Research Paper By Caroline Drake
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
Coaching is deeply rooted in adult learning and psychological theory. Many techniques utilized in coaching are informed by and closely related to therapeutic interventions such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, neurolinguistic programming, motivational interviewing, appreciative inquiry and many more.
The underlying philosophy behind coaching is that we are resourceful and creative with energy, wisdom, ability and genius waiting to be set in motion. We can create the life we want faster and more easily by partnering with a coach who helps us utilize these resources to facilitate change and realize our potential, (Academy, 2018).
Accelerated, Experiential, Dynamic, Psychotherapy or AEDP is a therapeutic model and technique that aligns very closely with the coaching philosophy.
AEDP is a strengths-based approach to the therapeutic relationship, drawing on and deeply committed to the client’s inner sense of what is true and healing for them and their true self. AEDP emphasizes a trusting relationship between the client and practitioner to model safe and positive interactions to help facilitate the healing process. Further, AEDP focuses on experiencing each emotion powerfully and in such a way that builds resilience within the client to understand themselves deeply and their emotional responses. At its core, AEDP
is about experientially making the most of opportunities that arise from crisis and suffering for both healing and transformation. Key to its therapeutic action is the undoing of aloneness and thus, the establishment of the therapeutic relationship experienced as both safe haven, and secure base, (About AEDP, 2019).
AEDP is founded in neuroscience and
today’s brain research supports the premise of AEDP, that a positive, responsive, safe relationship produces chemicals and hormones which enhance the development of higher brain function and the regulation of emotions and stress. The plasticity of the brain coupled with the power of a positive relationship are ideas supported with research that have tremendous implications which AEDP fully recognizes and applies to not only help but transform lives, (How AEDP Works, 2019).
So how does this research and practice of AEDP inform how coaching and how a coach might shift their approach with their clients? This paper explores this question and more.
For the purposes of this paper, only three components of AEDP will be explored as they offer the greatest relevancy to the field of coaching. Those three components are the client’s innate strength; the client/practitioner relationship; and experiencing emotions fully.
The Client’s Innate Strength
In AEDP, part of the practitioner’s role is to identify where the client holds hope and to utilize it towards healing. They provide a safe trusting relationship with the client which is foundational to the client’s exploration of self and recognition of their own strength.
In the field of coaching, it is an embraced and deeply held belief that the client is whole. The client possesses deep wisdom and knowing. The client is capable of transformation. The client is powerful. Unfortunately, the client does not often feel or believe in these things completely even when the coach does. The process of coaching and the incremental shifts the client achieves slowly moves the client from a place where they did not fully embrace their wisdom and power to a place where they confidently acknowledge their abilities and see themselves as their true self. AEDP practitioners also hold this belief and desire this for their clients.
AEDP can inform the field of coaching by deepening the understanding of the importance of recognizing and utilizing the strength of the client. It is the deep listening for wells of hope and recognition by the client of the client’s own strength. More succinctly, it is acknowledgement and affirmation. As the coach recognizes these traits and strengths in the client, the client to begin to recognize and embrace these traits and strengths and to nurture their innate knowing and recognition of self.
The Client/Practitioner Relationship
AEDP places immense value and emphasis on the relationship between client and practitioner. Unlike other clinical models where practitioners maintain a more neutral stance and utilize reflection of language and questions (which are also important), the AEDP practitioner is more directive with the client. The practitioner works with the client to slow down and identify the physical sensation of what they are feeling. The practitioner gently pushes the client to deeper awareness around what the core of the emotion is through slow pacing and again, tapping into the experience of the emotion in the physical body to understand and more fully embrace the feelings of emotional responses. This relationship cultivates compassionate and nonjudgmental curiosity within the client toward themselves. The relationship also models healthy attachment and connection between two people with the practitioner taking special care to create a safe space for deep emotional exploration as well as taking care to know when the work becomes overwhelming and supports the client in stepping back.
The coaching relationship is also of utmost importance. Deep listening, powerful questioning, reflection and acknowledgment all support the client in deepening awareness and moving forward. Applying AEDP principles, the coach might slow the session down based on observing some emotional reaction. The coach then directs the client into a space to experience their emotions physically. In order to do this, it is paramount the coach is building trust, communicating clearly and transparently and opening themselves up to connect with the client with empathy, love and compassion. One might argue that the majority of coaches already work towards this type of relationship with their client, however, the intention and thoughtfulness, as well as vulnerability paired with discipline it takes to connect so fully with your client and maintain stability throughout a session on behalf of the client, is much easier said than done. Exploring AEDP encourages and challenges coaches to consistently consider a pursue the nature of their relationship with their clients in a deeply connected way.
