Francesca Toscani, M.Ed., TEP, TSI Trainer

TSM, TSIRA, CD, AL—these are some of the original letters in the alphabet soup that is TSM—the ones that I was involved in co-creating and co-developing as a member of the original TSM team.

The year was 1991. I had previously heard of psychodrama; had witnessed action methods. What I had seen, though, left me cold and wary. Yes, the action was alive, was vibrant, was cathartic—but did not feel right, did not feel safe, with negative reactions hours after groups ended. But in 1988 I attended a demonstration given by Zerka Moreno at Omega Institute. Her simple presentation was sublimely powerful and I was intrigued. So, when a close friend suggested a new psychodrama training group in Richmond, I went with him. Kate Hudgins, brilliant, lovely and warm. And Milton Hawkins, friendly and open and dressed in slicker-yellow bibbed overalls—these were the trainers. While I had been involved in alternative therapies and healing methods over the years, my psychology and counseling education and training were fairly traditional. So, experiencing a fun and lively group with these two as leaders was a refreshing turn and I was hooked. What stands out particularly, these 26 years later, is how quickly individual and group issues emerged, how active the training and learning was, and how seemingly easy Kate and Milton handled all the sociometric (didn’t know that word then) concerns. They were non-threatened, centered, and I was impressed.

After several months, Kate asked if I would be an auxiliary ego in a group she was doing with trauma survivors. While I knew I could do auxiliary work, I was a bit concerned because I had never worked with an entire group of ‘abused persons.’ Kate’s support was invaluable and she reminded me that I was a good therapist, so all I had to do is put my clinical skills to work through whatever role I was asked to play. With those simple instructions, I understood the role of an auxiliary much more clearly: it wasn’t just playing a part in someone’s drama; it was about effective and pinpointed interventions through the particular role. Psychodrama became more real and I found that, working with the Surviving Spirits groups, my life as a therapist became more meaningful.

My theoretical background was Jungian, so I always viewed the action on stage as the inner workings of the psyche. When I did my first psychodrama, it was just as if I were in my own sandtray, and later developed a method of work called Sandrama. While many psychodramatists are intuitives and usually say they learn through action, my primary learning mode is through discussion. So after each group, after each drama Kate would direct, I cornered her and we had interminable discussions about what she did, the choices she, I, and other auxiliaries made, and the clinical reason for those choices.   It was from those discussions and processing that the main meal of TSM developed. We called it the Trauma Survivor’s Intrapsychic Role Atom (TSIRA), which is now being call the Internal Role Atom.

Kate’s method of directing, and indeed of training, is one of abundance and inclusion. She has always seen the entire group as part of the drama, so these Surviving Spirits groups were quite lively and might seem chaotic to more traditional psychodramatists and therapists. Yet, this apparent chaos is exactly what is going on in the brain and in the psyche of a person who has experienced trauma or even deep stress. So, rather than keep any part of the psyche (or internal role) off stage and quiet, Kate invited them in. Sometimes these roles were brought to the stage by the protagonist; sometimes they spontaneously developed from a clinical intervention, and sometimes a group member might pick up on a dissociated feeling from the protagonist and embody that role. To create order out of seeming chaos, we labeled the roles and began placing them into a structure that developed over several training groups and several years.

One example is the Containing Double (CD) that was the first role named. Based on clinical practice, we saw that the traditional double was not always necessary for the protagonist, but what WAS always necessary is what we called the Containing Double. This role developed spontaneously in a drama within a drama, when a group member was experiencing her own flashbacks. It was clear she needed no classical double, but did need to develop that part of herself who could maintain a semblance of calm and assurance even in the midst of frightening memories. The containing double is what I became—first a scared child, then a calm, reassuring voice that affirmed her fears, but encouraged her/us to move beyond them and be in the here and now. Eventually, Kate and I caught each other’s eye and, as double, I brought the group member into the present and Kate brought her into the drama as a support for the protagonist.  It was at that weekend, too, we developed the role of Assistant Leader (AL). This team role is not a co-director, but is essentially the director’s double and over the years has morphed into one with clear duties to aid the drama.

Through ensuing dramas, clearer safety structures developed, along with my introduction of art as a part of each group. These art projects—from sandtrays to collages to mask-making to dream catchers woven from reeds—were ongoing during the weekend and week-long groups, adding another dimension. The final project was always presented to the group and it was edifying to see each person gain more understanding trough their artwork.   These memories still warm my heart.

This vital period of growth—teaching, training internationally, writing—continued till 1997 when I moved away from Charlottesville and decided to pursue a life-long dream as an interior designer.  I went back to school and in 2000 moved to Philadelphia, my original hometown, and began working as a kitchen and bath designer in my sister’s company.  After a very successful 9 years, I decided to move back to Charlottesville—it was time for semi-retirement and the Blue Ridge Mountains once again called to me.

As I was piecing together my life in Charlottesville, one stitch was to rejoin ACAC, a fantastic health club, and it was in their women’s locker room that another path presented itself. It was Kate, and we literally bumped into each other. Recognition came a bit slowly—after 12 years—but we were able to meet and discuss the continuation of The Work.. This has always been our connection and I have dedicated this next stage of my life to continue to refine and teach and support Kate and other TSI trainers—because the TSM model is so rich, clinically sound, and applicable to many situations—well beyond therapy.

