Making AEDP Supervision Relational and Experiential through Cultivating Receptive Affective Capacity: A Parallel Process Not So Parallel Karen Kranz, Ph. D., R. Psych.
Making AEDP Supervision Relational and Experiential through
Cultivating Receptive Affective Capacity:
A Parallel Process Not So Parallel
Karen Kranz, Ph. D., R. Psych.
Abstract. Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP, Fosha, 2000) is a profoundly relational and a profoundly experiential model of therapy. Likewise, AEDP supervision needs to be relational and experiential. This paper describes a supervisor-supervisee relationship that emphasizes and makes explicit the intersubjective space created by the dyad and the in-the-moment and moment-by-moment experience of the supervisee in relationship with the supervisor, and the supervisee in relationship with her client. What was created by this supervisor-supervisee relationship was a depth of awareness of how what was occurring between the supervisee and her client paralleled what was occurring between the supervisor and supervisee. Through the experience of the supervisor-supervisee relationship and through the experience of watching the videotaped supervision sessions, the supervisee experienced herself in ways she had not previously. From these experiences, a second parallel process occurred, that is, the supervisee’s deepening self-awareness paralleled the supervisee’s deepening therapeutic work with her client. In using the AEDP model in the supervision process, the supervisee was able to experience the model relationally and experientially, thus learning the model from the bottom up. In the words of the supervisee, “This was, and continues to be, a deeply transformational experience both professionally, in learning and integrating the model, and personally, in gaining awareness and integration of the self through the relationship with the supervisor and with the client.” Transcripts of the supervision session illustrate this particular supervisor-supervisee dyad.
Among therapists there is a familiar axiom. It is something along the lines of, “Therapists can only journey with their clients where they themselves have dared to venture.” The following is an analysis of a supervisor-supervisee relationship within which this axiom became manifest.
Two foundational tenets of AEDP therapy are that it is profoundly relational and it is profoundly experiential: AEDP therapists are required to develop their capacities to be deeply relational, i.e., to be present and acutely aware of their inner experience, the client’s inner experience, and the intersubjective space created by the dyad. This rich, intimate, and dynamic relationship cultivates and maintains a relational container in which client safety is paramount and from which clients are able to explore the previously feared and uncharted depth and vastness of their inner experience. As an experiential therapy, AEDP therapists are required to develop their capacities to be deeply experiential: AEDP therapists are willing, present, and open to experiencing the fresh yet uncertain terrain of what is created in-the-moment and moment-by-moment with their clients. These endeavors take courage and the willingness to be vulnerable for both therapists and clients. However, therapists have the utmost responsibility for knowing and holding the relational and experiential maps, and holding these interrelated maps with flexibility and confidence to allow the unknown to arise in the service of liberating the healing process of transformance.
The purpose of this paper is to articulate a process of AEDP supervision that emerged within a particular supervisor-supervisee relationship. This process was not conceived prior to meeting but instead evolved through our work together. It is a process that highlights the dynamic, relational, and experiential nature of AEDP supervision, and the huge healing potential of using videotapes of supervision for supervisees to review. Transcripts of the supervision sessions with this supervisee are used to elucidate the phenomenology of AEDP supervision and the parallel process. That is, what is experienced in supervision between supervisor and supervisee has strong parallels with what is also experienced in therapy between the supervisee and her client.
Videos of the supervision sessions were made originally for the purpose of the supervisor’s own supervision. However, through the process of the supervisee watching the supervision videos, several fascinating and ultimately powerful phenomena emerged. First, what was previously known by the supervisee became more known. The level or depth of what the supervisee knew about herself and her growing edges, was experienced again, yet newly at a deeper level. As such, what was experienced before became more experienced and what was known before became more known. Second, the supervisee had a new experience of herself: An entirely new experience that revealed what was previously unknown to her. Thus, in viewing of the supervision videos by the supervisee, experiential became turbo charged as was the supervisee’s healing and growth.
AEDP supervision mirrors the model of AEDP therapy. Thus, AEDP supervision focuses on systematically activating and harnessing transformational power and strivings from the get-go. The AEDP supervisor fosters the development of a secure attachment, works experientially, and undoes aloneness through making explicit the stance of learning and growing together. The AEDP supervisor metaprocesses with the supervisee new, emergent positive transformational experience and state transformations. The supervisor attends to the intersubjective space and the expansion of dyadic states of consciousness through mutual affective states, dyadic affect regulation, empathy, affirmation, and through highlighting moments of recognition and resonance. Using the self of the supervisor, she dyadically maximizes positive emotions, which aids in both metabolizing negative affects and neurologically optimizing new learning.
Both AEDP therapy and AEDP supervision are grounded in the four-state transformational process. However, what will be noted and reflected in the material below is that there is a substantive difference between, state by state, what is deepened in therapy that is not deepened in supervision.
