Counselling and the body - how AEDP works
Updated: Jul 5
Traditionally, clinical counselling has been organized around the mind, the beliefs, and what people say. Since Descartes and his famous saying "I think, therefore I am", we have been led to believe that mastering thoughts would be the way to go. In this instance, feeling feelings- be it in the form of emotions or sensations - has been often considered to be a sign of weakness, something undesirable, that would "pollute" our ability to connect with whatever we were trying to get to know. Psychoanalysis and behavioural therapies are examples of this, and they are all, in one way or another, focused on "insight" (a cognitive process), that do provide clients with important benefits in terms of connecting dots and getting to know patterns of behaviour associated with thoughts, feelings and sensations.
In parallel to the development of those models our human culture also developed bodily practices as another way to get to know oneself, others and the environment. In my case, I first came to contact these practices in dance, and then in yoga and finally in Eutony somatic practice.
In general, we can describe talk therapy as a top-down approach: whatever happens in the frontal cortex - where we think - will impact the experience in lower structures, all the way to our sensations, emotions, movement, and pain, as well as the sense of ease and confidence. In bodily practices we expect to see a bottom-up process: what happens in the body will impact the thoughts and all the cognitions- concentration, memory, beliefs, mood, as well as the ability to problem solve, make decisions, and feel motivated.
AEDP has been the model in psychotherapy where I have been finding an integration between the top-down and the bottom-up approaches, and get the most out of them both- towards healing and transformation. AEDP is a healing and transformance oriented approach.
AEDP stands for accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. Accelerated in the sense that it tends to "go to the point" faster than some psychoanalytic processes would go. And it tends to go faster due to its experiential nature. In a typical session, we would focus on the experiencing of somatic and emotional markers- however they express in your body. And we want to do that from a place of curiosity and togetherness. Undoing aloneness is one of the main mottos in AEDP, offering clients the opportunity to re-edit their usual relational programs, by addressing how the relationship with the therapist feels. The client is invited to share with the therapist how their bodily experiences feel and together make meaning of them, so that those new meanings and felt experiences become part of the client's new default mode.
Finally, AEDP is a non-pathologizing model, that has compassion at its core. In our cartesian modern western culture, it is common for clinicians to label clients and then try to fix them. In AEDP, we understand behaviour, emotions and sensations as a result of the body's wisdom and the natural healing tendencies. This compassionate understanding leads the nervous system to adjust, decrease the protective mode and become more regulated, in face of the different contexts in life.
diagram from the book "it's not always depression" by Hilary Jacobs Hendel