Experiencing Emotions Fully
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of AEDP is the experiential way in which the practitioner invites the client to feel their emotions fully within their physical body. A leading practitioner within AEDP, Hilary Jacobs Hendel states:
“To heal the mind, we need to experience the emotions that go with our stories. Sometimes we need assistance connecting to our emotions. The same way we avoid painful or conflicting emotions in our everyday lives is the same way we avoid emotions in therapy sessions. Avoidance is not intentional, it’s just how the mind habitually protects itself from pain. An experiential therapist helps people safely get in touch with what they are feeling and defending against feeling in the here and now of the moment, as they share their stories.
Enhancing emotional capacity offers a host of benefits including increased self-confidence, courage, curiosity and compassion (in ourself and others), calmness, connectedness, and clarity of thought. Being in touch with our core emotions and having skills to process them increases our vitality–we feel more alive! Our relationships also benefit greatly when we understand and constructively deal with our emotions,”(Hendel, What is the Difference Between Conventional Talk Psychotherapy and Experiential Psychotherapy? 2019).
Hilary Jacobs Hendel developed “The Change Triangle” to support the AEDP process on one’s self and within therapeutic relationships to identify emotions, work with them as they present in the body, and feel them “to completion”.
The Change Triangle shown here is built on involuntary core emotions which we must feel and experience fully to acceptance in order to move us to the openhearted state of the authentic self. The core emotions are those that have been engrained in us since the beginning of time and are linked to our flight or fight responses. The core emotions happen. They are natural and should be acknowledged. However, too often people avoid core emotions because we have been socialized to believe those emotions are bad or wrong; or we feel guilty or shame about what the core emotion might mean or what others might think. Whatever the case may be, when people find themselves utilizing defences or feeling inhibitory emotions, those are red flags that we are avoiding fully experiencing a core emotion. Utilizing the change triangle, when the coach observes an emotional shift or response within a session the coach can direct the client to slow down, draw their attention to the feeling of that emotion physically and to identify what core emotion they are truly feeling. Perhaps it is fear of the unknown or letting someone down – understanding what the core emotion is and building the capacity to identify the emotion and tolerate feeling it fully will support the client in moving forward toward awareness and managing blocks. An example of this in a session is below:
Client: “I am anxious about making my website live.”
Coach: “What are the thoughts moving through your mind as you feel this anxiety?”
Client: “I feel like my family and friends won’t like the website.”
Coach: “Ok. Let’s slow down here. Take a couple of deep breaths and look inward. If it helps to close your eyes, do so or relax your gaze downward. So tell me, what do these thoughts and anxiousness feel like in your body physically?”
Client: “My chest feels tighter and my heart is beating faster.”
Coach: “Ok. Stay with this feeling – which core emotion do you think this is for you? Do you feel….[the coach can ask about one to seven of the core emotions slowly]?”
Client: “I’m afraid. I’m afraid they won’t like it and that I am not good enough to do this.”
Coach: “I hear you’re afraid of not being good enough. So what would you like to do with this fear?”
Client: “I don’t want to give up. I want to do this even if I’m afraid. I know my family and friends will be supportive and even if it isn’t perfect, I know I can keep improving and they can help me.”
Coach: “That’s a shift – you want to try even though you’re afraid and you’ve acknowledged your fear is unlikely to be the case. How are you feeling now?”
Client: “Better! Like I’m ready to just get the website going today!”
As illustrated, bringing awareness and building the client’s capacity to recognize the thoughts and physical sensations of what they are feeling is a powerful tool to support the forward movement towards goals!
AEDP aligns with the philosophy of coaching in many ways! The elements and tools presented can be utilized for the benefit of your clients and towards powerful transformation. However, coaches who wish to incorporate AEDP techniques into their practice should do so with great care and responsibility. Directing clients into feeling their emotions more deeply can cause discomfort and anxiety. Coaches should work first to develop a strong connected relationship with the client to build trust and understand the client in order to know when to support the client in stepping back if the work becomes overwhelming. Coaches also should work the change triangle on themselves to experience first-hand the power of experiencing emotions for transformation.
About AEDP. (2019). Retrieved from The AEDP Institute: https://aedpinstitute.org/about-aedp/
Academy, I. C. (2018). What is Coaching? Retrieved from ICA Coach Foundation: https://coachschool.s3.amazonaws.com/module_2019/Foundation_Coach/ICA-CoachFoundation-WhatisCoaching2019.pdf
Hendel, H. J. (2019). What is the change triangle? Retrieved from HilaryJacobsHendel.com: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/what-is-the-change-triangle-c18dd
Hendel, H. J. (2019, April 15). What is the Difference Between Conventional Talk Psychotherapy and Experiential Psychotherapy? Retrieved from HilaryJacobsHendel.com: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/post/2019/03/31/what-is-the-difference-between-conventional-talk-psychotherapy-and-aedp-psychotherapy
How AEDP Works. (2019). Retrieved from The AEDP Institute: https://aedpinstitute.org/about-aedp/how-aedp-works/