Therapy Talks

Tapping into Your Inner Strength: How to Embrace Authenticity and Emotional Transformation with Yoko Gifford

July 04, 2023 Switch Research Season 1 Episode 68
Therapy Talks
Tapping into Your Inner Strength: How to Embrace Authenticity and Emotional Transformation with Yoko Gifford
Show Notes Transcript

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This week on Therapy Talks, we dive into the profound approach known as Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP). AEDP is a therapy approach that goes beyond conventional methods by addressing the unbearable loneliness caused by emotional overwhelm. It is a bottom-up, relational, and attachment-based psychotherapy that aims to undo "aloneness" by providing healing-oriented experiences.

Join us as Yoko explains the key principles of AEDP and how it differs from top-down approaches like cognitive therapy. We learn how AEDP therapists join their clients' experiences, emphasizing what's going right and looking for the transformative power within them. Yoko guides us through the process of noticing and exploring body sensations and desires to be heard, while the therapist and client track their experiences, including transference and countertransference.

In This Episode:

  • Understand the key principles that set AEDP apart from top-down therapies and how it focuses on integrating the heart, mind, body, and spirit.
  • How AEDP helps individuals honor and welcome all parts of their being in a compassionate and non-judgmental manner, promoting self-acceptance and growth.
  • Yoko explains how AEDP therapists guide clients to fully experience and reflect on their emotions, making the implicit explicit.
  • Discover how positive neuroplasticity is promoted through AEDP by focusing on new and different experiences.

In her work, Yoko brings her authentic self to create a safe and trusting alliance with her clients, honoring and welcoming all parts of their being in a compassionate and non-judgmental manner. She believes in the innate capacity for healing and focuses on integrating the heart, mind, body, and spirit, helping clients become whole by tapping into their inner wisdom and making sense of their life experiences.

Find Out More About Yoko:
Website: https://www.yokogifford.com/

Learn More About Switch Research:
Website: https://switchresearch.org/
Instagram: @switchresearch

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Disclaimer: Therapy Talks does NOT provide medical services or professional counseling, and it is NOT a substitute for professional medical care.


Before we get to the episode, I want to take a moment to tell you all about an incredible gift from Switch research. Click the link in the description of this episode to gain free lifetime access to the Self-Love Masterclass. You get access to introspective journalling prompts that accompanying the daily lessons, and over 20 hours of guided journaling sessions by a licensed therapist.

Plus you get digital version of the Self-love journal to use in conjunction with the video series. So don't forget to claim your free gifts today. In today's episode, we have Yoko Gifford joining us to talk about her experiences providing accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy, A K A E D P. We deep dive into what this therapy is, as well as her experiences in becoming a therapist.

I hope you enjoy today's episode.

you say that you use a lot of A E D P, right? Could you share with us what that is?


In many models, start with psychopathology, like what's going wrong? What's wrong with, in terms of the symptoms and, the trauma that they've experienced and the painful experiences, and in a d p psychopathology we interpret psychopathology as unbearable aloneness in the face of emotional overwhelm, and we strive to undo that aloneness through attachment based, emotion focused dally healing oriented experiences.

Okay. So I know that's, there is a lot of and it's very somatic and bottom up approach as well. So it is very much a relational attachment based psychotherapy. Okay. So that was gonna be one of my questions, was it more of a top down or a bottom up? So you're saying it's more bottom up and to clarify for everyone listening, we can generally.

If we wanna try be simplistic about modalities is we can divide them into different categories. So top down is very much T for thinking cognitive, changing the way that we're thinking and the way that we perceive things in our thought processes. Something like cognitive therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is very much top down.

Versus the bottom up is very much more B for body base in the body feeling and more about like the way that our bodies interact with our environment and ourselves. So for you, you're saying that A E D P is more bottom up. That's right. Yes. So what type of things would you be doing then that would enable this type of therapy to be a bottom up therapy?

