the client needs lies within the client and it is a matter of fostering the positive within the client therapy relationship to help the client be seen and begin the process of transformation. The belief that a client has the capacity to change is a critical aspect of the AEDP methodology.

Q: How is AEDP unique?

Berni Fried: AEDP is a healing-centered treatment approach, which aims to capitalize on the client’s natural, adaptive,wired-in capacities for healing and transformation. AEDP integrates experiential and relational elements within an affect-centered psychodynamic framework, with the somatic experience of affect in relationship and moment to moment regulation of this experience as the focus of clinical aims to bring about change. It is the belief that the therapist is not the one who will “fix” the client but that the healing lies within the client and each person has an internal healing drive and motivation to grow and change.

Q: How does Attachment theory relate to AEDP?

Berni Fried: 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. Through the therapeutic relationship AEDP seeks to harness the untapped resources for resilience and growth of our clients through the explicit and implicit co-creation of a safe and secure relationship with an attuned, self actualized, self reflective therapist. Its through the “true other” that the client is safe to explore underlying and core feelings. This attachment to the therapist creates a reparative safe experience for the client to explore his deep aloneness.

Q: How does AEDP help to “Undo the Aloneness?”

Berni Fried: By developing a positive and encouraging environment for our clients AEDP helps to develop a safe healthy connection for the client to feel connected and seen. If our patients know feel and experience that they exist inside of us the patient exists in our minds and hearts creates attachment security. If our client’s feel understood and feel cared for the sense of connectedness helps to “undo the aloneness”. This model helps with the reparation of earlier childhood disruptions. The model helps to repair the feelings of neglect or not being understood in the primary care relationships of our clients. Often times clients have suffered extreme abandonment and neglect and the feelings of being understood help to create a deep longing of safety and contentedness. The AEDP therapist inquires re: what it is like for the client to feel safe and understood? Providing a sense of connection and groundedness helps to activate trust and a safe “other”. The goal of the therapy is to evoke a transformational spiral in which the client is able to take in a safe connection and helping to “undo the aloneness”. Having something and feeling it in your body makes one all too aware of loss of what one never had, putting the client in touch with the deprivation and loss. Another aspect of AEDP is mourning the self and emotional pain and grief for the self. Through a positive experience of safety clients are put in touch with the feelings related to abandonment or deep sadness to what they never had growing up. AEDP through the attachment connection and the dyadic relationship with the therapist helps to repair and heal these feelings and core affect states.

Q: Why are Core states important in AEDP therapy?

Berni Fried: Core state is the place where are feelings arise. Being in a a “core “state creates a sense of calm. There is a sense of truth about ourselves and our feelings. We are wide open and able to access compassion, generosity, compassion for the the self and a capacity to reflect on all aspects of ones being. This state provides the client with the capacity to have a coherent and cohesive autobiographical narrative. One of the key factors of treating and healing trauma is that the client has the ability to “tell his or her story” that there is the capacity to have a narrative and a deep understanding of our own past. This gives the client the ability to feel empowered and have a strong sense of self. The therapist or “true other” helps to foster the safety and guide the client with a sense of compassion and understanding through the feelings that otherwise would be unbearable.

Q: Any closing words about AEDP?

Berni Fried: Through the process of connection and understanding the process of AEDP creates the ability to access “a Core state” this is helpful and creates a sense of calm and connectedness in our clients. By understanding and embracing the differences that make us human, our practice encourages personal and organizational growth and progress.

In the Los Angeles area, Berni Fried has built a successful private practice that assists clients from all walks of life. Now in her third decade as a therapist, Berni Fried is planning to establish her own treatment center in the near future.