Healing happens when we fortify the internal roles of trauma survivors

By Kate Hudgins, Ph.D., TEP

Let me introduce you to the Therapeutic Spiral Model’s clinical map of the internal roles that help you understand the journey you go on when experiencing yourself in new and creative ways.  

In classical psychodrama, the seminal action method of change, the curative agent is the building up of spontaneity and creativity.  In today’s psychological terms, we would call this resilience. 

Unique to the methods of experiential practice with trauma, psychodrama according to the Therapeutic Spiral Model presents a clinical internal role map of the trauma survivor to make sure that action work is safe and effective for all group members, no matter the size of the group. 

We call this clinical map the TSIRA (Trauma Survivor’s Internal Role Atom), which provides a guide for all experiential and expressive therapies when working in cultures, populations and settings around the world. 

In my latest publications, including a chapter in the new book Why Global Health Matters and an article in the magazine The Neuropsychotherapist, I describe the three stages of prevention, intervention and training in the International Certification Training Program in Trauma Therapy that uses the Therapeutic Spiral Model in global health. This collection of roles, which we call prescriptive roles, is key to trauma recovery. 

No matter what setting, the seven internal roles assist in self observation, restoration of personal strength and relationships, and containment. The roles – each of which holds a collection of behaviors – are built not by talking but though active participation in new safe experiences. They provide an accurate view of a person’s life in the here and now. 

In addition to the establishment of the observer role, the survivor of trauma connects with his or her strengths, many which have been forgotten.  New energy flows into the body and brain for self-support and clarity of vision.  

For many people, connecting to needed self care and their strengths becomes life-saving when they have felt their spirits were fading or disappeared. 

Finally, the client learns three more roles: the “one who contains” difficult feelings, plus the one who is comfortably attuned to his or her body and the part of self that is able to manage and work through common defenses.

The TSIRA teaches people to build self-supporting internal roles for containment and learn to see the present-day world accurately and with trust.  In doing so, people learn awhat they need to become fully alive as spontaneous and creative beings. The TSIRA teaches both the ability to find creative solutions to enliven life, as well as to use it to get back one’s life if it’s stuck in the past.  

When a survivor of trauma is able to break free of the past roles of victim, perpetrator, and our unique role of self-abandoner, people use the Therapeutic Spiral Model to liberate their true selves and learn to live more fully in the present. 

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 Psychodrama Trainer, Educator, and Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry, and Group Psychotherapy and has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.