Nurturing Professional Transformance through AEDP Supervision
Richard Harrison, PhD
Abstract. This paper identifies and demonstrates ways to incorporate foundational aspects and guiding principles of AEDP in supervision in order to nurture professional transformance in supervisees. These include (a) fostering and leveraging the supervisory relationship as an attachment relationship; (b) being a “Transformance Detective” in supervision; (c) using the triangle of experience in supervision to simultaneously track relational/affective experiences in the therapy and supervisory dyads; (d) working collaboratively to undo professional aloneness; (e) accessing Self-at-Best in order to go to the places of Self-at-Worst in a supervisee’s AEDP practice; (f) facilitating experiences of discovery through a balance of left-brain and right-brain learning modalities (e.g., interweaving experience and reflection in supervision); (g) embracing “good enough” development; and finally, (h) making supervision dyad specific by tailoring interventions to the attachment/relational strategies of each supervisee. The paper also addresses the crucial distinction between supervision and personal therapy. The former is about professional transformation, whereas the latter is about personal development and change. This overarching and guiding concept is particularly important in experiential approaches to supervision and informs how the AEDP supervisor works ethically with aspects of the supervisee’s personal life, history, and emergent affective experience, while keeping the focus on professional transformation. Transcribed excerpts from supervision with three AEDP therapists elucidate these tenets of AEDP incorporated and applied in supervision.
Once there was a little boy named Everett who did not know how to count to three. Everett was six and a very adorable, openhearted, true innocent when I was his teacher in 1989 in Los Angeles. He knew the names of many numbers but didn’t understand that any of these represented a quantity. When he counted, it went something like this: “1, 2, 16, 47, 9, 25, 11…” He also had limited language skills and presumably some significant processing delays (in hindsight, I wonder whether he was on the autism spectrum). For example, one day he came in from recess crying. When I asked him, “What’s the matter? What happened?” he sobbed, “Cuz Cecil… Cuz Roman…Cuz that’s why! Cuz that’s why!”, as though this was a fully elaborated version of however he’d been hurt or wronged by two fellow classmates.
At the time, there was a teacher shortage in LA. All one needed was a B.A. degree and two letters of recommendation to be hired as an “emergency credentialed substitute teacher” with no formal training whatsoever. Then they threw you to the lions without a word of guidance—no prior training required or offered. I worked as a substitute teacher in the L.A. Unified School district for five years under that emergency credential and eventually found my way into special education, after a friend told me if you got assigned to a Special Ed classroom, there were only ten children and there was also another adult in the room who knew what was supposed to be going on (a teacher aide). By the time I was Everett’s teacher, I had discovered and refined my strategy of engaging kids and helping them learn by what I naively called “reaching them on their strong channel”. In retrospect, I became a transformance detective early on.
I taught Everett, Roman, Cecil, and the other boys in Room 9 for a full year. Several days a week, Everett and I sat together at my desk using “manipulatives” to practice counting to ten, yet he continued to generate and voice a random sequence of numbers, as I placed a third or fourth block in front of us. One day, while he was working at his desk independently, and Sandy, the lovely Educational Aide was working at her desk with a group of the other boys, the kindergarten teacher stopped in the doorway to talk to me. Suddenly, Everett called out joyously, “Hey guys! There’re three teachers in the room! One, two, THREE!” pointing in sequence at Sandy, the kindergarten teacher, and myself.
My eyes become misty as I write this many years later, because the moment was deeply meaningful and moving to me. Having helped Everett grow, develop his language skills, his understanding of numbers, and the concept of quantity was an early pinnacle of my professional career. That is, there is something about working in the service of greater knowledge and understanding on the part of others that is at once selfless, in that it transcends my personal sense of myself and is all about the other and something larger than either of us, yet simultaneously brings me into myself and into my heart so fully. I believe part of the reason Everett developed so much over the course of our year together (his parents were so delighted and grateful—I think they wanted me to marry his much older sister!) is because he felt secure in our relationship. It was OK to be him with me.
I believe providing supervision is also about helping people find their way in a shared system of understanding and practice, and doing so is deeply satisfying for me. Because AEDP is such a helpful model and way of being and working (and because there are so many entry points and aspects to the theory and practice of AEDP), I relish my role as an AEDP supervisor, as someone who can help clinicians start from a place of Self-at-Best and expand more deeply and fully into this extraordinary and powerful, transformational professional practice.
Over the past six years as I have trained in AEDP, I’ve increasingly applied tenets and guiding principles of AEDP to the supervision that I offer (as a clinical supervisor in an academic setting, as a Certified EFT Supervisor, and most recently, providing individual and group supervision as a Certified AEDP Supervisor). In this paper, I will describe how these foundational aspects of AEDP inform and have transformed my supervision practice, as well as newer learnings I’ve received through the supervision of my AEDP supervision by Diana Fosha and Eileen Russell. I will also illustrate some of what I describe with vignettes from AEDP supervision.
Supervision as an Attachment Relationship
When we speak of AEDP supervision, we are simultaneously talking about supervising other therapists’ practice of AEDP and a practice of supervision that is consonant with and informed by the ethos, credo, theory, and practice of AEDP. Congruent with the theory and practice of AEDP, for me, the supervisory relationship is an attachment relationship. I want to draw on and “leverage” this attachment relationship to enhance my supervisee’s growth and development in their professional life, in their practice of AEDP. Consequently, my approach to supervision is collaborative, empathic, affirming, non-judgmental, respectful and welcoming. First and foremost, I seek to establish and provide a safe and secure, trusting and trustworthy supervisory relationship, to which both partners (supervisee and myself) bring ourselves with openness and authenticity. I believe I also bring a spirit of generosity, a desire to share. Like a trustworthy attachment figure, the AEDP supervisor is typically stronger, wiser, and more seasoned (“older”)  in their AEDP practice than the supervisee. In this sense, the supervisory relationship becomes a safe haven for professional support and self-exploration and a secure base from which the supervisee can go forth and engage with patients with increased confidence and effectiveness.
I approach each supervisee with gentle curiosity, and I meet each therapist where they are, in order to invite and guide them into a new experience that will be integrative, consolidating, expanding, and deepening of their understanding of and ability in AEDP. I believe this approach allows me to offer and co-create a supervisory relationship that is facilitative of optimal development and one which fosters enhanced security: greater self-trust, confidence, flexibility, exploration, and self-awareness/reflective functioning (Fonagy, et al., 1995), on the part of the supervisee in their role as AEDP therapist, all of which serve to transform the supervisee’s professional practice.
Indeed, this supervisory stance unleashes an iterative process of professional change that parallels the non-finite transformational spiral of AEDP Therapy (Fosha, 2016 DVD). When supervisees feel met where they are and supported in the supervisory relationship, the Supervisor serves as a True Other, an attuned and responsive mentor who helps undo aloneness in professional practice. By resourcing the supervisee in Self-at-Best (more below) while responsively undoing aloneness in those aspects of AEDP practice where the supervisee struggles as an AEDP therapist, the AEDP Supervisor fosters a felt sense of security in the supervisory relationship, which in turn provides a safe haven for the supervisee to lean into, reveal vulnerabilities and receive support. This kind of security-enhancing supervisory relationship also serves as a base from which to launch and explore with curiosity, trying out expanded abilities (both in supervision and in the world of therapy practice) and taking in new and expanded cognitive understandings that guide further practice. As supervisees encounter new struggles and face areas of challenge, they can return to supervision as needed, to receive further support and shore up emergent abilities, as well as to share moments of pride and delight in new growth. In this way, the supervisory relationship is an attachment relationship that provides both secure base and safe haven functions supportive of professional development.
At the start of each supervision session, I ask the supervisee where she would like to focus today. The question helps structure the supervision in order to make effective use of the time, and it also helps ensure we are not working at cross-purposes. Nonetheless, I may, at times, have different ideas about where we need to focus, and this is part of the “dance” of supervision that requires a fine balance between following and leading. As the member of the supervisory dyad whose is “older, wiser, stronger” in my AEDP practice, and kind, I have a responsibility, as a good attachment figure, to take charge at times, and to establish and hold the boundary when practice does not fit with AEDP. My intention always is to do so in a kind, generative way that opens up new possibilities rather than shaming or shutting down the other. Prenn and Fosha refer to this as “rigor without shame” (Fosha, 2016; Prenn & Fosha, 2017, p. 71).
