Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Diana Fosha Speaks on Healing Affects and Interactions in AEDP

Dr. Diana Fosha (second from right) with Candace Goldberg, Brenda Shrobe and David Kezur

Dr. Diana Fosha, one of the leading contributors to contemporary affect theory, addressed the process of change and its role in therapy at a packed Alumnae/i Association lecture at the Ackerman Institute on January 29.

Dr. Fosha said that while the development of psychotherapy has supported the creation of a lexicon to explain how things change for the worse (i.e., the theory of the development of psychopathology), there is far less understanding and less of a vocabulary to explain how change actually takes place, the process and specific mechanisms of change. To do so, she introduced the motivational construct of "transformance" as the counterpoint of resistance. She said that psychic processes, which operate under the umbrella of "transformance," tend to be "progressive, expansive, energetic and fueled by hope." Transformance-informed processes are always accompanied by positive affect, Dr. Fosha explained, although that does not necessarily mean happiness. She said that the positive affect that grows out of transformance is closer to a sense of peace or rightness.

Dr. Fosha led her audience through a discussion of the seven fundamental aspects of AEDP (accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy): healing, attachment, dyadic affect regulation, experience, emotion, positive affects and positive affective interactions, and transformation.

Healing addresses the idea that people are not just "bundles of pathology," but beings with innate, wired-in dispositions for self-healing, Dr. Fosha said. Because AEDP is healing oriented, rather than psychopathology-based, the therapy seeks to entrain adaptive affective change process in which the therapist and patient work together to harness the healing potential of change.

Attachment recognizes that people are wired to care, Dr. Fosha said. She explained that the AEDP therapist works to facilitate and co-construct a patient-therapist relationship characterized by secure attachment. This relationship is the secure base from which fear, shame and distress can be dyadically regulated.When operating optimally, she continued, dyadic affect regulation is a process that ultimately ensures that the patient in therapy is not alone with intense emotional experiences, but able to share them with a partner (the therapist), who can support, be there and help in the processing of these emotions to completion.

The overall goal of AEDP, Dr. Fosha said, is to facilitate a new healing experience that involves a transformation achieved through the moment-to-moment tracking of bodily-rooted emotional experience. The experiential method allows the patient to have an experience in which the body is involved and tracking moment-to-moment fluctuations is the emotional experience of the patient, therapist, and dyad.

Emotion or the visceral experience of core affects is the central agent of change in AEDP. Positive affects and positive affective interactions are both the constituents and the wired-in affective markers of healing transformational processes and adaptive experiences.

In the end, Dr. Fosha noted that focusing on, affirming, and experientially exploring the experience of transformation led to the discovery that the experiential exploration of transformation is, in itself, an affective change process.

Dr. Fosha used a 45-minuted tape of her work with a young female patient to illustrate many of her points. Although the session was short, it demonstrated clearly how Dr. Fosha, using the techniques she described earlier, was able to help her patient move from a very angry, emotionally withdrawn state to one in which she was able to access her feelings, let go of a good deal of her anger, and emerge in a place of calm, ease, self-acceptance and new understanding, almost a wisdom of sorts.

Dr. Fosha said that as a person processes transformation, another change process is launched. This processing of that which is therapeutic, or metatherapeutic processing, makes the implicit explicit and the explicit experiential. It leads ultimately, Dr. Fosha explained, to a core state of openness, compassion and self-compassion, and a sense of things feeling right.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Fosha’s AEDP, please visit http://www.aedpinstitute.com/.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bright Beginnings/Personal Best Awarded Renewal Grant from Robin Hood Foundation

Bright Beginnings and Personal Best – two programs developed by the Ackerman Institute’s Center for the Developing Child and Family – have been awarded a $200,000 renewal grant from the Robin Hood Foundation. This latest grant brings the total of Robin Hood support for these programs since 2004 to $1 million.

Bright Beginnings and Personal Best are both prevention programs for families with young children. Bright Beginnings, developed by Center Director Martha Edwards, PhD, is designed to promote the children’s mental health and school readiness. Originally developed and implemented in the New York City public schools, Bright Beginnings consists of a manualized curriculum of 36 sessions, starting in pregnancy, and then continuing until the child is three years old. Personal Best, developed by Center Associate Director Judy Grossman, DrPH, is a 16-session curriculum designed to help parents enhance their parenting skills and to promote their mental health, social support and self-efficacy.

Both curricula are part of a continuum of programs developed by the Center for the Developing Child and Family to help parents of infants, toddlers, preschool and elementary school children strengthen parent-child and family-school relationships. The Center’s goal, through all of its activities, is to support families and schools to nurture children’s developmental competencies, school readiness, and school success.

"We are deeply grateful for the very generous support the Robin Hood Foundation has provided to us," Martha Edwards commented. "Our goal was to train and provide support to program staff in community agencies so that they actually are the ones implementing the programs with families at a high level of quality. We wanted these skills to reside in the community agencies so that the programs can be sustained in the future. Not only have the Robin Hood grants enabled us to accomplish that goal, they also provided support for an independent evaluation that documented that staff has developed a high level of expertise in implementing Bright Beginnings/Personal Best."

With support from Robin Hood, the Center has trained staff at three agencies: the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, University Settlement House, and Child Center of New York.

Founded in 1988, the Robin Hood Foundation is dedicated to supporting programs and organizations that fight poverty in New York City. On its website, the Foundation states that "Our philosophy is simple: to significantly affect people living in poverty you have to attack its root causes. That’s why Robin Hood focuses on poverty prevention through programs in early childhood, youth, education, jobs and economic security."

The Foundation notes that Bright Beginnings/Personal Best "… aims to improve parents' ability to nurture their children, an approach shown to reduce child abuse and neglect as well as improve children's cognitive development and later achievement." The Foundation says that Bright Beginnings/Personal Best realizes that goal by promoting "…two key outcomes that improve the chances of a child graduating from high school: a high-quality home environment and a strong parent-baby relationship."

"The data collected at the three sites supported by Robin Hood shows that Bright Beginnings/Personal Best has a definite positive impact on families struggling with poverty," Lois Braverman, President of the Ackerman Institute, said. "We know that the family is the single greatest resource available to individuals coping with all kinds of concerns, including the wide variety of challenges caused by poverty. Bright Beginnings/Personal Best is playing a significant role in helping families harness and strengthen their existing resources and make a stronger community."

If you would like to support the implementation of these programs in other sites around New York City, click here, and select Center for the Developing Child and Family from the drop down box on the Donations Page.