Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model

Feminist-Multicultural, Neuro-developmental Theory 

Competency based, Relationally oriented Therapy

Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model: An Overview

Copyright © 2015 Solon, Miller & McClelland.  

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The Therapeutic

Relational Stance

The Arc of

Therapy

Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network therapy is a neuro-developmental, competency-based model of therapy developed over the past 20 years by Dawn McClelland Phd, LP, Patti Miller MA LP and Phyllis Solon PsyD, LP.  The Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network model is primarily oriented towards giving people the freedom to engage fully with themselves and in relationships with others.  Clients who live with complex neuro-dissociative states, a developmental-neurological organization of experience, have very different relational and therapeutic needs than those who have trauma histories without more complex types of dissociation.  When working with these more complexly organized clients, Adaptive Internal Relational Networks, mandatory for safety and multi-directional attention to be mastered, need to be built and solidified over time. Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self  is a critical piece of the Adaptive Internal Relational Network that must be developed for healing to occur. Most of the AIR Resourcing Strategies initially focus on building clients’ abilities to develop an internal stance where there is at least a neutral noticing and awareness.  Overtime these internal relationships move towards more cooperation and caring, which allow them to also connect externally without violating themselves or others. 

 

The Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network model is grounded in the position that therapy must be informed by in depth knowledge of developmental neurology, information processing and the existence of conditioning and programming. The use of AIR Resourcing strategies underlies the ability to create neural network associations outside of the terror and fear conditioning created in the context of early trauma. The most recent neurological research shows that there are fewer and slower connections in the fear extinguishing feedback loop between the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala for those who have developmental trauma.  Through AIR resourcing, connections are strengthened in orbital and medial prefrontal fibers increasing clients’ abilities to manage automatic fear and numbing responses which were adaptive to survival.  

 

We have developed very specific AIR Resourcing Strategy sequences that meet the needs of our clients who have more complex symptoms and neuro-dissociative states.  We are very deliberate about containing traumatic memory while working to bring dissociated aspects of self or P/parts into relationship with the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self .  This present orientation includes the ability to hold multiple perspectives. AIR Network Resourcing Strategies help clients to define themselves separate from the memories, conditioning and programming that they have experienced.  This phase of therapy can take many years depending on the severity of symptoms the degree of neuro-dissociative states and the complexity of the organization of the Core Survival Networks.  Next, clients can decide with us in the context of the therapy if they want or need to process memories.  The Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model supports effective and competency based traumatic memory processing through a number of different memory processing therapies like EMDR and Sensori-Motor Psychotherapy after the Internal relational Networks have been established and strengthened.

 

An understanding of developmental neurology and information processing theory is critical to an understanding of the Adaptive Internal Relational Network Model.  Subcortical areas including the brainstem and limbic structures, and the somatosensory and motor areas of the brain encode information first, both developmentally and in times of danger. Information moves from those areas to the neocortical and left hemispheric language processing areas of the brain. This normal and adaptive process allows people to work through critical or traumatic incidents that happen to every person at some time.  Intense, complex or repeated traumas can interrupt this adaptive process such that trauma patterns and reactive or Core Survival Networks get encoded and solidified over time. 


Trauma affects how networks of somatic experience, emotion, thought and perception are formed and neurologically embedded.  For all people, regardless of trauma, neural networks form in a developmental sequence and are impacted by environmental and relational experiences and resources. Human competence, potential and neuroplasticity are all foundational assumptions of the Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network Model.  The Core Survival Networks that our clients present with are completely adaptive for the time and place that they were created.  What makes them currently problematic is that these Core Survival Networks, in present reality, are no longer working to meet the legitimate needs of clients.  Still operating within a past framework due to how trauma memories get encoded and stored, these old, Core Survival Networks “feel” necessary to clients and therefore remain running and active.  This type of neurological ‘bottom up’ activation gets triggered when clients feel unsafe or are activated by internal or external triggers to traumatic memories.  Our therapeutic stance is that no one is trying to do anything wrong.  We believe that clients are doing the best that they can given how they see their situation or perceive their available resources.