Being a Transformance Detective in Supervision
I view the supervisory relationship, like the therapeutic relationship, as mutual but non-symmetrical. While I have knowledge to share and happily (even joyfully) embody this position with a spirit of generosity and pleasure, my intention is never to do so from a stance of superiority or a “one-up” position. Rather, I engage with the people who consult me from a place of genuine, deep respect, and I am always leaning in to my supervisees’ transformance glimmers, strivings, and manifestations as developing AEDP therapists. In supervision, too, I am a transformance detective. I attend to and acknowledge the adaptive aspects and positive intentions behind the supervisee’s responses to their patients, even when I am offering constructive feedback, which I frame as a way the therapist might more effectively (and efficiently) realize their intention. Using the conditional verb tense, and the first person helps when offering alternative responses and interventions in the clinical work (e.g., “Here, I might want to ask something like, ‘Do you have a sense of me here with you?’ to help regulate the patient’s anxiety and undo her sense of aloneness.”).
Applying AEDP’s Triangle of Experience in Supervision
Along the way, I also attend to my supervisee’s triangle of experience, the extent to which they are open to connection with their own inner world and feelings, how they connect with their patient, and how they relate to me. I track multiple triangles of experience: my own (to the best of my ability), that of the therapy patient, and that of the supervisee, both in his interactions with the patient and in the supervision with me. I am curious about my supervisees’ attachment or relational strategies and defenses, what cues anxiety for them, and what they do when anxiety or inhibitory affect arises. In this sense, there are two important dyads in supervision: therapist/patient, and therapist/supervisor. I do my best to track, moment-to-moment, both dyads, not only the patient’s but also the supervisee’s triangle of experience (as well as my own), because anxiety, defense, and core affective and relational experiences can all occur in supervision, as well as in a therapy session.
In the context of supervision, I place effective professional action as an AEDP therapist at the bottom of the supervisee’s triangle experience; this is effective self-action on behalf of one’s patients—a core professional/affective experience. Effective action on behalf of the self is a State Two, adaptive, core affective experience, one of strength and agency, which AEDP situates at the bottom of the triangle of experience. Effective professional practice is thus a core affective experience in the professional realm, which is an important aspect of identity. I am calling this a core professional/affective experience.
I am aware that experiences of Self-at-Best and Self-at-Worst can arise for a supervisee in both of the aforementioned dyads—in session with the patient, and in relationship to the supervisor in supervision, as the supervisee strives to practice effectively and enhance her AEDP skills. Through the supervisory relationship, I seek to facilitate each supervisee’s optimal connection to self, to me, and to AEDP, so that she can increasingly be in Self-at-Best in her professional practice.
The following vignette offers an example of leveraging the attachment relationship, working collaboratively to foster a felt sense of safety, being a transformance detective, and tracking the supervisee’s triangle of experience in supervision.
Supervision Vignette # 1 (Amadea)
A supervisee with a background in Internal Family Systems (IFS, Schwartz, 1997) who had little training in AEDP, showed video of a patient feeling overwhelmed and unsupported in her parenting. The supervisee, whose instincts, sensibilities, and interpersonal presence, are remarkably well aligned with AEDP, told me that she had wanted “to be there more” for her patient but “didn’t know how.” In session, she had responded to her patient’s growing distress by offering reassurance, then by identifying and addressing a little girl part with whom the patient appeared to be fully blended. When the patient rejected the therapist’s suggestion that the young part needed some compassion, Amadea then shifted to asking about times when things had gone well in the patient’s parenting and what had contributed to these moments (e.g., whether patient was better rested, had eaten, etc.).
Upon viewing this work, I wanted to help the supervisee embrace and harness her own transformance strivings as an AEDP therapist: Her desire and impetus to be more present with her patient, undo the aloneness, and help her patient experience compassion and relief. This was the motivational force behind Amadea moving so quickly into and out of the parts work and then shifting to problem solving. I saw that the work could benefit from: (a) relational interventions to undo the aloneness; and (b) allowing the process to unfold more at the patient’s pace. I wanted to help Amadea’s good intentions as a therapist, her professional transformance strivings, manifest more fully and in a different way, so that she could slow down with the patient, use her lovely caring presence to undo the aloneness, and help the patient connect up to her need, rather than getting ahead of the patient in a desire to alleviate the patient’s suffering. I was also aware that while some aspects of her work were more in keeping with AEDP, she was being somewhat eclectic in her theoretical orientation.
Shortly into watching video of the session, Amadea stopped the tape at the point when the patient was dropping into deeper affect and said, “I feel like that may have been an opportunity for me to be there more.” This was a clear manifestation of her transformance strivings as an AEDP therapist. I affirmed and celebrated her self-supervision, and we spent some time helping her find a way to bring herself more into the work by making a relational intervention. Together, we also explored ways to slow the work down:
RH: The other thing I might want to do here is to get to where you are going but in a couple more steps and a little slower. You have an IFS background right, or no?
RH: Yeah. So for sure (raising both fists in air on either side of head in a gesture of championing)—and—you know more about IFS than I do—but, um, this notion that there’s a young part and there’s a self who’s taking care of… or who may get to take care of the young part more, right? (upward inflection) [inviting collaboration, acknowledging her knowledge]
SV1: (softly) Mhm.
RH: So, the way I would want to get there in maybe just one more step…
SV1: (nodding) Mhm [green signal affect]
RH: (slowly, working it out as I speak, finger tracing a circle on the tabletop)…is to ask her how she feels and what she’s aware of as she says, “I need a spotter” (hand touching heart)… [In the therapy session, the patient had said “I need a spotter. I feel like self-compassion, while important, isn’t enough.” in response to Amadea’s identifying that there was a young part “present who couldn’t find her voice and could really use some compassion.”]
SV1: (softly) Right (eyes widen and brighten).
RH: Just to make more… Yeah, your eyes kind of… What happens inside for you? [moment to moment tracking of supervision process]
SV1: (smiling) That’s really good (joyful laugh).
RH: (smiling broadly, playful) Oh, good! What do you like about it?! [mutual delight, play]
SV1: Ummm (thoughtful) It’s slower. Because when I watch these videos of myself, I realize it’s not as slow as I want it to be, and I want to be able to slow it down [further manifestation of her professional transformance striving], so I’m happy (touches her chest as spine lengthens upward and towards supervisor) because you’re like giving me some…not tools, but you’re giving me definitely like… a STEP!… [Attachment at work: she is experiencing me as a stronger, wiser caring other, who is there for her to scaffold within her zone of proximal development ,and she is using my language of getting to the same place with an additional “step.”]
RH: (nodding) Mhm.
SV1: …that was missing! Because she’s saying, “I need a spotter,” and I can say, “How does that feel to say?” (faster) Is that what you just said? [Safe base exploration, she is checking in as she ventures forward.]
SV1 “How does that feel to, to notice that… you feel this way, that you need a spotter?” [Here she is finding her own footing, her own words.]
RH: Yeah and what… and what do you experience, or what starts…(gestures with finger pointing down torso) [I catch myself here, realizing I am unnecessarily elaborating and further refining, and instead switch my focus to affirm her development.] I mean, exactly! How do you feel, how do you feel as you say those words?”
RH:… but absolutely! The question is, (gesturing with both hands open towards her in affirmation) and that would be great, what you just said, (softly) “How do you feel as you say that? Or as you tell me?” [affirming and delighting in her growth while modeling tone and pace]
RH: To help her experience that, that need, (voice deepens) to bring it a little more alive in her, that need, so that you can be there with her in it, and maybe then, the expression of the need (voice deepens, fist making a strong, fluid circular rotating gesture in front of belly) can somehow process more to completion (she is nodding as I speak). And another step in there might be to ask something like, “How old is that part of you…
SV1: …that needs help.” [Clearly we are working together; she is right in here with me, finishing my sentence.]
RH: Yeah, so that she can get to the little one and help take you there. Rather than you quite so quickly taking her there. How does that fit with IFS, the idea of eliciting?”
SV1: Yes! Definitely good. Because I think I was definitely interested in parts work from IFS, and I started to feel like I was being really formulaic with it? (upward inflection).
RH: (nods) Mhm.
SV1: And realizing that’s because it is kind of formulaic, Uhm. So formulaic doesn’t work. I find with clients, it’s not authentic enough. [professional transformance manifestation]
RH (smiling) Mhm.
SV1: It’s too much a formula with steps. So what you’re saying (smiles, hand moves toward Supervisor) is, it’s there, It can be there, but it’s about the client (head nods).
RH: (softly, nodding) Yeah. Yeah. [co-ordinated relational state]. So the … your good intentions are what’s kind of going…(back of right fist slapping against open left palm)… the driver of “fast”, in a way? (upward inflection)
SVI: Yeah. Yeah.