Francesca Toscani bio:

Francesca Toscani, M.Ed., TEP, was a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Charlottesville, VA for many years. Having a Jungian background, she is a published author, editor, TSI supervisor and trainer, and has conducted hundreds of workshops internationally on many themes. Francesca has had several professional careers, including teacher and interior designer. She is now semi-retired and living in West Chester, PA, with her husband, having returned to the Philadelphia area to be close to family. She continues in her work with TSI as supervisor, editor of the newsletter, and workshop design. She is also a book editor and can be reached at francesca.toscani@yahoo.com.

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Sep
20
Fri
6:00 pm TSM Psychodrama and Cultural Exc... @ Emeryville, CA
TSM Psychodrama and Cultural Exc... @ Emeryville, CA
Sep 20 @ 6:00 pm – Sep 22 @ 4:00 pm
TSM Psychodrama and Cultural Exchange @ Emeryville, CA
See how the Trauma Survivors’ Internal Role Atom (TSIRA) has provided a clinical map of internal roles to safely and effectively use TSM across cultures, religions, politics, race, and gender in many settings. You will[...]
Oct
24
Thu
all-day TSM Directing Practice: Improvin... @ Temenos Retreat Center West Cester, PA
TSM Directing Practice: Improvin... @ Temenos Retreat Center West Cester, PA
Oct 24 – Oct 27 all-day
TSM Directing Practice: Improving your Auxiliary Work with Trauma @ Temenos Retreat Center West Cester, PA
We invite you to attend this weekend residential training in using psychodrama for trauma-informed therapy. While the Therapeutic Spiral Model is the primary lens we will look at to create containment, self-regulation and narrative label,[...]
Nov
8
Fri
all-day International Woman’s Salon for... @ San Rafael, CA
International Woman’s Salon for... @ San Rafael, CA
Nov 8 – Nov 10 all-day
International Woman's  Salon for Post Traumatic Growth @ San Rafael, CA
 Join Dr. Kate and Sylvia Israel, LMFT, RDT/BCT, TEP for this International Woman’s Salon. You are meant to be at this workshop if you are still fighting the traumas of the past inside yourself, even[...]
Dec
13
Fri
all-day Brain in Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Brain in Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Dec 13 – Dec 15 all-day
Brain in Action: The Neurobiology of Trauma @ Zagreb, Croatia
People who have experienced traumatic events can have significant changes in the neurobiology of their brain. The right brain holds emotions, relationship information, and unprocessed trauma, often in the form of flashbacks, body memories, intrusive[...]
Dec
15
Sun
all-day Brain In Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Brain In Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Dec 15 all-day
Brain In Action: The Neurobiology of Trauma @ Zagreb, Croatia
People who have experienced traumatic events can have significant changes in the neurobiology of their brain. The right brain holds emotions, relationship information, and unprocessed trauma, often in the form of ashbacks, body memories, intrusive[...]
Feb
7
Fri
10:00 am Brain in Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Philadelphia, PA
Brain in Action: The Neurobiolog... @ Philadelphia, PA
Feb 7 @ 10:00 am – Feb 9 @ 3:00 pm
Brain in Action: The Neurobiology of Trauma @ Philadelphia, PA
People who have experienced traumatic events can have significant changes in the neurobiology of their brain. The right brain holds emotions, relationship information, and unprocessed trauma, often in the form of flashbacks, body memories, intrusive[...]
Feb
8
Sat
9:00 am TSM Workshop: Making Friends wit... @ Bangalore
TSM Workshop: Making Friends wit... @ Bangalore
Feb 8 @ 9:00 am – Feb 11 @ 5:00 pm
TSM Workshop: Making Friends with Defenses in Actions @ Bangalore
This workshop teaches you to support people who have had to use the survival skills of fight, flight or freeze to cope with trauma and violence to develop more adaptive support systems. Survival, addiction and eating disorders[...]
Feb
13
Thu
9:00 am Transforming the Trauma Triangle @ New Delhi
Transforming the Trauma Triangle @ New Delhi
Feb 13 @ 9:00 am – Feb 16 @ 5:00 pm
Transforming the Trauma Triangle @ New Delhi
The Therapeutic Spiral Model’s (TSM) “Trauma Triangle” is a unique configuration that clarifes the destructive cycle of victim, perpetrator, and abandoning authority. Indistinction to Karpman’s Triangle, this last role was created by TSM to explain[...]
Feb
21
Fri
all-day Psychodrama Revisited: Exploring... @ Dallas, TX
Psychodrama Revisited: Exploring... @ Dallas, TX
Feb 21 – Feb 23 all-day
Psychodrama Revisited: Exploring the Internal Role Atom with the Therapeutic Spiral Model @ Dallas, TX
This workshop looks at trauma and post-traumatic growth through the lens of the trauma survivors internal role atom (TSIRA). This clinical map guides the practice of the a Therapeutic Spiral Model and TSM Psychodrama to[...]
Mar
20
Fri
all-day Containment: The Key to Safety ... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Containment: The Key to Safety ... @ Zagreb, Croatia
Mar 20 – Mar 22 all-day
Containment:  The Key to Safety with Actions Methods @ Zagreb, Croatia
Our brains are hardwired to Fight, Flight or Freeze from danger. Unfortunately, long after many traumatic experiences happened, the survivor continues to use those survival defenses, forming rigid patterns that shut down or overwhelm the[...]