- In State One, the phenomenology the AEDP supervisor attends to is constituted of (a) the red signals (e.g., supervisee’s anxiety, defenses, shame) and green signals (e.g., supervisee’s openness to connecting with the supervisor; (b) the supervisee’s receptive affective capacity or her willingness to take in positive affirmations regarding herself, her work and her glimmers of transformance; (c) the supervisee’s capacity to integrate constructive suggestions for areas of growth; and (d) the supervisee’s empathic reflection of the self or her ability to view her own videos through the lens of self-compassion for her growing edges.
- In State Two, the phenomenology the AEDP supervisor attends to is constituted of (a) core relational experiences between supervisor and supervisee, (b) intersubjective experiences of pleasure, and (c) supervisee authentic self-states. What is acknowledged, accompanied, but not deepened, are core affective experiences. This is a point of departure from AEDP therapy. In AEDP supervision, the supervisor and supervisee walk a fine but distinguishable line between supervision and therapy. The intention is not to bypass or ignore core affective experience but rather to hold the supervision container such that core affective experiences are marked for further expression and exploration with another (e.g., a therapist).
- In State Three, the phenomenology the AEDP supervisor attends to is constituted of (a) the mastery affects of pride and joy; (b) the tremulous affects associated with quantum change; and (c) the healing affects of gratitude and feeling moved.
- In State Four, the AEDP supervisor is attending to core state and the phenomenology of openness, self-compassion, wisdom, generosity, kindness, clarity, calm, flow, ease, and the sense of things being “right.” The supervisor also metaprocesses the supervisee’s new experiences that expand both the depth of her self-awareness and the breath of her self-knowledge. These new understandings are then metaprocessed in light of their impact on the self of the superviseeas well as on the supervisee’s work with her clients.
There is also a second substantive difference between AEDP therapy and AEDP supervision. The AEDP supervisor metaprocesses positive mastery, tremulous, and healing affects as well as core state experiences. However, she does this gingerly, recognizing that this rich terrain has the potential to open into layers of unprocessed, challenging, historical experience. Whereas the AEDP therapist deepens into this realm, the AEDP supervisor explicitly acknowledges the significant and meaningfulness of this work while also maintaining the supervision container.
At the outset of the supervision that gave rise to this paper, the supervisee explicated what she hoped to learn, develop, and hone through the process of supervision. Among other intentions, she expressed the following: “I would like to develop greater ease with the relational—specifically, self-disclosing—aspect of the dyad; greater comfort with bringing myself into the process, and with metaprocessing that experience.”
The following four vignettes are extracted from three consecutive supervision sessions. They elucidate the relational and experiential components of AEDP supervision and exemplify the parallel process. They also illustrate the transformational power of transformance that emerged when the supervisee watched the videos of the supervision sessions. Transcripts have been edited for ease of reading and to protect the supervisee’s privacy. The analysis of the supervision is in bold and description of nonverbals is in italics.
Part 1. The Supervisee’s Challenges with Her Client
[We had watched a segment of video and then discussed what was happening within the supervisee with regards to her client.]
Supervisee: And even after I tried, a part of me was feeling like… this is really empty…the metaprocessing, because I feel like I’ve just been given a story (this was what was going on inside of me) and I asked her, “So, how does it feel to have just done this with your mother?” And to cue, she says, “Oh, it feels better, it feels good to say this out loud…cause I get to hear what I’m like”…it felt like a bullshit story (leans forward, smiles). [The supervisee is lamenting the fact that she feels her client works hard at being a “good client” as opposed to being authentic.]
Supervisor: So we’re coming back to your edge around disclosure…. what would you like to say to her? I get you’re saying that it doesn’t feel like she’s really here or that she’s a news reporter. How do you…if you were to disclose to her… [In keeping with the supervisee’s desire to bring herself more to therapy and to use self-disclosure, I inquire how she may do that.]
Supervisee: I suppose I could in the disclosing…. say how it impacts me and the fact that I want and I’m trying very hard and want to get close to her, to feel what she’s feeling, perhaps naming the defense. But I feel like she holds me back (hands lift, palms face out).
Supervisor: So she doesn’t let you in.
Supervisee: Yeah…and just make that explicit?
Supervisor: Well, I don’t know necessarily because that could be kind of jarring for her. But I think that’s what’s going on inside you: She’s not allowing you in.
Supervisee: (nodding) Mmm-hmm…
Supervisor: And then so you don’t feel seen.
Supervisor: You don’t feel…
Supervisor: Invited…you don’t feel part of…. You’re not connected, and you keep trying and trying…. and you can’t get there.
