Transformance Journal Volume: Volume 8

Editor’s Letter and Introduction to the Issue-Gil Tunnell, PhD- Volume 8 

Using AEDP with Special Populations 

By Gil Tunnell, PhD

As I put the final touches on this issue devoted to using AEDP with special populations, I am saying to myself, “WOW!”  Herein Mark Green writes on using AEDP in treating addictions (“unwrapping the urge”); Jessica Slatus writes on using AEDP with eating disorders (literally “bite by bite”); Carrie Ruggieri writes on using equine-assisted psychotherapy as an adjunct to AEDP (with a rich history of the horse-human connection); and Matt Fried gives us a very personal essay on his work with psychotic populations (from an observing college student to working on a psychiatric unit). These four authors have developed their own original, new, and creative ways of using AEDP with these groups.  

Furthermore, in a new column for Transformance, Kari Gleiser and Diana Fosha describe original, new and creative ways of incorporating sexuality into AEDP theory and practice. They present to us their cutting-edge thoughts on sexuality, a void thus far not addressed in AEDP for individuals. Their goal is “to graft a theory/phenomenology of sexual experience onto AEDP’s four states of emotional processing,” and they include a diagram illustrating it. Following AEDP ethos, Kari and Diana view sexuality through a lens of health, not pathology.

To me, it is the originality throughout this issue that makes it so special. As I finished editing each article along the way, I said, “This is really great!” When they are all put together in one place here, they add up to a huge “WOW!”  See what you think, but I believe you are in for some very interesting reading.  

Shining a Light on Sexuality, Kari A. Gleiser, PhD & Diana Fosha, PhD- Volume 8

Some Early Thoughts on Integrating Sexuality into AEDP Theory and Practice

Kari A. Gleiser, PhD & Diana Fosha, PhD

Until recently, sexuality has remained largely in the shadows in experiential psychotherapies, including AEDP[1]. AEDP, as well as these other individual experiential psychotherapies, more commonly focus on the embodied felt-sense of emotional and relational experience but have relatively neglected the domain of sexual experience. As David Bell wondered on a recent AEDP listserv discussion, “I feel a void in emotion-focused psychotherapy, which can heal the belly and heart centers but rarely touches on the sex center or sexual drives and energy. We can transform the heart but what about the pelvis?”  In this column, we aim to bring sexual experience into the AEDP spotlight and begin to consider how to integrate this crucial realm of human experience with the transformation of mind and heart, emotion and intimacy.   

In AEDP, we privilege transformance, the inherent, lifelong drive toward healing, growth, vitality and expansion.  In adulthood, sexuality is a primary playground on which to express and explore vitality, intimacy, play, adventure and vulnerability. It is an aspect of self deeply intertwined with attachment, identity, embodied sense of self, access to pleasure, energy and expression of exploratory drives. Therefore, expanding AEDP’s theoretical and clinical horizons to include experiential work with sexual experience seems a natural evolution of our model. The AEDP model inclusive of sexuality is a model enriched with yet another dimension in which we can awaken and release transformance strivings, deepen connection with self and other, and unleash waves of positive affect.

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AEDP-Informed Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: Carrie Ruggieri, LMHC BCETS- Volume 8

Carrie Ruggieri, LMHC BCETS

Abstract.  Part One of this article is a historical contextual introduction to lend appreciation to the centrality of the horse-human relationship. We begin with a moment, 7,000 years ago, when a human first mounted a horse and there upon altered the course of human evolution. As advances in civilization progressed at an exponential pace, the developing human mind created increasingly left-brain-leaning cultural developments. The contention is that left-brain-leaning influences had over the centuries laid dormant the capacities that enabled that ancient horse-human collaboration. This leads us to confronting the effects of a left-brain-leaning world orientation upon social isolation, loneliness and disenchantment. Our continuing bond with the horse remains one of the few links to our finely hewn right-brain ancestral history and provides an experiential vantage point from which to understand the depth and breadth of our right-brain-leaning capacities laid dormant over the course of time.  AEDP meta-psychology is uniquely positioned to help us understand what we have lost as our evolution carried us further from the Eurasian Steppe, and has a methodology to reclaim and vitalize these capacities. Part Two introduces the incorporation of AEDP into Equine Assisted Therapy (EAP), and illuminates the perfect mapping of each onto the other. Part Three is a review of the horse/herd mentality, which supplies the therapeutic tools for AEDP-Informed EAP. Part Three gives special attention to the transformational affect, awe, ubiquitous to the horse-human experience. Part Four is a transcription of a client’s account of her healing experience in equine therapy. 

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Bite by Bite: Working with Eating Disorders Using Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, Jessica Slatus -Volume 8

Jessica K. Slatus, LCSW

Abstract.  For clients with eating disorders, food is a medium of emotional expression.  Helping the client to develop a greater awareness of her affective experience, and to expand her capacity to internalize nourishing relational experiences, is critical to fostering sustained recovery.  Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), with its explicit, experiential focus on privileging new and positive experiences of affect and connection, is well-suited to this work. This paper will offer strategies to appreciate and disarm the eating disorder client’s defenses, highlight specific AEDP interventions that foster receptivity to positive affects from the therapist as well as from other parts of the self, and illustrate the therapist modeling receptivity for the client.

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Using Experiential Dynamic Therapy with Addicted People, Mark Green, MD Volume 8

Mark Green, MD

Abstract. Addiction has been conceptualized as a disorder that hijacks the person and is best treated by cognitive or behavioral intervention. It is better conceptualized as a disorder of emotion and attachment which responds well to therapies that build emotional literacy and capacity for connection. Experiential Dynamic Therapies (EDP), including Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), do just this and require minor modification for working with addictions. This article has three aims: (1) to examine the reasons why therapists have shied away from working with addictions, (2) to describe a model of experiential treatment that draws on the evidence base and contemporary theories of addictions and psychotherapy effectiveness, including neurobiology, and (3) to encourage experiential therapists to accompany these clients as they change their lives.


Thirty percent of adults will have an alcohol related disorder, and 9% a 
substance use disorder (SAMHSA, 2018). Almost half of those with addictions also have co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses. Addictions wreak great damage, from medical (including pain, infectious, cardiovascular and liver disease) through financial, social and spiritual. The people close to the person using suffer too, losing support, experiencing stress and often violence. Society loses over $400 billion to productivity, criminal and medical fallout (Bouchery, 2012). Treating this population benefits many.

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Signs of Transformance from the Asylum -Matt Fried, PhD- Volume 8

Matt Fried, PhD

……and we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
Bob Dylan

This article concerns the persistence of love and caring in a despairing and chronically damaging (iatrogenic) environment called a mental hospital. I’m going to tell you about my experiences, first as a young adult working in one of these hospitals, and, more than a decade later, as a psychologist working in a subsequent iteration of the mental hospital, now called an inpatient unit. I am still integrating those early experiences, and they continue to shape my work as a psychotherapist. 

This article is also about transformance (Fosha, 2008), that driving force within each of us to grow, to heal, to actualize, to preserve and sustain our humanity in the face of forces, both internal and external, which might encourage us to pull back from human contact, contract and hide our core selves, and submit to dehumanization and alienation as a means of preservation. (Read More…)