RH: And of maybe getting “formu…”(frowning) Hmm. “Formu…”.(speeding up) Yeah. Yeah. I mean I feel better you saying that about yourself than me saying that about yourself (chuckles, touching chest; Supervisee smiles). It’s the (same) intention that then guides the process of discovery together, I think (gesturing at video screen). [focusing on her transformance striving rather than joining her in judgment of her work or of IFS. I’m wanting to help her to tune into and really get in touch with this desire within herself to “be there” with and for her patient, at the patient’s pace, and to allow this to guide (rather than drive) her and the process.]
SV1: (nodding agreement) Mm-hm. Mhm.
RH: How is our conversation going? (hand moving back and forth between the two of us) [Metaprocessing; collaborative stance enhances sense of safety and agency.]
SV1: It’s good.
RH: OK, shall we watch some more?
SV1: (smiling, shyly) I notice I feel a little bit like… just shy of showing it (she looks up from screen to me), but I’m OK with that. [tracking triangle of experience: yellow signal affects]
RH (softly): OK. Again, I so…
SV1: (overlapping, looking directly at me and speaking with conviction) I want to show it to you. [green signal affect]
RH: Yeah, I love your… again, your ability to track yourself (gesturing with hand down my core) [affirming supervisee through genuine self-disclosure; explicit recognition and valuing of her self-awareness, helps resource her more fully in Self-at-Best]
SV1: (laughs, smiles happily)
RH: Your…. I don’t know what to call them, your instincts (gesturing downward with both hands balled into fists). Anyway, you’re such a good fit, and this model is such a good fit for you, from what I know of you.
SV1: Thanks. I feel that way too. (She plays the tape for us to watch together.)
In this way, I’m using the attachment relationship, working collaboratively, highlighting and leading with therapist transformance strivings, tracking the supervisee’s triangle of experience, and affirming self-at best in the therapist, so that she feels resourced to show me work that she is not pleased with, and is “shy” of showing, but that she wants to get help with. Working collaboratively also helps instill safety and counters shame (eliciting her perspective on her work before offering my own, asking how we are doing together, etc.), and to soften defenses against the vulnerability she feels in sharing her struggle with me. I’m also aware that she holds high expectations of herself being so new to AEDP and wanting to be able to practice it with relatively little training to date. When she tells me that she is feeling shy about her work but wants to me to see it, this is a huge green light signal (even if there is some yellow light in there) and a sign to me that we are working well together, and on the transformance side of our supervisory experience. It is also an important opportunity to undo her aloneness in learning and practicing AEDP!
Balancing Didactic (Left-Brain) and Experiential (Right-Brain) Approaches to Supervision
Throughout supervision, I seek to balance a “right-brain” experiential modality of learning
with a more “left-brain” didactic approach to expanding understanding and developing skills. I
interweave between making sense of AEDP through didactic explanation of theory and its
application (e.g., identifying where the therapy dyad is in the phenomenology of the four states
and three state transformations; “teaching” a specific intervention skill and contextualizing the
skill within theory) with more implicit modeling of AEDP skills, as well as explicit experiential
practice of these. However, I have come to recognize the value and importance of asking
permission when working in more of a right-brain, experiential way with a supervisee, as
contrasted with a more left-brain, didactic approach to skill development, particularly in a group
setting. Often the more experiential approach involves slowing things down and somatically
exploring a supervisee's experience, with a particular though not exclusive focus on positive
affective and relational experiences, including moments of new understanding.
Collaboration—giving one’s dyadic partner a say in what happens—fosters a sense of safety,
particularly in the public forum of a group. I want to be sensitive and inquire if it is OK, as we go
to the places that are more about the self-of-the-therapist, their feelings towards their patients,
or before engaging in attention to and exploration of their felt experience of our supervisory
Together, the supervisee and I will track the patient’s triangle of experience, and where
the patient and therapist (supervisee) dyad are in AEDP’s four-state model. I like to engage the
supervisee by asking their feelings and thoughts in response to the work we’ve seen, and by
exploring their intentions, before offering feedback. I really want supervision to be a process of
discovery. Along the way, as a person, as a therapist, and as an educator, I have come to
recognize and cherish the value of discovery, which is so much more powerful and generative
than receiving an explanation. Thus, I am not really trying to “teach” my supervisees (although
there is definitely a place for explanation in supervision!) Rather, my overarching intention is to
facilitate an experience that is itself transformative, and which involves a process of discovery.
I like to access the consulting therapist’s “inner self-supervisor,” by asking how he feels
about a piece of work that we’ve viewed (or what he is aware of in watching), to elicit what they
might have done differently. In supervision of supervision, Eileen Russell acknowledged and
expressed appreciation for this aspect of my supervisory style—which she called the “Socratic
method”— asking questions of my supervisees to invite a process of discovery. Again, I believe
it is much more valuable and enduring to discover a skill and/or come into a deeper
understanding, albeit with the support of a mentor, than to be “taught” or told. Once
supervisees have accessed a deeper understanding, I co-create with them an imaginal
experience (a role play) where they can express, embody and practice what Diana Fosha called
the “new tendrils” of their developing professional self (Fosha, 2016).
This kind of “role play” is akin to a portrayal, in which the adaptive professional action
tendency can be expressed more to completion. I might invite the supervisee to look at their
patient on the screen, or to use me as the patient, and practice (i.e., imaginally engage in their
AEDP therapy practice with the patient), in order to inhabit new, expanded understandings and
abilities, by feeling into the moment, finding their voice and expressing their responses.
Sometimes I ask the supervisee first to role play the patient with me in role of therapist, so I can
model the skill (and also get a sense from them of their patient and how the patient would
respond) before switching roles – whereby I become the patient and the supervisee spreads
their wings as therapist and tries on the new learning “for size.” In this way, when a similar challenging
situation arises in vivo, in therapy, the supervisee will have an experience to draw
on neural pathways that have formed and/or strengthened through our practice.
Recognizing and Embracing “Good Enough” Change
Through supervision of supervision, I’ve become more aware of the importance of
accepting incremental improvement on the part of the supervisee when trying a new skill—when
to let good enough be good enough—rather than overcorrecting or further refining, which risks
sending the message that the new effort was not good enough to stand uncorrected. This
tendency to further refine risks “de-skilling” and can be shaming, sending the message, “not
quite” rather than, “Yes! Go team!” For example, when I invite a supervisee to try a relational
intervention in roleplay—an imaginal version of self-disclosing—and they “get it”, I’ve learned to
refrain from over-frosting the cake, from adding that extra little bit of feedback to “polish” their
version. Rather, I want to recognize and receive their effort and achievement as being on the
side of transformation and embrace growth within what Vygotsky called the “Zone of Proximal
Development,” that next step within reach, made on one’s own, within the supportive, scaffolded
learning context (Wertsch, 1991). I’ve learned to celebrate the unfolding, expanding new
development, so as to convey, “Yes! You got it and this is success.”
Affect in Supervision vs. Affect in Therapy: Keeping Professional Change at Center
I work with affect differently in AEDP supervision, than in AEDP therapy, because the
former is about professional rather than personal transformation. This is an extremely important
distinction. On the one hand, I want to make space for and acknowledge affect when it arises,
and I will likely metaprocess a moving experience in supervision. However, this will differ from
how I would do so in therapy. In an experiential approach to supervision, it becomes particularly
important to keep in mind the distinction—and maintain the boundary—between supervision and
personal therapy. In AEDP supervision, as with other supervision, I want to keep the
supervisee’s professional life, their professional challenges and growth, and their work with their
patients as the central focus and at the center of our experience together in supervision. In
contrast to therapy, the supervisee’s transformation as a therapist is at the heart and center of
our work. Thus, I may not seek to process affect to completion, choosing instead to refocus on
consolidation of a new understanding or skill. Whereas in therapy, when we are working
toward the patient’s personal transformation, I will stay with affect longer and metaprocess
more, with the aim of unleashing further rounds of the non-finite transformational spiral. This is a
critical awareness and distinction.
Nonetheless, the person of the therapist/supervisee is part of the supervisory
relationship, and at times it can be very important to make space together to work with how the
supervisee’s personal history is affecting them in their current professional life. However, in
supervision, when affect arises cued by parallel process, or when we are looking at how a
supervisee’s personal history or attachment strategies are influencing their approach to the
work, I will reorient and focus back on their learnings, their professional development and their
work with their patient, which means moving away from the deep affect more quickly than I
would in AEDP therapy, because the goal is different.