Supervisee: (nodding) Mmm-hmm…. yeah…
Supervisor: So I don’t know if I would do it in this way. She’s 20 years old, she’s working really hard at trying to be acceptable and she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. So I’d want to tread lightly, but I might ask her a question like, does she feel me here? Can you feel me here? She’ll probably say yes, and then I might say (because I don’t know that I necessarily believe her) so how do you know? How do you know you can feel me? Cause I’m really trying to feel you and I’m kind of struggling to feel you…I see you…I hear you…. but I’m struggling to feel you. I’m just wondering, can you feel me? And again, she probably won’t know really what you’re talking about, and she’ll probably say yeah. And then I’d say, this is where you’d do “the face thing,” so what do you see in my face? She’ll say, well, I see you look curious and interested and engaged. So can you feel what it’s like to notice that I’m looking at you with curiosity and interest? Actually, as I said that I got a little bit excited because she’s never had a mother who cares and looks at her with interest, who wants to know her, who wants to get her.
Supervisor: So…she doesn’t know it…she doesn’t know somebody who wants to actually know her (leaning forward intermittently).
Supervisee: Mmm-hmm…. (nodding)…yeah, we touched on that piece cause I think she lives in the context of what would she need from her mother and then she realized, I don’t know, I don’t even know what to expect, I’ve never experienced this. I don’t know what to want.
Supervisor: So you might say to her: So what’s it like being with me, knowing I really want to get you (leans forward). I get a part of you and it’s lovely to meet that part of you. I’d really like to know YOU, what goes on inside of you (voice lowers) What goes on inside you and how you think about things, how you make meaning and what hurts you. What happens when I say that? And she might say, ok, or she might say that makes me uncomfortable, which would be great because then you’ve got something to work with.
Supervisee: Right…and close to that… last session, she talked about picturing a container, a big ice cream container where she keeps herself (nodding).
Supervisor: Oh…. yeah, you guys want to get in there together. Mmm-hmm…. let me into the ice cream container.
Supervisee: And see what’s going on in there…
Supervisor: And she doesn’t have a lot of friends so she’s got nobody that wants to understand the ice cream container and really get in there, and she doesn’t even really know to want that.
Supervisor: I mean, I think her transformance drive is there… that wants that, but she doesn’t know it.
Supervisor: What’s happening as you’re nodding?
Supervisee: It feels very rich, I can just see (hand stroking forehead)…different areas to get into. I’m also thinking that how we, yesterday when I was looking at different points of entry, and I tried to access the anger and by going into an example of how she was very feisty with her brother, how she answered him back. She said something about how he was impatient with her now, but she said “I’ve been alone for two years and where have you been? And now you show up.” So I accompanied her with that, but it fell flat, so then maybe…
Supervisor: Yeah…this other avenue.
Supervisor: It’s more fitting with whom she sees herself as, whereas the anger, I’m suspecting is…
Supervisee: Too much too soon….
Supervisor: Yeah…but to really get that, you want to get her?
Supervisor: And then the two of you really get into the ice cream bucket…. and then…. you can do some parts work here too, cause there’s ‘shiny’ her and then there’s her within the ice cream bucket. You could say to her…introduce it first but around the idea of…. so it feels like there’s this, to me, this is how it feels to me, you correct me…. There’s this part that does the smile and is the reporter and keeps it all together and is a star, really…. there’s your star self and there’s the self that you mentioned a few weeks about being in the ice cream pail.
Supervisee: She brought up the bucket this time again.
Supervisor: Perfect. She’s telling you where to go. Ok, so there’s these two parts and then let’s really focus here. Then she’ll say yes or no and then go in there…and then when you start getting the shiny self again or whatever you guys decide to call this part…(both hands hover above table, palms facing down)…I don’t know if this is ice cream bucket…. what’s her name?
Supervisor: I don’t know if this is ice cream bucket Sandy or if this is shiny Sandy, so she can start to reflect on when she’s ice cream bucket Sandy and when she’s shiny Sandy, cause I really want to know ice cream bucket Sandy, cause that’s the one that doesn’t get to come out and play very often.
Supervisor: We all know shiny Sandy, you know shiny Sandy, I know shiny Sandy.
Supervisee: Mmm-hmmm (nodding)
Supervisor: What do you think?
Supervisee: Good…. Lovely…Ok…. (reviews notes)
Supervisor: What are you thinking?
Supervisee: Just trying to figure out where to go next?
Supervisor: So this is dropping you into a much more relational place.
Supervisor: With her…and you’re saying it feels rich and it feels right so it doesn’t feel kind of like…
Supervisee: No, there’s a little part of me that gets apprehensive because I know how she gives me these sort of flat, short answers that go nowhere. But I feel like I’m in a much richer pool and just adding the relational piece feels like nourished soil in which to grow.
Supervisor: And you can be playful with her. I probably would be playful with her in the way that I was with you.
Supervisee: Ok…. that’s really good…ok.
[We continue with watching more video in which the client speaks about her loneliness. We discuss how to undo the client’s loneliness in session (e.g., “do you feel me with you right now?”). The supervisee relays that she delighted in her client and is unsure whether or not the client received her delight. I use this as an opportunity to work relationally and experientially with the supervisee.]
Part 2. Making Supervision Relational and Experiential:
Working with Parallel Process (later in the same session)
Supervisor: Let’s try something…Do you want to?