Good question. And so this is where I feel like a d p is so unique from different, from other modalities is that there as a, as an a d P therapist, I really don't feel like I'm doing something to my clients. It's very much a being with experience and there's so much of. Myself as who I am as a person, as a therapist, that I join in with my clients' experiences and say clients come in, they're feeling anxious because they're, it's their first time in therapy.

They're, there's, they've got a lot of things going on that, feeling overwhelmed and Yes. We develop rapport and everything, but as an a d P therapist, I'm always looking for what's going right. It doesn't mean that I ignore. The pain or their suffering.

But as an a d p therapist, we become this, there's a term that Diana Foche the founder of a d p has coined, called Transform. It's so transform is that the innate drive that all human beings have for healing. Carl Rogers talked about that too, but I don't think he actually named it, whereas Diana named it Transformers.

So as an a d P therapist, I become the Transformers detective. Like throughout my session, I'm always keeping my ear and eyes open for what's going right here. In the midst of their suffering, what is something that is still intact and true. And I really bring their attention to that aspect.

And so often they're like, oh, that is true. So for example They're talking about how nervous they were. They really didn't wanna come be, and they thought about canceling, but they came because they really wanted to change the pattern of where they were feeling stuck.

For example, something very common. So I might say something like transforms would be their drive to push through and to come. Face something that was hard, but come anyway. And because they're, they have this drive to want to create that change. So I bring their attention to that.

And because when there is transforms, there is a glimmer of their core self, of who they are, who they truly are, their, So I really wanna bring that online. And that becomes, that's a very adaptive part of themselves. And it becomes, it just gets highlighted as part of their internal resources in order to do some, difficult work.

I don't know if that makes sense. Yeah. And ironically, I was just having some EMDR consultation yesterday and we actually were talking a lot about this idea that is prevalent in many theories and therapies about. The idea for humans to want to have an innate sense of healing. So a metaphor, or like an example is like as soon as you have like maybe a cut, right?

Your white blood cells rush to the surface of your skin to try and break away or push out any infection, and then the skin will clot so that it becomes a scab to heal. So your body does wanna heal. Yeah. And so they make that example in terms of us on a psychological. When we have emotional hurt, right?

Our body does want to heal from that. It wants to process that information. Exactly. I'm understanding it from my expertise more in EMDR therapy, but, It sounds like there's that commonality of trying to focus in on that innate sense of healing and have the client be aware of their ability to heal from psychological struggles and strife, right? And experiences so that they can see themselves truly clearly, fully right, instead of just the negative or the the struggle that they may be experiencing. That's right. Yeah. And in a d p we use the metaphor of this daisy and the concrete. There's sometimes you see this crack on a cement concrete, and in between that crack there's this beautiful little daisy that's blooming wanting to bloom straight toward the sun.

And that is the transformative. Just for devil's advocate's sake. Yeah. Does anyone find it invalidating? If you point out the strengths that they're having, I'm trying to think of it like sometimes some clients I see, they really wanna have an experience of being heard and so they need some time and maybe multiple sessions as you're developing still the therapeutic rapport, to really feel heard and validated and seen before I can point out like a positive or something is that is going well. Would you also acknowledge or have that experience too? Yeah. That's interesting. And I can totally understand that. Clients, come into session. They wanna talk about what's going wrong, right?

Otherwise they would just hang out with their friends and talk about all the good stuff, right? So Transformers would be their desire to be heard in that aspect, rather than me saying, look how you. I, yeah. So there, it's so much more than just look how you showed up in my office.

But yes, there's so much that's going on. There's so much that they've experienced and they've experienced it in, in, in such isolation that they really wanna be heard. Can we just pay attention to that desire to be heard? Right Now when you say that, how does your body respond? Can we just slow it down and really pay attention to that?

Where does that come from? And then so I draw their attention to their body. This drive this innate. Power the, self agency that comes that yes, I wanna be heard. There's so much that I've experienced and this needs to be heard. And okay, so can we let's feel that, tell me what that feels like.

