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Complex trauma is ongoing abuse, neglect and abandonment by primary caregivers in childhood. The trauma often continues into adulthood, as survivors relate to themselves and others through the lens of attachment and emotional templates laid down by abusive and neglectful interactions with early caregivers.
Dissociation is not uncommon in survivors of complex, developmental trauma. It is also not uncommon for individuals who have suffered from trauma to experience a fragmented sense of self in order to survive the terror and unbearable aloneness of the trauma.
Therefore, effective trauma therapy must address the client’s experience, holistically, in order to help the client towards effective transformation and recovery.
In this video program, Dr. Mary Jean Kane interviews Dr. Kari A. Gleiser about her therapeutic approach that combines intra-relational interventions with AEDP’s attachment-experiential interventions.
During the therapy session, Dr. Gleiser demonstrates her approach to therapy by fostering secure attachment with intra-relational interventions to help a middle-aged female client who is suffering from the memory of her father’s suicide.
This session features a client portrayed by an actor on the basis of a composite of different cases.
In AEDP, the therapist fosters a client’s connection to their present-moment experience of their body, their emotions, and the therapeutic relationship, in order to promote healing from trauma, including attachment trauma (Fosha, 2000, 2003).
For complex trauma survivors, who have been frequently betrayed, hurt, and abandoned by caregivers, and for whom embodied emotion can feel dangerous and overwhelming, AEDP can be a powerful healing modality, with certain careful provisions.
The therapist’s attuned, moment-to-moment tracking of emotion (core affect) and ‘dyadic regulation’ are essential tools to ensure that clients don’t leave their ‘window of tolerance’ – the intensity of emotion that feels bearable.
The AEDP therapist also tracks a client’s ongoing experience of the relational connection – how much they can let in a felt-sense of the therapist’s support and guidance as an attachment figure – to ensure that the client doesn’t feel alone with painful emotions.
Some therapists fear doing deep emotion work with complex trauma survivors and so stay in the realm of cognitive interventions and coping skills. However, this can preclude deep emotional processing necessary for full healing from trauma and flourishing in life.
AEDP affords therapists an emotional “map” of the 4 states of emotional processing, in order to guide safe processing of emotions in a secure attachment relationship.
Emotional processing of full waves of core affect (e.g. grief, anger, fear) allow for the release of adaptive action tendencies (e.g. letting go, empowerment, self-protection) as well as inner guidance, peace and wisdom.
About the Therapist:
Kari Gleiser, PhD, completed her doctoral work at Boston University and her internship through Dartmouth Medical School with a focus on trauma and PTSD. Currently in private practice, she specializes in applying AEDP to the treatment of complex trauma and dissociative disorders.
Dr. Gleiser is the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Integrative Health in Hanover, NH, a trauma center dedicated to multi-modal healing of mind, body and spirit.
She has served on the board of directors of the New England Society for the Treatment of Trauma and Dissociation (NESTTD), where she chaired a committee on education and outreach.
In collaboration with Jerry Lamagna, Dr. Gleiser has developed an “intra-relational” model of therapy, which imports AEDP’s relational and experiential interventions to patients’ internal systems of dissociated self-states.
Dr. Gleiser has written several clinical papers and book chapters and has presented on applying AEDP to treat dissociative disorders at various international conferences. She teaches regularly at AEDP Institute workshops and trainings in the United States, Brazil and Europe.
Dr. Gleiser also has a special interest in exploring the intersection of psychotherapy and spirituality and has presented across the US on this topic.