Supervisee: Ok. (both re-position to face each other squarely)
Supervisor: We’ve been…I don’t know how many minutes have passed since we’ve been together…so, can you feel me?
Supervisor: How do you know?
Supervisee: Oh, because you are fully focused and interested in the work, and what we’re talking about and how I’m doing this. You seem to be working very hard finding ways of teaching, showing, giving options, possibilities.
Supervisor: Do you feel my interest in you?
Supervisee: Yeah I do…(laughs) but that’s where I get stuck.
Supervisor: (playfully) I noticed you commented on my interest in the work as opposed to my interest in you.
Supervisee: Yeah, I don’t know what to do with that one. It’s so tough…. I go to my head.
Supervisor: Wait a second…. do you believe I’m interested in you?
Supervisee: I believe it.
Supervisor: You believe it.
Supervisee: Yeah, my head believes it.
Supervisor: Your head believes it but you can’t let me in?
Supervisee: Yeah, you know, I want to so badly…I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. (laughs)
Supervisor: You are her! (gesturing towards the video and the supervisee’s client)
[I draw the parallel between the supervisee being able to take me in and the supervisee’s client’s ability to take her in. We are working with receptive affective capacity.]
Supervisee: I know! I know!…and the lady with the fence (another client).
Supervisor: Yeah the lady with the fence, only she lets you in. So as you’re sitting in that seat and I think, when you look at me, I think you genuinely believe that I want to know you, I’m curious about you, I want to know what the process is like for you, and I want to understand really exquisitely where you’re grappling and I want to help…I think you know that.
Supervisor: So…can you let yourself feel that?
Supervisee: (nodding) I feel it and if I allow myself to… and it feels good but very quickly all these other things come and pull me away, and I worry about how you’re judging me, how you’re evaluating me. Are you framing your feedback just positively just to be nice but really there’s this …. the truth sits behind there somewhere.
Supervisor: So it’s really hard because you think there’s another subtext that’s going on as well.
Supervisor: So this is true but there’s something else that’s true.
Supervisee: Yeah…which keeps (one hand pushes out, palm faces out)…which is really strong and comes in and creates that barrier and that distance…. guards me…I feel almost a gravitational pull away.
Supervisor: Yeah…so if you imagine…can we just put that to the side…I don’t want to ignore it because I think it has had enormous benefit in your life…a lot…but can we shift it over there just a bit so that you can have an experience of maybe kind of… believing in all the stuff that is true that you know about me and my interest in you.
Supervisee: (nodding) Yeah…this other stuff comes in that’s really loud…but if I were to keep…and I am working very hard to move it over…. and believe that it is pure and truthful.
Supervisor: Well, let’s work with the word “pure” for a second…. I like that…I wouldn’t have any….pureness and nothing but goodness.
Supervisor: All the goodness I have is true but I don’t think I’m pure nothing but goodness.
Supervisor: So I just don’t know what you mean by pure…
Supervisee: That when you say have this interest and….not intrigue…you used another word…
Supervisor: Curiosity…I really want to understand where you struggle and grapple…
Supervisee: That’s the pure…
Supervisor: That’s pure…
Supervisee: (nodding) Yeah…that that isn’t just…. that you’re not just saying that…that there’s another agenda.
Supervisor: Another agenda?
Supervisee: Or there’s another judgment…it’s what you deliver on the outside but internally, there’s a whole other evaluation going on.
Supervisor: Right…right…. and…because that’s been your experience with people… they show up one way…. and they’re explicit in one way, but there’s all this other shit that’s going on that’ll come around and blindside you at some point in time.
Supervisee: Always, always…
Supervisor: So keep the guard up…
Supervisee: (nodding) Yeah…
Supervisor: That’s probably what she [the client] experienced too when her brother said, “oh, I’ll help you pay for therapy…. oh no….this maybe isn’t working.” Do you have…and I’m going to try that question on you…do you have a sense what I can do or say or show you or demonstrate that would…. and this is where I go back to “pure” because…. it’s not all one or the other. I have all those feelings (hands make rolling gestures)…. and it’s all true, and sometimes I might think oh I probably could’ve done that there or something like that…. so it’s sort of taking the entirety of me…maybe…and being ok…that I don’t have to be just so perfect. [Making explicit the parallel between supervisee’s work with her client and our relationship]
Supervisee: (nodding) That works…. the entirety…you don’t have to be so perfect feels better, and this is where I see the whole anxious attachment thing screaming because the thought that comes immediately is… even with your imperfection, am I good enough that you’ll come back or stick around? I can accept your imperfections…. it makes me feel a little more comfortable…. it makes me feel like you’re more human.
Supervisor: Yeah, yeah…
Supervisee: And so that….
Supervisor: It makes me feel more human too. (both laugh)
Supervisee: Yeah…that I’m flawed and I’m showing you flaws but then so are you and you’re saying it and admitting it, and it both makes us more human…. makes ME feel more so…. on equal ground…. but then it slides into….. well, then you’ll get to know more, and the more you know…. the more you’ll decide…. and you won’t stick around.