Supervision Vignette # 2 (Amadea)
The following vignette illustrates: (a) balancing a right-brain experiential process of
discovery with left-brain explanation and reflection in supervision, and (b) the importance of
keeping professional transformation as the central focal point of the supervisory process. This
vignette comes from later in the same supervision session with Amadea, as we shift our focus to
the self-of-the-therapist, to Amadea’s experience in the session when her patient’s affect
RH: I also wonder what happens for you…
SV1: (overlapping) Yeah, totally [green signal affect with regard to shifting our focus to her
self-experience. I do not need to seek permission.] RH: As she gets closer to her affect like that, if it seems like, big?
SV1: I think I feel like I want to be there for her… but I don’t know how. [transformance
manifestation mixed with anxiety] RH: (soft yet lively) OK, so that’s, right there, the first part of that is a way to be there for her
[Focusing on her transformance manifestation, if she can feel it and know it, she will be
resourced and oriented to do what she wants to do—to “be there” for her patient; my
tone and pacing is regulating of her anxiety.] SV1: Right. Just stay with that?
RH: (fumbling, Woody Allen-like as I try to find my words) Te… Jus…tell…Tell her!
SV1: (overlapping) …Speak from that.
RH: Yeah, maybe even tell her.
SV1: But if I say “I want to…” If I were to speak from that to her I might say, “I really want to be
here for you right now,” but then that’s saying, “I’m not here for you.” Yeah.
RH: Right. So how else could you speak to that? [“Socratic method” to facilitate process of
discovery rather than providing her the “answer”] SV1: “I’m really here with you as you’re telling me about this.” [She has fully dropped into
State Two effective professional action on behalf of herself and her patient; professional
transformance is in the fore.] RH: Yeah! And in AEDP maybe, we might ask her: (hand on chest) “Do you have a sense of
SV1: (reflective) Right.
RH: “Here with you…can you feel my care?”
SV1: (soft) Right. (half smile) Right.
RH: Because you’re feeling a lot of care. That’s even what speeds you up, you say, that gets
you going to what you called “formulaic” (making quotation marks with fingers in air), is that
good intention and care for her. A way to slow that down is to check in (with yourself) and you
are such a kind, (voice deepens) caring, you’re such a genuine person from the extent to which
I know you. [genuine self-disclosure, affirming her and prizing her in a specific way] SV1: (smiles) Mm-hm.
RH: So you could ask her, “When you look at me, what do you see?” [scaffolding, modeling] SV1: Mm-hm. (smiles)
RH: “How do you experience me right now?”
SV1: Mm-hm. (smiles)
RH: She may not be used to taking in someone else’s care. There might be a lot from her.
There may be a huge amount of…
RH: Yeah, and is that OK, with you?
SV1: Mm-hmm! Yeah. I’d want to not say a lot, if a lot of emotion came forth, I’d be like (soft,
low and slow), “Yeah. Yeah. Let’s be here together with this.”
RH: Yeah. Beautiful. Beautiful! Yeah! (nodding and smiling) [explicitly affirming
professional Self-at-Best and effective AEDP intervention] SV1: (smiles looking at me) Mm-hmm. (holds my gaze as we both smile, then looks away). It’s
just in the moment, I find, “What do I do?!” I think there’s a… “What do I do?! This is a really
important thing.” It’s almost like performance anxiety [Here she shifts from a shared moment
of core relational experience of her effectiveness to the top of her triangle of experience.
She is simultaneously expressing a valid need—to feel more sure and solidly rooted in
her professional transformance.] RH: (soft spacious breath) Yeah. [dyadically regulating her anxiety] SV1: (faster and louder) and it’s like, I know it (hand gestures down front of sternum to navel),
but… it’s not there for me.
RH: (deep embodied voice) What’s the “it” that you know? (softer) What’s the “it” that you
know? [bypassing her anxiety and self-doubt by tracking her nonverbal gesture and
focusing on the transformance glimmer in her statement, “I know it.” Making the implicit
explicit] SV1: That I’m enough.
RH: OK. Sense into that. Is that OK? Just notice your inner experience right now (smiling and
sitting back in chair). [making the explicit experiential; asking permission to foster safety] SV1: (starting to tear up)
RH (slow and softly) Mmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Just let the feelings come, if that’s OK.
[dyadically regulating and explicitly welcoming her drop into core affective experience] SV1: (exhales audibly through mouth). Yeah, it’s just hard for me to really stay with that I
RH: Well, this is something that we are nurturing and supporting. There is a deep knowing that
you are enough. It was in the gesture. (mirrors her earlier gesture of hand down from sternum to
navel) At times, your deep caring cues some anxiety. Right? [tracking her triangle of
experience and making the implicit explicit: We are nurturing a deep knowing, which she
is not yet accustomed to fully trusting. This left-brained platforming also helps regulate
her anxiety.] SV1: Yeah.
RH: So what are the tears right now?
SV1: Uh… just relief, maybe?
RH: (deep sigh) Yeah.
SV1: Maybe relief, but also some grief that I spent so much of my life so far…..
RH: Uh huh
SV1: ….not feeling like I’m enough (voice welling with emotion) [This is an important choice
point for me. I want to stay with her emergent professional experience of Self-at-Best,
knowing herself as enough, rather than facilitate a State Three experience of mourning
RH: Ok great. I’m mean, not great, but so… If we can be with the relief, and the experience as
you made that gesture…. (again mirrors hand down front of torso, smiling). You said (softly,
repeating gesture), “It’s here. I know it,” and I asked what the “it” was….I can’t quite remember
how we said it (leaning closer to her, repeating hand gesture). Is there an inner experience as
you say, “I’m enough and I know it. It’s here.” [platforming to cue professional Self-at-Best] SV1: It’s kind of a letting go… kind of like a melting… (makes a hand gesture down her torso)
RH: (nods head) Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Where do you sense it? Is it OK if I ask?
SV1: Yeah maybe here, like in my chest (hand to chest).
RH: (deep soft voice) Yeah. What’s there? Oh, you said, “a letting go, a melting…” (left hand to
chest, mirroring her) What’s there in your chest?
SV1: Right now it’s like um… it does kind of feel like sorrow. Some grief.
RH: (softly) Uh huh. Yeah, yeah. There’s grief. You spent a lot of time….kind of worrying
(wiggles fingers of right hand in the air) and not listening to that knowing, I guess? (placing right
hand on chest) [Here I want to acknowledge/recognize her affective experience of grief;
while at the same time, I hold the intention of redirecting our focus to the new and
preferred deep knowing of self as enough, so that we can shore it up.] SV1: Yeah, it’s like, I have to work harder! I have to work harder!
RH: (sighing softly) Yeah. (then louder) So, if we go back a moment ago to your awareness
that you want her to feel your care (forms fists at sternum with both hands then lowers them
down towards supervisee like lowering weights—a barbell curl).
RH: That you know is there (right hand to heart as left hand opens at waist level, palm up,
fingers towards supervisee).
SV1: Yeah (lowers hand from chest and places on other hand at lap).
RH: And you trust… (left hand touches chest)… if I’m her for a moment – what’s her first name?
[simultaneously speaking to her right brain, through gesture, while my words engage her
This is an example of working experientially to guide the supervisee in a process of
discovery, as well as an illustration of how we work differently when affect arises in supervision
than we do in therapy, to keep the focus on the supervisee’s professional transformation. When
the supervisee felt stuck and at a loss for words, I tracked the gesture of her hand moving from
her sternum to her navel, and this helped her get in touch with the part of her that knows she is
enough, and we explored this somatically. She then touched into grief over having spent so
much time in worry (State Three Mourning the Self); however, I did not stay with the affect as
long as I would in personal therapy. Instead, I purposefully chose to focus back on her felt
sense of “I am enough,” because this is her growing professional edge, and our goal here is
professional not personal transformation. In AEDP therapy I would have stayed with the affect to
facilitate Mourning of Self, then metaprocess this State Three experience, to help further
unleash the non-finite spiral of personal transformation. But because this is supervision, I
reorient and focus on her emergent professional transformation; here, I focus on her deepened
and enhanced understanding and ability as an AEDP practitioner. The vignette continues
RH: Kristi. (pause) And so if you kind of sense into that place of knowing, and you trust – if I’m
her for a moment (touching fingers of both hands to chest)
RH: (lowering fingers from chest to navel, slowly) What could you say to me from that
place—Like can we just do it as though? [asking permission, co-creating security as we
embark on supervision version of portrayal] SV1: Sure (lifts herself up in seat and turns towards me, energy up). [green signal affect in
supervisee’s triangle of experience] Um. (soft voice,soft direct gaze, very loving face) I
know. It’s a lot. (right hand to chest) And what are you sensing, right now (fingers up briefly
towards face then back to chest), from me? [Professional transformance is flowing and
flourishing as she engages in adaptive and effective professional self-action.] RH: (slow) I sense a lot of… (breaking out of role play and gesturing towards supervisee,
speaking more quickly) what do you think she’d say, (soft and slow) “compassion and care?
kindness?” [Here I’m asking her to help me be the patient more effectively.] SV1: (smiling) Caring. You’re… I feel your caring.