And what's it like for you to be bringing your attention to that desire right now? Yeah. This is something I've felt for such a long time, but. I've never had the opportunity to, because I'm just so scared to mention because, I'm scared of the backlash or whatever that might happen.

Okay. So I really wanna hear what you need to say that's the kind of like really detecting that transform and making space for it. For sure. And that's what's then taking it from, Or away from top down thinking, changing. Instead of just pointing out like that silver lining.

Perhaps more into the bottom up approach of feeling the body sensations. Cuz as we have an emotion, we have a body sensation and when we sink into that. And it makes me think of this idea that like, When we are in an uncomfortable emotion, we might be more in the sympathetic nervous system, right?

Or of that fight flight experience. And so when we slow it down, and we may be mindful, now we're going into the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows for more of that adaptation or this the calming and soothing of that distress. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. So those are the things that you would be saying is like pay attention, notice leaning into that, so you'd want to guide them and support them in that journey of transform. That's right. That's right. And in a d p there is. There is this phenomenology of the trans transformational model, healing model of state one through four. And there's a whole triangle diagram that goes with it and stuff which would be really hard for me to explain in, in a short time.

But I always have that map in the back of my mind to be able to guide or for me to know. You know where my client is at. So I'm constantly tracking where my client is. I'm tracking where I am on the triangle in terms of, am I feeling anxious here? Am I talking too much? Am I in my defenses? Am I trying to I feel nervous, and so I don't want this silence.

So am I in my defenses? And if I'm in my defenses, the chances are the client is in her, in their defenses as well. And the goal is to be able to help them to drop down into their core emotional experiences because emotions are naturally adaptive. And so got, so then I, hopefully I'll be able to drop down into feeling more grounded and to be able to guide them through their core emotions.

And it sounds like you would be very aware and cognizant of transference and countertransference as you described those examples. Yeah. That's something I would keep in mind for sure. Yeah. Yeah. Which I think all therapists do. But when you describe that's what kind of made me think of, because you said that like you're tracking your level of trans or transformation.

Totally. Yeah. So I'm tracking what's happening in my client, tracking what's happening in me, and tracking what's happening between my client and I. And what I love about a d p is that it's, we don't just process the emotion. There's so much more that happens after the adaptive core emotion gets processed.

It's almost there's a whole other experience of Transf positive transformation. Diana calls it like this upward spiral of experiences. So for example, say, my client had this big anger that they needed to work through. They've expressed their anger and. And there's a whole process to go through that.

But once they got to say what they needed to say, put their anger where it belongs, as if like almost in a guess just told therapy, like speaking at directly to that person who they're angry at. I bring their attention back to their body what's happening inside. So there's so much, there's a post breakthrough affect that happens that it's okay, that I feel such a sense of release.

I, I needed to say that. Okay, so let's pay attention to where do you notice that release? Okay. It's oh, it's all over my shoulders, my upper chest. Okay, let's just take a moment to feel that. What's it like to feel that release in your body? Oh it's just, it's, I feel light. Okay. Notice that light.

Oh, this is just I feel so open. So there's this upward morgue begets more kind of idea. Of as they're just being with this post breakthrough affect. There's more and more that happens and that's the part of, a d I think that's what's really unique to a d p is that We, our model really helped the client to go through into the flor flourishing state of they don't just tolerate the experience, but they just go through even more into their core self.

I don't know if I'm explaining this right, but Yeah. Excuse my ignorance, but things that pop out to me that the similarities, like you did mention that it sounds like a lot of similarities to somatic and in my mind, the question that I was holding is what does it mean to process? But I think if we go back to a very more simplistic idea of it is that the process and emotion, let me know if you agree, is to feel an emotion and notice that as we feel an emotion, the emotion will shift and change in the way that.