Supervisor: And I won’t stick around…. is that true for you too with me?
Supervisee: Well that’s what I’m talking about (points to self)…is ME with you right now.
Supervisor: Yeah…. but you’re talking about me running…. I’m asking you… is that true for you that you’ll get to know me more and run?
Supervisee: Oh no (laughs)…. no….
Supervisor: How do I know that?
Supervisee: How do you know that? (laughing)
Supervisor: I don’t know. (laughing)
Supervisee: And that’s the part…I wish someone would tell me…. what’s the secret? What’s the trick…how do people do that? How do you know?
Supervisor: How do you know that the person won’t run?
Supervisor: Well, I think…I mean, not to say that you couldn’t ever decide not to want to do supervision anymore, or I might decide not to want to do supervision any more…so that has to be part of it because it’s reality. But we decide that we’ll talk about it…we just won’t not show up.
Supervisee: (nods) Right…. ok…
Supervisor: We just won’t not show up…. and I’m not going to be badmouthing you behind your back.
Supervisee: (nods) I just had a little AHA thing….
Supervisee: I remember in Essential Skills being with [participant)] and she said… it was one of those takeaways…you know that these moments count.
Supervisee: That these moments count…. and I’ve taken that, and I’ve seen it for what it is…at that moment…and now it’s just clicked together with what you’re saying…. makes me realize it’s each of these moments that build to make the whole and that it’s good. The parts are good, and the sum of the parts are good…. and now as you say even if it has to end at some point, all the parts will have (fists clench) the good substance that it will either be ok or has the capacity to discuss it so that it becomes ok…so that it’s not abandonment. Each of these moments, the quality of these moments, that are in and of themselves good…but stitched together, they are also good.
[We continued working this way exploring the boundaries of our relationship and her ability to experience my interest and care for her. We ended the session, and I spontaneously told her that I would send her the video of our
session so she can watch what we did today. We closed this session with the
Supervisee: Mmm…that would be helpful…I’d play that over and over again…God knows I need to.
Supervisor: Well, we can both play it…maybe you know…you can say to me: Karen, you actually went too far…I wasn’t doing therapy, but I was walking that edge to try and see if we could have an experience that could help you with this (gesturing to video of her client session)…
Supervisee: No, it’s great…yeah… Fantastic…thank you…
Supervisor: You’re welcome.
Supervisee: (picks up thumb drive) Thank you very much…. I’m so loving this…this is so good…so good…. it’s so hard but it’s so good.
Supervisor: You’re very, very welcome. I’ll see you in a few weeks.
Part 3. Metaprocessing Our Previous Supervision Session
Supervisor: So, did you have a chance to watch?
Supervisee: So this is the second part to answer your question, how am I doing? Yes…. this is such an incredibly powerful tool…. this business of the taping and then seeing oneself afterwards…both with clients and in supervision…it’s really…. the amount of growth and learning is just out of this world. I was slammed after watching this tape and I became so, so keenly aware of how avoidant my attachment style is…I always knew that I was anxious…anxious attachment…I’m in touch with that stuff…but I never thought that I was avoidant because there was always this part of me that wants that connection and wants that attachment and works very hard at that…I always thought that folks who were avoidant don’t want it but what I realize is that they desperately want it as well as anybody else…they just have to (hands claw the air in front of her)….this whole way of making sure people stay away. Then when I reviewed our last supervision session, you know how when you’re in the moment you pick up some things but you don’t pick it all up and there’s something about watching it all again on tape that’s just like ugh, ugh….I kept seeing…it became so….talk about being slammed with how avoidant I really am and didn’t know it….then…applying that to that particular client we were watching…it became all the more real…and trying, as I was watching myself, to deeply understand how you were trying to get me to understand our relationship and your presence and my presence with you. I was watching my body language (arms cross)…I was like this the entire time and I was deeply caught in my head…and then…so it all became really very apparent to me in watching that video. I position myself in that same peripheral place with everybody…I’m in …I’m not…and the way people relate to me…nicely push me in and I politely follow but I stay back…oh, my lord! So I thought that this goes back a long way so that’s all…. and then, I was watching this lady [client] and a couple of others and I really saw it again.
Supervisor: You saw…
Supervisee: I really saw how my avoidant…. my fears, my avoidant style keeps me from really fully engaging and I think, I hope…I really understood…what you saw back in Essential Skills that you said to me. You said, there’s something about you but you just stop at the door. I saw myself stop at the door…. I saw how I do that…and I’ve seen how I do that with people and it’s the subtle things…it’s the kinds of questions to ask…it’s to be able to allow that relationship to be fully open…. to…it’s to be aware…it’s that intersubjective piece…. to be aware of what’s going on inside of me that shapes my questioning…that shapes my responses…but I get back only what I can tolerate (hand pulls towards self)…only as much as I can handle…when I know the client is perfectly willing and open to more (hands apart)…but I just kind of (hands push out)…go this is as much as I can take…I go holy shit!
