What if you were told the ability to heal from trauma was inside you all along — you just needed to unlock it? That’s what accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) claims, and research suggests it might be right.
Humans are remarkably resilient — they can overcome, adapt, and flourish in the face of overwhelming adversity. What makes you so formidable isn’t necessarily your physical condition but how you mentally react and cope when things get tough.
These conscious and subconscious traits can define your level of resiliency, but not everyone has the opportunity to cultivate those positive reactions and behaviors.
Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) offers a framework of introspection to find the innate traits of resiliency that can help heal past traumas.
AEDP is a relatively new method of psychotherapy developed in the 1990s by Dr. Diana Fosha. It’s a therapeutic intervention that focuses on healing psychological distress and improving overall mental fortitude.
Fundamentally, AEDP theory claims that humans have an innate capacity for dealing with emotional distress — and no matter what you’ve been through, those natural abilities are always there.
Through rediscovery, you can build on those skills. And you can use them to heal from past events and as a way to safeguard your mental health in the future.
AEDP is a model often applied for treating trauma, but it can be beneficial for a number of mental health experiences, including:
- negative thinking
- emotional dysregulation
- suppression and avoidance of negative feelings
- interpersonal challenges
How does AEDP work?
AEDP is about exploring negative thoughts and emotions and feeling safe to do so.
It works by providing a collaborative, supportive, nonjudgmental environment where you can evaluate negative or overwhelming experiences and your reactions to them.
It focuses on joy — even in the midst of difficult self-reflection. Small achievements and happy moments are celebrated to help you feel more confident to face unhappy memories. It focuses on trust between you and your therapist to help reduce feelings of isolation that are often common after experiencing trauma.
When you’re ready to look back on negative events, AEDP helps you recognize unhelpful, or maladaptive, responses that have had long lasting effects.
“[AEDP] emphasizes faith in the client’s capacity for healing, being seen and understood, working through defenses quickly and effectively, and discovering a newfound ability to trust and experience emotions,” explains Megan Tangradi, a licensed professional counselor from Northfield, New Jersey.
“Through this approach, clients can explore deep levels of emotion while feeling safe and supported.”
AEDP is a multidimensional therapy. This means it pulls from many different aspects of psychological theory and health, including:
- attachment theory
- affective neuroscience
- body-focused treatments
- trauma studies
- short-term dynamic therapy
- emotion theory
Amira Martin, a licensed clinical social worker from Brooklyn, New York, indicates that some of the main techniques used in AEDP include:
- dyadic regulation
- transformational affects
- experiential work
- emotion processing
- metatherapeutic processing
Dyadic regulation is a form of cooperative emotional regulation, where your therapist acts as an emotional example. They take on the role of a guide you can mirror to help attune your emotional responses.
This is a guided process, explains Martin, where the therapist helps someone access positive emotions such as love and joy to promote healing and growth.
Experiential therapy is an interactive approach that uses hands-on activities and objects to help express difficult emotions.
Emotional processing theory focuses on changing underlying physiological responses that lead to the fear response associated with traumatic experiences.
Metatherapeutic processing is about creating positive change and promoting well-being. It involves reframing negative experiences by acknowledging them and focusing on how far you’ve come, how you’re currently supported, and how you’ve become stronger.
AEDP is a newer treatment model, which means it hasn’t spent as much time in the research community as some other psychotherapy interventions.
The research that is being done, however, is promising.
A 2020 transdiagnostic study provided initial empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the AEDP model of therapy. Researchers found that it could provide meaningful and significant improvements for a wide range of psychological symptoms.
In 2022, a 6- and 12-month follow-up
Aside from being a newer form of treatment, AEDP may not be for everyone.
“AEDP techniques may not be appropriate for certain types of clients or in certain contexts,” says Tangradi. “Due to the intense emotional focus of AEDP, it can be overwhelming for those who are already in a fragile state.”
You may not be a candidate for AEDP if you:
- have active suicide ideation
- engage in substance misuse
- live with bipolar disorder, addiction, or impulse disorders
- have been diagnosed as moderate to severe on the autism spectrum
- live in a current crisis situation
Help is out there
If you or someone you know is in crisis and considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:
- Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Call 911 or your local emergency services number if you feel safe to do so.
If you’re calling on behalf of someone else, stay with them until help arrives. You may remove weapons or substances that can cause harm if you can do so safely.
If you are not in the same household, stay on the phone with them until help arrives.
AEDP and eye movement desensitizing and reprocessing (EMDR) aren’t the same, though they’re both used to help people overcome traumatic experiences.
“While there are some similarities between AEDP and EMDR, the main difference is that EMDR focuses on desensitizing traumatic memories through eye movements, while AEDP emphasizes emotional transformation and healing through a collaborative and interactive process,” Martin explains.
EMDR creates a physiological state where demands on short-term memory help inhibit the negative effects associated with long-term memories.
AEDP isn’t focused on desensitization. It aims to help you feel safe enough to work through painful memories and acknowledge your feelings, allowing you to develop beneficial or adaptive coping methods.
AEDP was developed in the 1990s as a method of healing trauma and psychological distress.
It combines many tried-and-true methods, like emotional processing and experiential work, to help you rediscover your innate resiliency traits.