It feels in our body, and if it feels differently, we can appraise or think about the emotion differently. So you are encouraging a person or client to feel their feelings and really be aware of that shift in change over emotions, and that's why it would be considered extra ential. Experiential.

Experiential. Yes. Yes. Yeah, I do. I do agree. And I think that you're talking about, People, you even in bottom up approach, people come to that insight after they feel their emotion to its completion. And that insight does come, but there's so much more after feeling the emotion to its adaptive state to the insight.

There's so much that happens during that, that we really deepen that. That experience in a d p, so I, we don't rush from. Okay. That was good. What do you think about, how do you, when you think about that angry experience, how do you feel now? We don't jump to that. We really be with the somatic body experiences of what it's like to be able to actually express that anger in the way that it needed.

And have that be witnessed. And so in a d p we have the saying to make the implicit explicit, make the explicit experiential, make the experience experiential, relational. I'm with you. Okay. I know it's a little, I'm with you. Yeah. Maybe you could give. An example, just like maybe a black and white kind of example of what that would look like in like therapy C.

Yeah so for example, again, just using this anger example of someone processed their anger that they held in the body for so long, for the very first time, they were able to verbally and somatically express that out loud. And so at as the post breakthrough affect of, oh, that felt so good to say, out loud comes, I stayed with that experience of the implicit experience of what that felt what that was like into a very explicit language.

So tell me that release and this is what we. What we do in there is a phrase called meta therapeutic processing short for metaprocessing. It's the dance between experience and reflection. And so we're going back and forth between the left and right brain of really highlighting both hemispheres of our brain.

What was that like for you to, to, what's it like for you to just notice that release right now? Oh, that just feels so like an out of body experience. Hey, and what's that oh, like I have never done it and I didn't know I could do it. Notice that, and notice, notice that power, what is that like? I'm like, oh, I'm feeling just so big.

And, and so that's the making explicit to implicit, to exper explicit and then into more experientially and a relational intervention might be like, what's it like for you to have done that with me, with you? Or what's it like for you to have my support? Can you feel me with you?

Or, I may say some of those things even throughout, all throughout the session as they're going through like anxiety to, to have to say something's or if they get into this shame spiral of, I'm not good enough, or, I'm a terrible person, I. I'm alone. I've been judged a shame spiral.

I may ask them to just take a moment to notice my face and see what they can see, like from me, if they say so I might say something like can you just take a moment to how do I come across to you right now? And. Yeah. You seem non-judgmental, kind. Caring. Okay.

What's that like to have my kind eyes, my caring and care be with you in this moment? What's that like to have that kindness be with your shame? Ah, that just takes that. That edge off or, oh, I, I feel seen, or, that kinda things. What's the rationale behind going from that process into the relational?

Like, why is there that focus as the relational at the end point or that higher level? The relational intervention happens all throughout from the very get-go, not just during the post breakthrough affect. All the way. So the relational aspect is more of the a d b stance, I would say, of and that's the part where I really feel like I'm being with my client and it's so much more than it's beyond mirroring of, I'm not just reflecting what's happening here, but I'm going above and beyond being that secure attachment figure.

So that's the attachment piece, right? So this is a very over generalized comment. Yeah. But sometimes one of the reasons that. Clients come to therapy, or I've even gone to therapy or anyone's gone to therapy, is to heal some of our attachment wounds with guardians or parents or et cetera. And so there may not have been that secure attachment available during our childhood and adolescence when we are being shaped, our personalities being shaped our.

Who we are is being shaped and molded. So you are providing that opportunity for a person to have that experience of a secure attachment in that way, and that's why there's that relational theme or importance throughout. Exactly. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that's exactly, see, I'm learning so much. Yeah. Yeah. From my brief, like Googling a few days ago, it says that a e d.

P really draws from attachment theory. And is that what it means when it's drawing from the attachment theory is like really trying to create some secure attachments? That's right. Yeah. So we're always working with the client's internal working model of, how they were, how they understood about themselves in relation to the other.

