By Kate Hudgins, Ph.D., TEP

If you are reading this, you may be a psychotherapist who values experiential techniques and methods – the Gestalt therapy’s “hot seat,” the basic role play techniques of psychodrama and the theories of EMDR or Somatic Experiencing – and have a strong repertoire of other clinical tools.

Or perhaps you are a psychotherapist or other clinician who wants to integrate more experiential methods into your practice, particularly if you are working with people who are recovering from trauma and addiction and are seeking new techniques and models to support their healing.

Or perhaps you are a client who loves experiential therapies because you know they work from your own experience, but you don’t know what your psychotherapist is actually doing. You are seeking to understand your own process of change in a type of therapy that doesn’t have lots of words. 

All psychodrama – and the Therapeutic Spiral Model of psychodrama in particular – is important in promoting human potential and growth. Psychodrama focuses on and values spontaneity and creativity, qualities which were first articulated by Dr. J.L. Moreno, the physician who originated psychodrama in the early 20th century.

The Therapeutic Spiral Model started as a clinical method to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We developed what we call the TSIRA – the Trauma Survivors Internal Role Atom – that maps the internal collections of behaviors of people who have experienced trauma, addiction, and eating disorders.

We note the roles that emerge out of a traumatic experience and prescribe healthy roles to practice to support the restoration of well being, which includes spontaneity and creativity in meeting life’s challenges. Essentially, the model is designed to diminish the trauma-based roles and build the roles that strengthen and heal the injured self.

Now we have transplanted the TSIRA to promote post-traumatic growth. It is especially useful in increasing people’s expansion in all areas of life – self-esteem, emotional self-regulation and practical self-care, relationships and work success.  

Here, we help participants access their personal autonomous center of healing, which in the Therapeutic Spiral Model is defined through seven prescriptive roles of the clinical map – connections with self, and spirituality, plus the abilities to observe our actions with neutrality, contain our feelings appropriately, attune to our body experience and manage natural defensive behaviors that show up when we feel anxious.

We use inspirational cards with evocative images, colorful scarves and materials and have an expressive arts group project in our workshops.  With these activities, we access the natural vitality of each person’s body and help every person to connect to each other to form a cohesive group dedicated to finding new and creative solutions to old problems, and envisioning a future that is far better than that of today.

Participants who take part in individual or group sessions always bring back the essence of their true selves; they find they are most connected and effective in relationships, work and self-expression.  

Each time I lead a psychodrama session with a Therapeutic Spiral Model Action Healing Team, I find myself in awe, blessed with the grace of experiencing healing in the moment, with other like-minded people.

Even when today is pretty good, spontaneity and creativity teases each person to become even more of who they are.

About the author

Kate Hudgins, Ph.D., TEP, is the originator of the Therapeutic Spiral Model, which she and her collaborators modified from classical psychodrama to increase safety for survivors of trauma. She has taken this model to 30-plus countries in the past 35 years. Her most recent book is Healing World Trauma with the Therapeutic Spiral Model: Stories from the Frontlines, edited with Francesca Toscani. Learn more about Kate and her international training certification on trauma treatment here.

Dr Kate is a Board Certified Trainer, Educator and Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.