Aseismic deformation transients such as fluid flow, magma migration, and slow slip can trigger changes in seismicity rate. We present a method that can detect these seismicity rate variations and utilize these anomalies to constrain the underlying variations in stressing rate. Because ordinary aftershock sequences often obscure changes in the background seismicity caused by aseismic processes, we combine the stochastic Epidemic Type Aftershock Sequence model that describes aftershock sequences well and the physically based rate- and state-dependent friction seismicity model into a single seismicity rate model that models both aftershock activity and changes in background seismicity rate. We implement this model into a data assimilation algorithm that inverts seismicity catalogs to estimate space-time variations in stressing rate. We evaluate the method using a synthetic catalog, and then apply it to a catalog of M???1.5 events that occurred in the Salton Trough from 1990 to 2009. We validate our stressing rate estimates by comparing them to estimates from a geodetically derived slip model for a large creep event on the Obsidian Buttes fault. The results demonstrate that our approach can identify large aseismic deformation transients in a multidecade long earthquake catalog and roughly constrain the absolute magnitude of the stressing rate transients. Our method can therefore provide a way to detect aseismic transients in regions where geodetic resolution in space or time is poor. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.