That's the attachment piece and I think that's the psychodynamic piece of self other experience For many clients. They have been othered, by other caregivers or friends or being bullied and whatnot. So as an a d P therapist, I strive to be that secure attachment that they may or may never have experienced in their life.

And because of their transforms, they'll respond to that. They'll respond to when there is something that, when I become the true other type of exper, attachment figure, they will respond in a way that they probably didn't know that they were capable of responding. That it's oh, this feels so good to be really met where I am.

And then I would just really highlight that, slow that down experience. And and would you say a lot of the preparatory or beginning sessions is just helping clients to have emotional literacy and be able to feel their feelings? Yeah. For some people they don't have a lot of emotional literacy.

And so then they're really well-versed in their defenses in this a d p theory that I go by. So they have all kinds of defense mechanism that they've developed and they're. That's what's causing the suffering in their lives, even though they, these were coping mechanisms that they had to develop over time there's often a cost that comes with it.

So ideally the, I try to help them to move through the core emotional experiences, but we spend so much of. We often spend a lot of time in the, what we call state one defense anxiety kind of experiences. Just so that they get to realize, oh yeah, this is something I do, when there's an emotion, I go into change subject, I start talking about something else, or I just looked away when I, I really don't wanna talk about that, and so I might highlight that as okay. If we're able to bypass that defense, we always try to do that and drop down into core emotion. But so often I do have to spend a lot of time helping them to understand their own defense mechanisms including the cost that comes with it. So that they can let go of it, that it's okay, it's not serving me purpose when I do this.

I don't connect with my spouse at a deeper level. Okay. I really wanna learn to stop that, for example. Would you say there are cer certain client populations that maybe A E D P wouldn't be a good fit for? That's a good question. I guess like anyone who doesn't wanna feel their feelings. I'm just kidding. And those, there are many clients that way, right? Yeah. And they're stuck in their state one defense and anxiety area. Yeah. And I can see that even in my past clients, if they're really uncomfortable with some of these relational Experiences, they don't tend to stick around. Yeah. Yeah. So technically it can be applied or used with any population, really. It just, although I don't think there is a lot of evidence or practice with children Yeah. For children. With teens. With some teens. I think it works.

It depends on their readiness and emotional literacy and stuff. Yeah, for sure. So how would you say like neuroplasticity would work with a E D P? Yeah, so in a d p we put positive neuroplasticity in action, meaning that, so when, so with neuroplasticity, neurons that fire together, wire together, right?

And neurons that fire together happens when there is a new or different experience. And so we're always looking for that. When the, when my client says, oh, this is different. This is when they're feeling, noticing something in their body. This feels different. Okay, can we just stay with that?

Can we slow it down? Notice what, what feels different? Stay with it and stay with me would be something, a relate, something relational that I might say. And ideally, if they can stay with what feels new and different for 20 seconds or more, that's when the neurons, that neurons get fired, and wire together.

And I might provide a mini psychoeducation to normalize that why we're doing that. Okay. Yeah, just curious of like how that would work too, because you're trying to, again, have that trans performance and like moving through all of that. That's right. And would you say something to be cautious of with A E D P is like retraumatizing a client if they're like experiencing a very traumatic experience.

Oh, bless you. Yeah. So that is something that as a clinician, we always have to be careful, right? When we're working with trauma we do have to tread waters very carefully and slowly. And this is where, in a d p language moment to moment tracking becomes really important to know where my client is at.

By asking, tell me what's happening. Because I, even though I'm trying to pay close attention to their internal experiences, I don't always know unless I ask. They might, as they're being reflecting and thinking about what's happening in their body, they could be starting to experience this like a nauseous kind of feeling that then disconnects into dissociation.