RH: Uh huh. I feel your caring.
SV1: And how is that for you? To feel that?
[I edited out several minutes of portrayal/role play during which I support her responding
to patient’s ambivalence.] RH: (softly, whispered, in role as patient) I loved when you said, “it’s a lot.” That means so much
SV1: (pause, smiling warm and gentle, nodding)
RH: (very softly) You get it. That means so much (touches chest) to me.
SV1: (warm smile) Yeah. And hearing that it means so much to you is…really groun… (breaking
out of role play, at a loss). I feel like I… I…. (laughing)
RH: What happens inside? (pause) Just…
SV1: (overlapping, fast) I don’t have words. Maybe I should just say that. [Supervisee has
moved up to the top of her triangle of experience, anxiety corner, then to defensive
strategy of grasping for something to say.]
RH: What happens under your hand? [somatic exploration in attempt to bypass defense]
SV1: Umm. Tension.
RH: OK. OK. Just before the tension was there something else, hearing that it means a lot to
me? [co-regulating anxiety, re-presenting the affect-laden cue to go beneath the defense
to her emergent adaptive core professional experience] SV1: (Pause) I feel connected.
RH: Mhm. Mhm. (gently, tentative) Yeah, maybe you could share that: “I feel really close to
you.” [scaffolding her professional development– parallel process of undoing aloneness:
undoing supervisee’s aloneness in the “I don’t know what to say” moment, so she can
undo her patient’s aloneness. Supervisor-as-Transformational Other meeting
supervisee’s Self-in-Transition in a moment of need (see below)] SV1: (nods, smiles) Mhm.
RH: …“ In this moment. I’m so glad that’s how you receive me.” Or….?
SV1: “I’m so glad you can take this in, take me in (hand to heart) right now.”
RH: Beautiful! Beautiful! I think? How do you think that would be for her?
SV1: I think… I think she wants that. I think we all want that.
RH: And you were also saying there’s a part of her who’s not used to it.
SV1: (overlapping) That’s right. That’s right.
RH: You were validating that. That’s when I interrupted. So that would be an important part to
come to (softer, modeling therapist back in roleplay): “Of course you there’s a part of you who
really… so wants this, and another part of you who…? Yeah…“ (nodding, gesturing for her to
take a turn) [shifting between modeling skill and letting her experience/practice the skill] SV1: (nodding) Yeah. So there’s this part of you that so wants that, wants this connection, so
close, and this other part of you that… maybe that has no map… of this. Maybe can’t trust this,
RH: (nodding, in role as patient, softly) Yeah. Yeah.
SV1: (nodding) I totally get that.
RH: That’s helpful to me (pointing both index fingers towards chest). That’s organizing in a
way…[describing my experience in roleplay as her patient; reflecting upon experience] SV1: OK.
RH: …of my… of her experience. (hands up, spread wide, at shoulder level, then bringing them
together as they lower, making a triangle shape in the air). [shifting out of portrayal to
address a teaching moment] That’s a way of working that triangle. The bottom is longing
(gesturing between the two of us) and there is real unfamiliarity with that so it cues anxiety, I
imagine (hands spin in air in “top right corner” of imaginary triangle). And there are the
strategies, the defenses (hands move to upper left corner). [grounding new experience in
explicit explanation of AEDP theory] SV1: Yeah. Cognitive (her right hand mirrors mine, spinning in air at her right temple, in “upper
right corner” of triangle). You know, when she’s like “Compassion’s not enough” and “I feel
resistance”…or like later in the session I was like, “Can we be curious about this feeling?” and
she was like “I feel resistance,” and I was like, “Well that’s OK. So what does resistance feel like
right now? Can we sit with that feeling?” [Supervisee is metaprocessing her in-session
experience of and with her patient, in the wake of our experience together in supervision;
integrating right-brain and left brain components of her new, expanded knowing]
The excerpt above provides an example of balancing “Left-Brain” and “Right-Brain”
learning modalities, the dyadically co-constructed process of discovery, interweaving between
modeling and practicing emergent skills, and working the triangle of experience in supervision,
both in the patient-therapist dyad and the supervisory dyad. When anxiety arose in the
supervisee and she lost her words, I bypassed this (“Just before the tension was there
something else, hearing that it means a lot to me?”) and facilitate an experience of discovery.
Together, the supervisee and I found a way in which she could access her core affective
experience in the therapy dyad (“I feel connected”) and express, “I’m so glad you can take me in
right now.” Conveying this in portrayal/role play allowed her to experience more fully and
express an adaptive professional action tendency. After having facilitated (and co-constructed
with the supervisee) this experience of discovery, I then brought in left-brain reflection, to make
sense of and situate her experience of the patient within the theoretical framework of AEDP, by
applying the triangle of experience to the patient’s experience in session. Again, the supervisee
was right with me, joining me in the sense-making (lots of green signal affect lighting up the
supervisee’s triangle of experience). She was putting “pieces” of her experience with the patient
into place, as it were, within AEDP. In this way, the theory and phenomenology of AEDP
become an organizing framework, as well as a compass to guide her in the work. Here we see
how the combination of experience and reflection is integrative in AEDP supervision, for the
supervisee, just as it is for the patient in AEDP therapy.
Supervisory Stance: Embodying the Transformational Other
Just as I focus on the AEDP therapist transformance strivings of my supervisees and
facilitate new experiences of discovery, deepened understanding and skill consolidation, I also
share my delight in their growth. An important part of my work as an AEDP supervisor is to
make explicit and amplify those times when a supervisee has intervened effectively and in
keeping with AEDP theory and practice. In my role of AEDP Supervisor, I want to be what
Eileen Russell (2015, p. 47) calls a “Transformational Other” who meets and supports the
emerging professional Self-in-Transition. As seen in the vignette above, when the supervisee
was at a loss for words, and I helped her identify her felt experience of “I feel connected” and to
find words to express this. I seek to facilitate and strengthen supervisees’ developing AEDP
practice and help them recognize those aspects of their practice that are most consonant with
AEDP, rather than allowing this to remain implicit.
This has multiple benefits: It helps consolidate the supervisee’s knowledge base, and it
helps lower anxiety and further enhance a sense of safety in the supervisory relationship, so
that the supervisee can increasingly bring their challenges and vulnerability forward and benefit
from supervision. Furthermore, the increased sense of security contributes to an environment
conducive to taking in more new learning—and to receiving further support, as needed, when
facing new challenges associated with expanded practice. We know that attachment security
leads to greater exploration and cognitive flexibility, and I want my supervisees to feel safe to
explore (in supervision and beyond), and to expand their cognitive understanding, self-
awareness, and sense of security in their practice of AEDP.
This spiral of growth and transformation in the therapist’s professional life often
resonates into the supervisee’s personal life as well. I know this has been the case for me. Why
wouldn’t our sense of security in the world grow as our professional identity becomes more solid
and satisfying? We then engage with the world in new ways, from the new place, and receive
new, affirming responses, and the spiral of change is further unleashed and manifests in other
realms. In this way, there is often an interweaving of professional and personal development in
While I keep professional transformation and skill development in the foreground of
AEDP supervision, the self of the therapist and the personal experience of the supervisee are
important aspects of the supervisory experience. When a supervisee has a powerful affective
experience in supervision, I very much want to acknowledge and metaprocess it, while keeping
in mind the important distinction and boundary between supervision and therapy. Similarly,
when a supervisee experiences an “aha moment,” a click of recognition wherein an aspect of
AEDP becomes clearer, and lands more deeply within them, I metaprocess this new and
preferred experience of positive change. However, I will engage in fewer “rounds” of
metaprocessing than I typically might in AEDP therapy.
Supervision Vignette # 3 (Amadea)
The vignette below resumes at a point in the supervision session with Amadea where I
shift gears with the supervisee, away from case conceptualization, moment-to-moment tracking
of her work with the patient, and skill development, in order to metaprocess the powerful
experience we had shared earlier in the supervision session, when she had touched into
feelings of grief.
RH: …. Shoot. But before we go to that part, I so want to go to the big moment we had together
(hand gesturing between us).
SV1: OK.! [big green light] RH: (soft) How was that for you? [metaprocessing] SV1: Good. Yeah.
RH: Tell me.
