Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) is a counseling philosophy. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment method. Both are backed by research and can be effective in treating mental health conditions.

woman in therapist's officeShare on Pinterest
Getty Images/Lucy Lambriex

If you’re considering therapy to help with a mental health issue — or if you’re already working with a therapist — it can be helpful to educate yourself about different treatment options. Two options to consider are accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

These two types of therapy are different. AEDP is a broad method of conducting therapy, while EMDR is a specific treatment. This article briefly compares the two, so you can make an informed decision about which you might want to explore further with a therapist.

Learn more about AEDR and Learn more about EMDR.

AEDP is an approach to psychotherapy developed by psychologist Diana Fosha, PhD. AEDP encourages people to pay close attention to how emotions affect their bodies. By noticing physical sensations, people can learn to name and fully experience their feelings.

In AEDP, you and your therapist work together to create a safe, nonjudgmental relationship that fosters healing and transformation. The therapist’s role is to show compassion and invite exploration.

Therapists who employ AEDP believe that forming a secure and healthy attachment to a therapist can prompt you to think about other attachments you have experienced across your life landscape.

In such an environment, proponents say, you’ll be better able to move past defensive feelings and experience deeper, “core” feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, and joy. Processing these core feelings can allow you to come to new understandings and greater self-acceptance. The aim is, as one researcher expressed it, “upward spirals of flourishing.”

AEDP can take place in person or using teletherapy.

EMDR is an eight-step mental health treatment that uses eye movements, sounds, or touch to disrupt traumatic memories and help people think about their experiences in a new way. In the early phases of EMDR, you and your therapist work together to identify events in your past that may provoke a lot of negative emotion.

Your therapist can then guide you through memories of the experience while activating your senses on both sides of your body.

Your therapist might, for example, ask you to watch her hands as she moves them from left to right. Or you may hear a sound or see a light first on the left and then on the right. Some therapists use touch, tapping first on one side of your body and then the other, if a patient feels comfortable with that approach.

Researchers think the sensory information disrupts the old way your mind has processed traumatic memories, making new associations. Afterward, proponents say, traumatic memories are less likely to trigger severe emotions and negative beliefs.

EMDR was originally conceived by psychologist Francine Shapiro, PhD, who first used the method after realizing that eye movements helped to desensitize the emotions she experienced when recalling upsetting memories.

Both AEDP and EMDR are supported by research and have been shown to bring about positive change in people’s lives. In studies, AEDP helped people cope with negative emotions and experiences and improved their well-being.

Likewise, decades of research have shown that EMDR helps people recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related mental health conditions.

AEDP is an integrative therapy model — an approach to psychotherapy. EMDR, on the other hand, is a specific therapeutic treatment. In EMDR, you don’t focus on talking about your emotions as the primary means of change. In AEDP, discussing feelings with your therapist is the means of changing them.

AEDP is used with a variety of mental health conditions, including trauma, and can be especially useful when people have had difficulty with attachment in their relationships.

While there is growing evidence that EMDR can help with conditions including addiction, anxiety, and mood disorders, it’s most often used to treat trauma-related mental health conditions. Researchers say more studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness in treating conditions that do not stem from trauma.

The AEDP Institute recommends this therapeutic model to treat:

The AEDP Institute suggests it may not be appropriate for:

The American Psychological Association recommends EMDR conditionally as a treatment method for PTSD. Increasingly, researchers recommend it for other mental health conditions.

To find a therapist who specializes in EMDR, you can use the search tool offered by the EMDR Institute. The AEDP Institute also offers a directory of psychotherapists trained in AEDP methodology.

Want some tips for finding the right therapist for you? Learn more here.

Can you do EMDR or AEDP on your own?

No. Both EMDR and AEDP rely on partnerships with professionals specifically trained in these therapies.

Can you do EMDR and AEDP via teletherapy?

Yes, both therapies can be used in telehealth settings. It’s important to talk with your therapist beforehand to be sure you have a supportive environment. You’ll also want to be sure you have access to a strong internet connection and other technologies.

Are there side effects with EMDR?

According to the EMDR Institute, some people may experience some distressing emotions or memories during or after EMDR sessions. Your therapist will offer you guidance and support to help you leave sessions feeling “in control and empowered.” For most people, these emotions and memories become less intense as therapy continues.

AEDP and EMDR are two different types of psychotherapy. AEDP is a model of therapy that focuses on fully experiencing core emotions so you can thrive and flourish. EMDR is a treatment that helps you reprocess traumatic memories using eye movements or other kinds of sensory stimulation.

Both AEDP and EMDR are supported by research, and both involve a strong partnership between you and your therapist. Each is effective in treating certain kinds of mental health difficulties. Which one is best for you is something to talk about with your own therapist.