Supervisee: Yeah…so…so…. this has been so helpful because I’m so much more aware of my body language, nonverbally what’s happening, that despite the fact that even though I feel that resistance, I feel that knot in the middle of my chest, I need to simply feel it and to risk leaning in anyway…feel the fear and do it anyway…and see what happens. (wipes eyes) I suppose if I think of certain clients…
Supervisor: Can I just check in with you…. so we watched the video tape together
and I pointed out things. I think the first thing you said in your email that you sent me about what you wanted to do in supervision…you wanted to bring yourself more to therapy right?
Supervisee: Yeah. (nodding)
Supervisor: So you knew this, right? And then so we do this (gesturing to watching video) and then we do a bit of this (gesturing between us)…and…and I’m curious, because you watched…. I don’t want to do a bit of this (gesturing between us) that’s beyond what feels right and comfortable. This is supervision, not therapy…and…but I also… I kind of like that part in supervision where it sort of is a blending…we don’t go really deep like we do in therapy, but we bump up against things, and they get brought to awareness and we hold them and you can take them to therapy. But I just want to make sure that I’m not overstepping in any way your boundaries about what feels comfortable for you.
Supervisee: So far not…. in fact, I really quite appreciate it because the more I get, the more I like and want. I don’t see us crossing a boundary at all. If anything, I don’t want to take advantage of this time and somehow make you do the kind of work that you weren’t bargaining for either.
Supervisor: That’s how I like to do supervision. I like watching video…I like the back and forth between you and I …what was there and what could be added…sort of the teaching part, and I like to know how you’re doing in this process with me, learning this…what’s bumping up against in you…. like I said (sides of hands together and palms face up)…it really depends on a person’s experience that it might be too far for you or not far enough so I just want to check in with you about that.
Supervisee: And I think it’s something that’s just inherent in the model, and I think that’s how not only we learn it…that IS how we learn it…is in understanding ourselves, what happens subjectively with us, how that helps or impedes what we’re doing. I don’t think we can NOT do this.
Supervisee: That’s just the way the model is designed.
Supervisee: So, no… that’s why it’s been so rich…on so many levels…so I’m very appreciative, absolutely.
Supervisor: And anytime that you feel uncomfortable…you know, to say, ok Karen, I can’t go there right now…a little bit like what you said earlier…I’ll take this to [therapist].
Supervisee: And not because I don’t want to bring it to you. I just don’t know that it’s appropriate because we have an agenda here. (arms encircle a ball of space)
Supervisor: We’re walking that line…of not doing therapy…we’re doing supervision…we’re also not ignoring whatever arises.
Supervisee: Ok, yeah…
Supervisor: And whatever we can sort of explore together…that’s a mirror of what’s going on over there (supervisee’s video) so I’m really glad you watched.
Supervisee: Twice…(both laugh)
Supervisee: The first time I was blown away…this didn’t really happen, did it? And then I had to watch it again…. to make sure that I could coherently explain to you what I experienced and what I …the insight that I got…sooo powerful!
Supervisee: Yeah, it really is.
Supervisor: AND you knew it, but you just knew it again… at a deeper level… you experienced it.
Supervisee: But you know what? It’s less frightening.
Supervisor: Oh…yeah…what’s less frightening?
Supervisee: Because when I think about how I knew it then…. it was a little more than just intuitively…I knew it was something. I don’t think I had the words for it. I didn’t know how to conceptualize it. I knew it was there, but it also felt bigger (palms face each other, fingers spread apart)…more insurmountable and frightening. And now when I look into it, the dragon isn’t that big…it’s not that it’s not a big problem…it’s gonna take years but it just doesn’t feel as frightening. It’s the name it and tame it. I see its depth and breadth, and I understand it more and so I’m responding to it more from a place of understanding as opposed to from fear…yeah….
Supervisor: I’m excited.
Supervisor: I feel excited for us to continue….
Part 4. Metaprocessing States Three and Four in the Next Session
Supervisee: And I think the big piece was last time we met when that last little bit, when it all kind of came together for me and I thought… oh my God…. the problem I have with this girl [the client the supervisee brought to supervision] is that she reminds me of me! And where I was so frustrated with her in the beginning and I thought, what’s the matter with her, she’s so difficult and she’s just feeding me with what she thinks I want to hear…. it was when I was watching it again yesterday that I thought…yeah…because that is what…I just saw myself all through her.
Supervisor: Go slow.
[The supervisee shares a story about her own experience that parallels her client’s experience. The story illustrates how her procedural learning mirrors her client’s procedural learning and how her internal working model of relationships and defensive patterns parallels her client’s internal working model and defensive patterns.]
Supervisee: So I’m listening to this kid and I’m getting (thrusts body back several times)…slammed over and over again…and as much as I’m trying to be (wipes eyes with napkin)…. you know, attentive and present and supportive…I’m just getting (thrusting back) another story and another story and another reminder….