SV1: Uh… It’s just good, because… I don’t… I don’t express a lot of vulnerable emotion like
that… in life (shifts back in chair). I don’t know if I’ve told you my background? [two minute
edit in which supervisee shares aspects of her own attachment history of having been
abandoned by her mother at a young age and left with her father and his girlfriend who
was highly anxious and emotionally dysregulated] SV1: So I’m very self-reliant, very overfunctioning, that’s my coping strategy.
SV1: So I go into stress, tension (balls hands into fists). Do more, do more (rotates fists in air).
RH: Right. (sighing audibly) Right. I need to do it all and do it myself. Not unlike, maybe, not
unlike this woman actually (pointing at the patient on the screen). [keeping work with patient
at center] SV1: Yeah. Exactly.
RH: I mean, not like her, but that sense of… “Who’s there for me with this stuff?”
SV1: Yeah, like I can’t be vulnerable because there’s nobody that can help me with this or
support me. That’s my map. I think that shows up. When I actually reveal it, like when it comes
forth (hand moving through the air from self towards supervisor), I think there’s some sense of
it’s not OK or… it’s not OK to feel vulnerable!
RH: And how is it right here, right now (pointing with finger from her eyes to my eyes) with me,
actually? To have really felt that? [She has had a new experience in supervision that
counters her learned adaptation to earlier relational environment; I don’t want this to go
unnoticed.] SV1: It’s, it’s good? Yeah, I don’t…
RH: So this is different than that? That was vulnerable, right?
RH: (soft) Yeah, (sighing) yeah.
SV1: Yeah, I felt, I felt that you were very present, for me, in that moment (punctuating her
words with hand gestures, all five fingers touching, pulsing downward). And I felt your, like, just
when I looked into your eyes, you… Yeah, I was like you know, thinking to myself (laughing) “I
want to be able to look in people’s eyes when they are crying, too, like that” (smiles then
laughs). [Here we see how facilitating experience of Self-at-Best for the person of the
therapist can resource her to be Self-at-Best in her professional role. Not only have I
modeled who and how she wants to be for her patients, here we see AEDP’s triangle of
comparisons at work in the supervisory context. The security-enhancing relational
experience in supervision is facilitative of Self-at-Best experience, and she can in turn
“export” her Self-at-Best, herself in connection to self, to other relational environments,
including her professional relationships in which she is therapist to patients. In this way,
I am a Transformational Other to her emerging professional Self-in-Transition].
RH: (smiling) Mmmmmm.
SV1: I always have my counselor hat on (hand up at head forming a cap), even when I’m
like….(hand moves down to touch fingers to sternum)
RH: (soft) Yeah. (louder) Yeah (laughing with her, mirrors earlier gesture of fingers tracing front
of chest to navel). Well that’s good in… (finger moving between us)
SV1: (overlapping) Wow, he’s really doing that well! [referring to her own tracking, with her
counselor hat on, of my response to her earlier State Two drop down into vulnerability] RH: But that’s appropriate in this situation because this is supervision, not therapy, so…
[making explicit the important distinction between personal therapy and supervision.
After having acknowledged and metaprocessed the experience of personal vulnerability
she had shared with me, and having differentiated her experience of openness here with
me from the defenses she had described, I endorse and affirm her “having her counselor
hat on,” because this is supervision, not therapy!] SV1: Yeah. Exactly.
RH: Yeah. Oh, I’m happy to hear that! Mmmm. [referring to her having experienced me as
very present when she dropped down into vulnerable emotion, which she let herself feel
and express, “out of pattern” with her attachment strategies developed in earlier
relationships] SV1: Yeah.
RH: Mmm. And what took you (fingers cupped at sternum, lowering to navel)… I guess I even
want to say, “Do you want to sense into that? As you say those words, “Oh, I want to look into
people’s eyes, as they are crying too!” What happens inside of you as you speak that?
[somatically exploring her emergent professional Self-in-Transition, her professional
transformance glimmer of wanting to be able to look in people’s eyes like that as they
cry] SV1: I feel happy, to want that.
RH: What is that like, physically in your body?
SV1: It feels buoyant (hand moving from chest up and out into the space between us).
RH: (sighing as I speak) Where?
SV1: Also here (hand on chest then gesture up and outward towards me).
[brief edit where I platform supervisee’s experience of freezing up and being supported
in a meaningful way in supervision that helped her connect to and express her caring for
her patient, in order to consolidate her learning and new knowing] SV1: Yeah. Mhm. So, when I’m in that session, if it happens again, where there’s this moment
of, “Oh shit! (recoiling in chair, eyes and mouth open wide) I want to be here for you and I have
no idea how” — you’re saying (hand to chest), “Just stay with me. I want to be here for you.”
RH: Stay with the knowing (hand down front of chest) Yes. The knowing that I actually want to
and am here for you, and find out if she can sense (hand forms fist), not just the intention… That
intention is the care, I think (fist moves to chest and opens, palm to chest). That “I want to be
there for you” is a manifestation of the care (left hand between us, dropping from head level to
SV1: Right. (voice deepens as she speaks) “I want to be here for you” means I care, which
means I am! [This is an important moment of professional Self-in-Transition. It’s really
starting to land in her and sink in. In my own way, with powerful nonverbal embodiment
and verbal articulation (right and left brain communication), I am holding her and
hopefully being a Transformational Other to her in this important moment.] RH: (leaning in, excited, smiling, pointing at her) Sense into that!
SV1: (nodding, hand at navel)
RH: (deep resonant voice) That’s the place to orient yourself to, and it’s like a plumb line in you.
Your hand goes down like this (gesturing from sternum to navel), your voice goes down. Feel
that: “Means I am!” Where do… What happens?
SV1: (soft smile) I am. Here, for you. I guess I feel my seat (fingers spread wide in front of her
navel, shifts in chair, uncrosses legs, both feet onto the floor). My ground (both fists at her waist
move in downward motion).
RH: Yeah. Yeah. So when the worry comes in, if you can remind yourself, “This intention, I
want to be here for her is the care (right fist moving from temple downward as elbow unfolds in
strong gesture). It means “I do care.” (left fist lowering to waistline, tai chi like) And then you’re
in your seat, and then you can just ask her, “What’s your sense of me right now?” (hand
gesturing between us). And if you were courageous enough, in the moment, you can say, “Can
you feel my care?” (big smile, head leans to right).
SV1: (smiling broadly) Mm-hmm. Nice.
The vignette above is an example of supervisor as Transformational Other to the
Therapist/Supervisee’s Self-in-Transition. We are actively and viscerally undoing her aloneness
in a moment of panic at feeling ill equipped as a therapist and as though she has to do it all by
herself. We are also reworking her inner working models from her attachment history. Here, we
can adapt AEDP’s triangle of comparisons to track the complexity of this supervisee’s
experience. Her experience of “I want to help and don’t know what to do” arises in a current
relational experience with her patient (“C” corner); Her experience in relation to me (“T” corner:
Supervior as Transformational Other to Therapist’s Self-in-Transition) shifts from “I’m shy of
showing you my work but I want you to see it” to one of Self-at-Best who knows that she has
what she needs to be there for her patients whereas her sense of panic about what to do comes
from past attachment relationships (the “P” corner): “I get panicky because in the past I had to
be wholly self-reliant despite being unprepared.” Fortunately, she is not currently replicating her
attachment history in her approach to learning AEDP. Instead, she sought out my help!
Together, we are undoing her aloneness in AEDP and she is learning that she can rely on
another and doesn’t have to fend for herself when she feels unprepared to do so. In this way,
AEDP supervision, like AEDP therapy, undoes the hegemony of transference, offering
The vignette above also illustrates how we are further embracing and strengthening the
professional transformance strivings identified earlier in the supervisory session, by anchoring
them in her body, by exploring the landscape of her deep inner knowing that she is enough, that
“‘I want to be here for you” means “I care,” which means “I am here for you.” Here again, I am
guided in the supervisory work by an overarching intention: keeping professional development
(rather than personal transformation) at the center of our supervisory work. This functions as an
inner compass, or an important over-arching super-vision—like a guiding star, that directs me to
steer towards the supervisee’s therapeutic work with her patient and to foster, deepen and
strengthen her embodied sense of knowing she is “there” for the patient (because she cares),
rather than staying with the deep sense of loss over time spent worrying unnecessarily. Thus,
the map and compass of AEDP supervision differs from that of AEDP therapy in moments like
Self-at-Best of the Supervisee
Timing is so important in AEDP supervision, as it is in AEDP therapy. With our patients,
we want to go to the places of Self-at-Worst under the aegis of Self-at-Best (Fosha, 2000).