And so when that happens, there is no connecting to their body, right? So I really, that's where I have to help them to dally regulate to be within their window of tolerance, but still 10 tense enough that there's some emotions that's happening. So that's why my previous question I was thinking about, it's like developing emotional literacy, helping clients to feel their feelings, but also widening their window of tolerance so that they can have that ability to feel their feelings, notice it, and then be able to have the relational aspect come into play without being so overwhelmed that they go out of their window tolerance into like hyper arousal or hypo arousal.

Exactly. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And when did a E D P start coming? Like around, like how long has a, this therapy been around? I believe it was in the nineties. Yeah. So it's been just over 20 years. Yeah, for sure. I'm just kinda curious because like you think about all the different therapies that come out over chronologically over time and how some start to influence the other and very much have drank the Kool-Aid with emdr, so I can see how there's a lot of those overlaps within those types of therapies and like the way that they align in a bottom.

That's okay. Sorry, there's a mailman. Oh, my dog's like my.

Yeah. So I could see how both of those therapies would overlap in the way that they function. Yeah. Is there anything around this therapy that we have missed so far, or you feel like it's really important to understand or know? There's so much more about this therapy, like the model seems. Simple, but when you start to get into it there's so much nuances that are it takes time to, I think, refine those skills. Trying to think,

so I guess like maybe some people will be more familiar with the language parts work or in a child's work. And we do that in a d p as well. And that often happens when they're in their core emotional state. And, as they, as I invite them to pay attention to the emotion that's happening inside, notice, see if there, if that feels familiar, where they might have experienced it in the past, then usually a pocket of memory that pops up.

And we work with that memory through what we call portrayals. And yeah and that's a beautiful, it can be a very beautiful healing, corrective effective experience that client needed to do in order to be with their younger parts of themselves. And so you earlier mentioned like that triangle and like helping clients to work their way through that.

What's at the top, my inner perfectionism is coming out? What's at the top of that? Top of what? Top of that triangle when you're trying to make clients grow through that. You said like you're tracking where they are at, right? What's at the end of it? All right. So actually it's a upside down triangle to be honest.

Oh. Oh, what's at the bottom? That, so this is the actual diagram. Oh, okay. But yeah, so it's the upside down triangle but we call the top of the triangle on one. So the top right corner of the triangle is anxiety. Top left corner is defenses. Anxiety is a physiological sensation that comes, and that's being triggered by a conflicted emotion that they're having deep down.

But because anxiety's so uncomfortable, they often move to the defense corner. Defenses are anything that is thoughts or behavior. So it could be avoidance, it could be procrastination, it could be worries it could be, so many things. Yeah. So then I helped them to move down from state one of anxiety defenses two state two, which is the core emotions of.

Anger sadness, fear, disgust or joy. And when they, if they're able to process that core emotions that are adaptive, then that happens into the state three or state four transformational experiences of oh, this feels like I feel light, I feel calm. And usually, And as we do the metaprocessing of what's it like to feel that in your body?

Then if we're able to go all the way down to state four, the core state, typically what happens in that state is this very self declarative. This is me kind of an experience, and usually at that point then new insight comes, this is me, despite this. Painful experience I've had. I am, I've overcome, this is me.

I can be compassionate along with what I've done and things like that. For sure. So it's like from that then that insight can be so helpful cause it can inform our choices in the way that we move forward. Totally. Yeah. And it doesn't always go down. It's not a linear process whatsoever. We, some people come in at in state three.

Yeah. And some, sometimes that can be a very wonderful and difficult experience for me to really sit with that state three, the entire session, for example. Like we're really like milking that positive experience and again, that can be a very transformational attachment, strength strengthening experiences.

Interesting. Yeah. Wow. It's been so informative. Thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge today. If any clients are interested in working with you, how could Gay get ahold of you? They are welcome to send me an email@helloyokogifford.com. Or you can go to my website, learn a little bit more about me at yoko gifford.com.

Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate you sharing everything. You're welcome, Haley. Thanks for having me. Thanks.