Supervisor: And so what was happening when you do this (repeats backward thrusting)…
Supervisee: Well, I was aware of it. And at that same time, trying to ground myself to say I have to be here for her, and I have to apply this model (index fingers of both hands alternately point upward). And this camera is watching and I’ve got all this stuff going on at the same time. Then I’m really struggling too with my old psychodynamic training which is…don’t show…be there…be empathic but don’t…until I couldn’t stand it anymore…couldn’t stand it anymore! I just threw what I was supposed to do aside, and whatever mother cells are in me just came pouring out. I said, you know, you are a wonderful, bright…. and I went on and on (hands make rolling gestures) about all the wonderful things that she is. And what your mother is saying is absolutely wrong, and it just breaks my heart, and then I started to tear and the floodgates opened.
She just then cried harder than I ever heard her cry before, and it was that (palms press together) relational piece…that I wasn’t holding back myself anymore (fists clench then relax)…and then let it go that it just kind of….for her, and it released me… so I can just stay in this connection with her. But I could feel her resistance, so I was trying to slip into her skin (hands scooping downward and then upward) to see how it feels to receive. I recognize that I was stuck because I struggle to receive, so I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t know what to open for her, I didn’t know how to direct her, I didn’t know how to guide her because I was thinking…I don’t know either! (hands lifted, palms face up, shoulders towards ears, eyes wide) I don’t know either…what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? So I don’t know what we did (hands to mouth)… But I said or did something that just turned it, and she started talking about her adult self and her child self. Then that just seemed to empower or shore up her adult self, and then she started to find her self-at-best and the whole end of it was like ‘Yes! Yes!’ (body thrust forward)…and she started to get there…it took me that long but we finally got there…what a journey!
Supervisor: Wait a second! (hand on her heart)…I am just floored by what you’re telling me…this is wonderful! [Intersubjective experience of pleasure]
Supervisor: Wait a second…stay with me…I can’t wait to see it.
Supervisee: Ok…as I said, it’s sprawled everywhere…it’s kind of bits and pieces…it’s not as smooth as I’m saying it…but it was in playing it back that I saw what was going on.
Supervisor: And how do you feel about…
Supervisee: After I shut the computer down yesterday, I was thinking about it and I thought I feel better than I had thought before I replayed it cause I thought it was a terrible session when I walked away. But as I reviewed it, I thought…maybe something does happen here…maybe it’s not about seeing the deer every time you walk into the forest…it’s all of these moments…but it’s the stitching together that…I saw a change in her (one hand lifts, palm faces up). She talks about a change in her, she talks about carrying me outside of the session, she talks about the safety she feels….
Supervisor: She takes you in.
Supervisee: She takes me in….and she carries me with her.
Supervisor: And….that’s her receptive affective capacity, her ability to take in your caring, to take in your compassion.
Supervisee: Yeah…that’s the receiving…
Supervisor: Yes, so something has shifted in her…to be able to take you in….and is there a parallel shift in you in your ability to take in….maybe in your ability to take in me?
Supervisee: Yes…I can feel it (nodding)…I can feel that I’m much less resistant. I open much earlier, and I don’t question as much. I don’t find I resist as much. There isn’t that immediate (hand wipes away) oh yeah…whatever…it takes a while before that shows up…. and I start to question…and when it does, it’s dim…. it’s not…it’s not…it doesn’t bowl me over (hands push forward)…and to overpower me. I feel generally more kind of relaxed, like I can sit back and trust…. and if it’s not, I don’t care…. there’s a part of me at the same time I think, it’s not all that it could be, and that’s ok too…. it’s alright.
Supervisor: So how do you feel telling me about this?
Supervisee: Very encouraged…very optimistic and….
Supervisor: Do you feel good about you?
Supervisor: What’s that like?
Supervisee: There’s that same feeling that I talked about the last time…the moments when I think I can do this (voice brightens, sits more upright)….to walk into the office with my back straighter, my shoulders back, and it’s not something that I can do …. it’s that… I can live with this (one hand moves up and down in front of body). It just feels like everything becomes more whole and more integrated and just solid.
Supervisor: YOU feel more whole?
Supervisee: I can feel like I can live with ME…there aren’t these two conflicting parts all the time.
Supervisor: Yeah…so what’s it like to feel whole and integrated? [Core state]
Supervisee: (smiles) Wow…wow…pretty neat stuff.
Supervisor: Pretty neat stuff!
Supervisor: I’m really happy for you….
Supervisee: Thank you. (exhales, emotion rising)
Supervisor: Let it come…let it come…so, what is that wave of tears?
Supervisee: I don’t know…happy tears I think. [Transformational spiral]
Supervisee: It’s a relief, and it’s gratitude and it’s…yeah it’s just a sense of feeling touched and….what comes to me is a sense of so grateful to have arrived (dabs eye corners with napkin) like I feel like the ship has landed on the shore. And now I can step off and land on the shore. [Healing affects]
Supervisor: And you’re here.