Similarly, with supervisees, I want to use the supervisory relationship to engage the
supervisee’s Self-at-Best in supervision, to go together from there to the more vulnerable and
challenging places, to undo their aloneness in these aspects of their practice. Consequently, I
invariably want to find something to affirm before offering constructive feedback, particularly at
the beginning of the supervisory relationship. At times, this involves watching videotape footage
of missed opportunities and/or interventions that I am less comfortable with, while waiting for an
entry point that gets some of the supervisee’s Self-at-Best on-board in the supervisory process.
I recognize the potential for a supervisee to experience shame, to shut down or become
defensive. Personally, over the years, I have had experiences in my own supervision where a
supervisor started off in a way that came across to me as critical. Mistimed supervisory
interventions and feedback heightens anxiety and inhibits learning and growth. At the same
time, the intention to nurture and facilitate has to be balanced with the need to address times
when supervisees’ practice is not AEDP or is in need of refinement in order to be effective
AEDP. I want to be a truth talker who doesn’t pussyfoot around a problem by only addressing
the positive. Intervening as a supervisor is an art and a skill and requires sensitivity. This artful
balance can make the difference between facilitating and impeding growth, between facilitating
transformance and evoking Self-at-Worst in a supervisee, and thereby further reinforcing
insecurity and aloneness in their struggles.
Supervision Vignette # 4 (Beatriz)
Beatriz, a therapist in one of my supervision groups, brought tape of her work with a
patient early in treatment, who described going underwater in the bathtub and listening to her
heartbeat to manage feelings of distress when having “a rough time.” Beatriz responded in
session by calling this “magical.” Although the supervisee was well intentioned, kind, gentle,
very spacious in her work, and clearly wanting to help the patient access her emotional world, I
sensed the patient appeared very much alone in her experience at this point in the session. As
Beatriz worked experientially to explore the vague and global sense of “emptiness” that the
patient felt in her “entire being”, she was asking her patient to sense into a place of Self-at-
Worst while they were not yet under the aegis of Self-at-Best.
This was the first time that Beatriz was showing her work to the group, and I was aware
of the vulnerability of this position, so I very much wanted to start by affirming her, rather than
pointing out something that was not happening 7 . Hence, I did not want to begin with asuggestion that the patient could benefit from relational resourcing to undo aloneness. Instead, I
waited for an opportune moment to offer feedback, even though this involved watching video of
work that I was not fully comfortable with. A few minutes later, when Beatriz celebrated her
patient’s growing capacity to feel her experience in her body, I found my opportunity. I told
Beatriz and the group how much I appreciated her intervention, because this helped resource
the patient in Self-at-Best. I then affirmed Beatriz’s gentle pacing and tracking of nonverbals.
From there, I went on to address the patient’s sense of aloneness and how the
supervisee could use her lovely presence to help undo this. In doing so, I simultaneously
resourced my supervisee in her therapist Self-at-Best while underscoring two important tenets
of AEDP: (a) Going to Self-at-Worst under the aegis of Self-at-Best, and (b) relationally
resourcing our patients to undo aloneness. Additionally, I suggested that Beatriz might “get
more bang for her buck” in terms of somatic exploration by eliciting a specific memory or
experience, which could bring the patient’s affect more alive, in which case the experiential work
would likely be more satisfying to her. This addressed her stated supervision goal of wanting
help to facilitate State Two experience. Beatriz appeared visibly pleased and excited by these
suggestions, to which she was very receptive and explicitly appreciative.
In this vignette there is a parallel process: Just as I’m wanting the therapist to resource
her client by affirming her and leveraging the therapeutic relationship before going to Self-at-
Worst, I similarly want to first affirm the therapist before exploring together some of the ways
that the work can be enhanced. Here is an example of the importance of timing, of waiting to
7 Moreover, I had once previously assisted this supervisee in experiential work at an AEDP
Essential Skills, at which time she had told me she was upset with herself, because she had not
shown the skills she possessed, and she had wanted me to witness her abilities and to see her
in a better light as a fellow professional. I only recalled this aspect of our history while writing
this paper, and although I can’t remember the details, I may well have contributed to her
experience at the time through misguided or mistimed feedback that was inadvertently de-
skilling. During our recent supervisory experience, from which the vignette is taken, I was not
consciously aware of this earlier experience; however, I was very conscious that she appeared
to feel nervous as the consultation began, and I was equally conscious within myself of a desire
for her to have a good experience, and that there was a potential for evoking shame and Self-at-
intervene and leading with an affirmation that brings aboard the supervisee’s Self-at-Best before
offering needed feedback and skill building.
Different Strokes for Different Folks: Tailoring Dyad Specific Interventions in Supervision
Through AEDP supervision of my supervision, I have come to recognize and understand
the importance of adapting supervisory interventions to the style and needs of the supervisee.
I’ve grown to recognize more explicitly the extent that supervision needs to be dyad specific. For
example, with Constance, a supervisee who is “heady,” cerebral, cautious, and contained in her
approach to the work and to our supervision (despite being very gentle, highly skilled, and
having a huge heart), Diana Fosha helped me understand the importance of affirming her, and
then pausing to allow her to take in my affirming feedback. I explicitly prized this supervisee’s
gentle kindness, empathy, and remarkable ability to attune to and track her patients, then invited
her to attend to her felt experience and somatically track how she receives my feedback. My
intention in doing so was to bring her more fully into her heart and into her body, and also to
regulate the anxiety that sends her to the heady, intellectualizing place, which for her was also a
place of constriction. In response to my asking how she felt upon hearing this feedback from
me, she directed her exquisite attention to her own internal experience, which softened her and
transformed her presence. She felt herself breathe more fully and easier, found her strength in
her core, and experienced a sense of inner spaciousness and liveliness. This intervention also
helped soften her reliance on thinking things through (because this was getting in the way of her
gifts manifesting and of her realizing her full potential in sessions), while simultaneously
modeling some of what we do as AEDP therapists.
Similarly, when Constance had “aha moments” in supervision, clicks of recognition about
how to apply her understandings of the theory and model in practice (e.g., when she really got
how to use herself more relationally to dyadically regulate her patient’s affect and facilitate State
Two experiences by sharing her delight in, care for, and appreciation of her patients) her
excitement was visceral: Her eyes would brighten and she would smile gleefully. Yet, her habit
was to immediately shift out of her own affective-laden moments of pride and joy, to write down
notes about new understandings, in order to retain them (which I totally relate to, by the way!) I
made supervision dyad specific with this supervisee, by really inviting her to first anchor her
“aha moment” into her body, as a way of retaining new learning.
The following vignette is an example of how I made supervision dyad specific with this
supervisee, by purposefully inviting her to anchor her “aha” moment into her body, as a way of
retaining new learning.
Supervision Vignette #5 (Constance)
SV3: (reaching for her notebook) So I…
RH: (overlapping) Just before you jot anything down… What were you going to say, though?
[interrupting her habitual process of writing then recalibrating upon having realized she
had more to say; micro-rupture and repair maintains/deepens attachment relationship] SV3: (breaks into big smile, sets notebook aside) I just said, “I was gonna (write down)… I want
to remember” (smiles broadly).
RH: (playful) But I want to again invite you, like we did last time, to notice your felt sensation,
right here right now. What sensation inside lets you know, “I like that.” What happens for you?
[purposefully interrupting this supervisee’s habit of going to her head, in order to invite
her into felt experience, such that she can be more embodied and connected in her
therapy sessions] SV3: I think I’m feeling hopeful that it’s possible. You know, because I have tried to slow [her
patient] down sometimes when she’s talking like that, because I can’t keep track. [Supervisee
fluctuates between emergent professional transformance manifestation of hopefulness
and her habitual experience of feeling anxious in her work with this patient.]
RH: I bet! I bet you have, and I bet she’s hard to slow down, too. [co-regulating anxiety,
affirming and normalizing her experience] SV3: Yeah.
RH: She’s not accustomed to that.
SV3: No. not at all. And then she just gets more defensive.
RH: OK. Right. That can be tricky too, when the things we try to do to regulate anxiety
sometimes cue more anxiety.
RH: Which I guess is what you were telling me at the beginning: everything you tried… [to
connect with the patient didn’t seem to work] SV3: Yeah.
RH: But just now you feel hopeful [professional transformance detection] SV3: Yeah.
RH: (soft and slow) And how do you know? What does “hopeful” feel like right now for you?
(pause) Like the idea that you could use…your caring and support… as an experience that she
could experience. [purposeful somatic exploration of emergent professional
transformance] SV3 : (nodding) Well, I guess, Um…you know, if I was going to track my own… physical
sensation (gestures down front of her sternum with cupped fingers pointing upward).
