The Arc of Therapy
The Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network model consists of three overlapping phases that make up the Therapeutic Arc.
These phases are similar to and take into account the Transtheoretical Model of Trauma treatment.
Phase One: Creating Context and Resource Stabilization
First, context is created by teaching clients about the neurology of trauma and the components of the Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Network model. During this first phase we focus on client resilience, competence and understanding of their core survival strategies. The concept of Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self becomes a central part of how we help clients to interact with themselves and the therapist during sessions. Throughout this phase we help the client differentiate and label P/parts, memory and programming/conditioning, which increases internal safety. Containment of memories away from parts is a primary tool of this phase. Assessment of existing adaptive networks is also ongoing. A detailed history of what created the complex dissociative states may or may not be gathered at this point based on a client’s abilities to stay present and stable while talking about traumatic experiences or childhood memories.
Phase Two: Developing Networks and AIR Network Resourcing
Strengthening clients’ abilities to build Adaptive Internal Relational (AIR) Networks and AIR Network Resourcing are the primary focus of the second Phase. Adaptive Internal Relational Networks are neurological structures and relational systems that allow a client to be in a present oriented relationship with all of who they are at any given time. A physiological state of awareness and cognitive alertness is a crucial component to building Adaptive Internal Relational networks. The Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self, standing in ‘real time’ works with the Adaptive Internal Relational Networks in a fluid and dynamic system that is always moving and always changing. This intentional weaving together of the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self and the Adaptive Internal Relational Networks is foundational to clients’ sense of competency and mastery in their own healing and recovery.
It is our goal to help clients understand that they are not the events that have happened to them. Who they are, including every P/part, is separate from the trauma, memories and programming/conditioning. Traumatic memories get encapsulated because of a number of interrelated neurological realities at the time of the trauma. The Dorsolateral-Prefrontal Cortex (D-PFC), the timekeeper of the brain, shuts down and causes the memory to be, in a sense, displaced from time. In addition, cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones, flood the hippocampus and prohibit the encoding of episodic or narrative memory. Thus, traumatic memories are stored in the nonverbal, sensory-motor and emotional centers of the brain. Because of this, when a traumatic memory is triggered, people are ‘transported’ neurologically to a place in their brain where they only have the capacity that was available to them at the time of the trauma. In the Adaptive Internal Relational Network model, we experience this as part of the self or for some, a dissociated Part, being stuck in that neurology and, because of being displaced from time, that part or fragment of the person experiences that traumatic event as being ongoing in the present. Similar to phantom limb pain, when the memory is triggered the motor and somatosensory cortices fire in patterns that are the same as if the actions were actually occurring currently. Fragments of the self or fragments of P/parts or even P/parts themselves are then “rescued” and memories are contained so that the arousal and subsequent trauma response can be bypassed. The goal is to have memories contained away from P/parts, activation soothed, and choice created for the client in whether or not the trauma memory will be processed at some future point.
Compartmentalization, a core survival strategy is employed in an attempt to isolate memories but this leaves people vulnerable to triggering and random activation. Containment on the other hand, allows the memories to be safely stored until such time that resources are sufficiently developed and the internal system, including all the P/parts and the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self are oriented towards the present. At that point, clients can choose whether or not they want to open traumatic memories up for reprocessing.
Clients in this phase of therapy also begin to recognize their Core Value Networks and learn how those have been ‘hijacked’ by programming in ways that cause them to be continuously placed in double binds. Over time, they learn to “step around” their programming and initiate actions for their present benefit. Understanding their core values and working with the dynamic interplay of the Interactive Adult Awareness/Most Resourced Self/Most Resourced Self and the Adaptive Relational Networks allows clients to access their ‘will’ and take these actions on their own behalf.
Phase Three: Future Resilience and/or Memory Processing
Clients may or may not choose to do memory work. Some people are able to keep memories contained without intrusions into daily life. Some choose working with memories at a later time. It is a central value in the Adaptive Internal Relational Network Model that clients must be able to decide from their inside versus be coerced in any way by well meaning clinicians to process memories. Clients’ owning this decision further enhances a framework of free will and choice. This strengthens their ability to decide and thus, provides further healing from the conditioning and programming. Intrusions of traumatic material into daily life may direct the decision to work with previously contained memories. Because P/parts have been “rescued” from traumatic experiences, it is understood that clients will not “re-live” their experiences. Clients maintain their present reality even when they have strong emotions. Multi-directional attention is maintained so that the clients simultaneously attend to the traumatic material while accessing previously developed and strengthened Adaptive Internal Relational Networks. This process decreases distress and increases experiences of cohesion and community among P/parts of self. Positive experiences of self are reinforced through AIR Network Resourcing Strategies as a component of Future Resilience.