Supervisee: Yeah. I know that I’m not in the middle of the country, but I feel like I’ve landed, and what’s the word when you come off the plane?
Supervisor: Disembark…I don’t know.
Supervisee: Step off…yeah…. to put my feet on the floor.
Supervisor: And what does it feel like to have your feet on the floor and you’ve disembarked?
Supervisee: Yeah…. so the picture that comes to my mind is a…maybe it’s my (country) roots…the ship lands on the shore and I see this sandy shoreline and as I look up, I see that it’s a sunny place…(smiles)…it’s a sunny place.
Supervisor: (smiling, nodding) Yeah…yeah…it’s a sunny place. Oh, I am so touched and moved and happy for you and filled with love for you and care and just excitement and joy and….
Supervisee: Yeah…thank you (dabbing eyes)…thank you.
Supervisor: You’re welcome.
Supervisee: And I can take that now too.
Supervisor: That’s what I’m seeing. I’m seeing you’re actually not pushing me away or my care or my tears.
Supervisee: Yeah, cause there was a time when I wouldn’t buy that at all…but I’m not…and I think it’s because I have allowed myself to sit with that experience within myself when I’m with my clients.
Supervisee: I allowed myself to feel it: I know what that’s like. I know it’s true, and I know it’s pure, and I know it’s real…I know it’s not made up…. I know it’s not a performance for the sake of that hour…it’s genuine…it’s genuine.
Supervisor: So this is genuine (hand moves between them, smiling)
Supervisee: So I know this is genuine (smiling)
Supervisor: Yes (nodding)…oh my goodness.
Supervisee: I know…I know. (dabs eyes while smiling and laughing)
Supervisor: Oh (supervisee’s name)…
Supervisee: Yeah…it’s powerful stuff, cause it’s so immediate. It’s as this is happening with her…me with you is happening, and so much gets transformed at the same time.
Supervisee: So I suppose the other piece that comes with this in terms of how I feel about it is even if the model wasn’t, you know, precisely delivered and so masterfully delivered, it still worked. (both laugh)
Supervisor: And it still worked because you showed up.
Supervisee: Yeah. (nods)
Supervisor: And how you showed up was with your heart, and your wisdom and your connectedness to this person.
Supervisor: And you had an experience with her and she had an experience with you. And it was real, and it was genuine, and it was transformative.
Supervisee: Yeah…yeah. (nodding)
What unfolded within this particular supervision dyad was a process of AEDP supervision in which the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee and the in-the-moment experience of the supervision dyad was utilized to develop the supervisee’s receptive affective capacity. Through the supervision relationship, the supervisee experienced, bottom up, or from the inside out, her own relational challenges that paralleled the challenges she was facing with her client. Through watching the supervision videos, the supervisee who had always recognized her anxious attachment style, experienced, to her deep surprise, her avoidant attachment style. This led to two things: First, her understanding of, and compassion for clients with avoidant attachment styles was profoundly expanded, and second, her ability to challenge herself and cultivate her own receptive affective capacity resulted in a breakthrough with her previously defended client. Through this sequence, the supervisee deepened her understanding of herself, and through new experiences she transcended those difficulties within herself and with her client, which led to the beginning of a new autobiographical narrative.
This process of supervision involved (a) supervisee and supervisor watching videotaped sessions of the supervisee’s work with clients; (b) highlighting the AEDP clinical skills and transformance drive of the supervisee; (c) empathically building on the supervisee’s knowledge through teaching the model of AEDP therapy; (d) explicitly using the supervision relationship to explore experientially the supervisee’s growing edges;
(e) reviewing videotape of the supervision sessions; and (f) metaprocessing the experience of watching the supervision videotapes.
In making AEDP supervision experiential, I was mindfully and explicitly creating a path between therapy and supervision. Each supervisor, supervisee, and supervision dyad is different and will need to co-create their own path. Through walking this fine line between therapy and supervision, the aliveness of AEDP therapy came alive in AEDP supervision.
After reading this paper, the supervisee wrote the following to me. It is a beautiful example of the transformational spiral in process:
I realize the paper has to have a defined scope. It’s unfortunate because since then I’ve/we’ve had further, important transformations. Our last session was especially enlightening for me. Since that session, I’ve been reflecting on the awareness that I gained and realized the following: That you’ve seen me, and it is good. I’ve seen you, and it is good. We’ve seen each other, and it is better still. The process, and kernel of the transformative experience, is that I feel known to you, and it is through you that I know myself. It works both from me to you and you to me, but also from me to my client and my client to me. Being with you, and being seen by you, gives me permission and comfort to experience myself, and through that, and because of that, I feel my Self as Real. This is the I/Thou experience Martin Buber speaks of. And this is the heart of this model and of our relationship, we – with each other (you and me), and me with my clients.
Fosha, D. (2000). The transformational power of affect: A model for accelerated change. New York: Basic Books.