RH: (softly sighing/speaking) Yeah.
SV3: I can breathe a little easier, because you know, when [her patient] is talking really fast,
even when I’m listening to the recording, it makes me breathe shallowly.
RH: (hand on chest, softly ) Yeah.
SV3: (playful) Because I’m like (panting, rapid gasping breath between each word) “OK-what-
am-I-going-to-do-now?!” (more exaggerated panting, laughing). [Playfulness signals
increased sense of safety and decreased anxiety.]
RH: Right. Right.
SV3: … Sort of along with her, so…You know, just being able to breathe a little bit deeper, um,
and, and sort of feel…(hands gesture down sternum) kind of more in my solar plexus (fingers
touch in to solar plexus) than when I’m sort of getting carried away (looks at me) with her, the
way she’s doing things. [Supervisee is dropping down and touching into her core
professional/affective experience.] RH: OK. Good. What part did you want to write down? I don’t want to stop you from writing it
down. You liked it, and part of how … when you like it you can feel yourself breathe more… (big
breath) in your solar plexus, (sighing as I speak) a little more slowly and deeply. What part of
that… [metaprocessing; inviting reflection on new experience and simultaneously
honoring her process of wanting to write notes, which I had interrupted. Hence this is a
further recalibration and micro-repair of a micro-rupture.] SV3: I guess that sense of being on her side, because, um, that was one of the things in that
last piece that I showed you (fingers gesture in air, as though holding something up to taste),
that, in that moment, I was on her side. I was with her, and she was touched by that. She
commented on it in the next session.
SV3: (haltingly putting it together as she speaks) And so I think that is something that would
help her … to feel connected and be able to regulate those anxious feelings. [integrating her
new learning] RH: (hand still on chest) Yeah. Yeah. OK. I don’t want to stop you from making a note (smiling).
SV3: OK (turns to get notebook).
RH: (smiling, playful, hand still on chest) I am curious how you feel as you articulate that
(chuckles/laughs) [going for one more round of somatic exploration and anchoring of
professional transformance in her body]
SV3: Well actually it’s helpful just to say it. Right? Because it sort of reinforces what I can do,
what I want to do, by talking about it.
RH: Right, right, and so…. and actually, probably feeling into it in your body and feeling what
that felt sense is like, of whatever “reinforced’ feels like in your body will also…
SV3: (overlapping) Yeah.
RH: …will also help you access…
SV3: Yeah. [green light for further experiential/somatic anchoring] RH: So what do you notice in your body? How do you experience “helpful” physically, in this
C: Yeah, just being centered. You know, at the bottom of my outbreath (smiling), basically.
(louder) and it’s at that bottom place that I feel so deep in myself (punctuating her words with
repeated downward hand gesture from solar plexus to navel) [Professional transformance is
flowing and leading the way; this is the place I want this particular supervisee to inhabit,
know and dwell, in her deep embodiment.] RH: (nodding) Mhm.
SV3: Because I think I have a tendency to dissociate, when I’m… discombobulated or… or
whatever. I am kind of flying around up here (waves hand all around above her head and in
front of her) rather than… (hand drops down her core to her solar plexus as she exhales)
dropping into myself. [She affirms the importance of the dyad-specific approach to
supervision. With this supervisee it is crucial to help her ground and land in her
intelligent body, to rest in her embodied knowing, because she gets “discombobulated,”
lost and disconnected from self and client when she flutters around in her head.] RH: So that strong desire to support her can ground you… and her.
SV3: Yeah. Hopefully. (starting to write her note)
RH: We don’t know what it will do for her, but right now it grounds you.
SV3: Yeah, because she always…
RH: Right… (makes a slithering gesture with hand to indicate patient’s defense of moving away
from therapist’s efforts at contact. We both laugh together, then supervisee writes in her book).
In the example above, I tailor my supervisory style to help Constance, a more cerebral
supervisee, shift out of her head to embody her new understanding, which she experiences as
grounding. This is particularly important for her because she was losing touch with her body and
her own experience when her attempts to regulate and connect with her patient were not
received. In her approach to supervision and in her therapy practice, she can be overly reliant
on her left brain/cognition. However, affective neurobiology tells us that when people become
emotionally activated and dysregulated, particularly in a fear state (dissociation) we have less
access to our cortical function where the cognitive knowing is stored in the brain (Ledoux,
1996). So, I very much want to help Constance anchor her new understandings of AEDP, her
“aha” moments, in her intelligent body, so she can access and draw on them without having to
think so much, so that her knowing will be available to her in the times when she has less
access to cognition. This vignette from supervision also illustrates the sense of safety
Constance feels in the supervisory relationship. She becomes playful, a sign of security in an
attachment relationship, even as she reflects on a moment of dysregulation. Moreover, when we
metaprocessed our time together at the end of the supervision session, she felt “energized” and
enlivened, ready and capable to take on the tasks she needed to do, despite our having met
after work, at the end of a very long, full day. She was effusive and expansive (quite the
opposite of her more habitual contained/constricted style) as she expressed appreciation for
how helpful she finds both the supervision and the model of AEDP, and expressed her appetite
for learning more and developing further in this way of working.
Alternatively, with supervisees who are comfortable working experientially, but whose
somatic interventions may lack sufficient focus and could benefit from being more informed by
where they and their patients are in AEDP’s four-state model, it may be important to do more
left-brain didactic teaching about AEDP. This can provide a more solid foundation in the model
and a base of understanding as to which AEDP/experiential intervention might work best at a
specific moment, so that AEDP can be a compass that orients and a map of the territory (even
though emergent territory has never truly been charted before). At times, and for or some
supervisees more than others, explaining and teaching aspects of the model can be relieving of
anxiety, because theory can guide and ground them in their practice. What is new for me here is
recognizing how Constance’s style and way of being pointed the way on my part toward these
specific experiential and relational interventions. Whereas another supervisee’s interpersonal
style (e.g., Beatriz’s in Vignette #4) highlighted the importance of focusing on and underscoring
some key conceptual tenets of AEDP, so her good intentions and her spacious experiential
approach could better land and take root in her work with her patient.
By making supervision dyad specific, I can most effectively respond to each of my
supervisees in their specific developmental need within AEDP. I want to help each one become
“more secure” and increasingly purposeful in their AEDP practice—in which AEDP intervention
they draw upon and offer, in which order, so that they are truly practicing AEDP coherently and
cohesively, rather than eclectically offering AEDP interventions, out of sequence, as it were. (I
think there is a parallel here with my desire to help Everett learn to count, rather than simply
uttering any number name he could recall). I’m also aware that there are multiple entry points to
learning AEDP theory and the model, as it can be complex and intricate. There is a balance to
be struck: I want to encourage people to incorporate aspects of AEDP into the way they work,
even if they do not yet have a solid sense of the model; however, I want to help them draw on
aspects of AEDP competently and effectively, rather than haphazardly.
I am most grateful and moved to be invited in, by each of my supervisees, to offer
support in their vulnerable moments of transition and expansion, and at times, their struggle in
developing their AEDP practice. I take great satisfaction in helping them undo their aloneness
and experience growth in this extraordinary realm of professional practice, AEDP, which is both
a way of working and a professional/personal community deeply valued by so many of us.
Circle of Security. Retrieved from https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com.
Fosha, D. (2000). The transforming power of affect. New York: Basic Books.
Fosha, D. (2016). Accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) supervision. [DVD].
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
LeDoux, J. E. (1996). The emotional brain: The mysterious underpinnings of emotional life. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
Prenn, N., & Fosha, D. (2017). Supervision essentials for accelerated experiential dynamic
psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Russell, E. (2015). Restoring resilience: Discovering your client’s capacity for healing. New
York: W.W. Norton.
Schwartz, Richard F. (1997). Internal family systems therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
Wertsch, J.V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
 We worked with relational interventions throughout the session, and this important aspect of the supervision will be illustrated in a later vignette.
 I’m very tempted here to rearrange the acronym so that we can call AEDP therapists “ADEPTs”!
 Circle of Security https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com
1 I use the terms “supervision” and “professional consultation” interchangeably.
 Circle of Security https://circleofsecurityinternational.com
3] This article is based on the paper I submitted to become a Certified AEDP Supervisor. At that time, the book by Prenn and Fosha (2017) had not yet been published; however, Fosha (2016) refers to “rigor without shame” in the APA DVD. In their book, Prenn and Fosha also use this phrase (2017, p. 71, p. 117).
5 I’m very tempted here to rearrange the acronym so that we can call AEDP therapists
6 We worked with relational interventions throughout the session, and this important
aspect of the supervision will be illustrated in a later vignette.