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1)    Create Scaffolding-

Safety First!

  • With the Facilitator

  • Within the group

  • Within the room

  • With the process

  • Within the self

  • Symbolize a safe place

  • Develop containment strategies


  • Prepare the work space.

  • Mindful awareness of inner & outer space.

  • Enable senses to experience the room & material.

  • Find the core self: the centre of the canvas. (Spiritual / Enduring self)

  • Measure and draw the mandala circle:  the outer edge of self.

  • Measure and draw the inner circle - (separating inter and intra-psyche)
    I.e. the inner world and the outer roles of self (the EP & ANP)
     -  Outer self - largely conscious and 'known' (masks / roles), ANP

         -  Inner self -  partly unconscious, pre-conscious. (inner world   
             fantasy, dreams & memory, EP etc.) 

  • Develop protection boundaries around inner and outer circles.
    Note: ANP = Apparently normal part of self : EP = Emotional parts of self. Nijenhuis, Van der hart & Steele 2006

3) Mindful reflection upon the impact of trauma upon the 'whole' self.

Establish a self statement or narrative.

Observe & journal process: thoughts, feelings, new awareness, insights, rehearsal, plans for the work, trying out colours, etc.

The context and breadth of ‘trauma aftermath’ : –

Interpersonal - Trauma reaction is idiosyncratic to the individual. Early attachment &  relationship, trauma, loss & success history,  gender, DNA, culture, socialization, and education etc., are all dynamics pre-determining & perpetuating the ways the individual manages trauma and trauma aftermath.

Infant trauma impacts the psycho-neurophysiology and meta-physical dynamics of the self, i.e.: brain and identity (MBSAA) see below.


Mindful coalescence (the antidote for dissociation) is the catalyst
for mind, body, spirit, affect and actions (aspects of self) to sit congruently together enabling functional integrated identity.


Mind: - knowledge - cognitions, perceptions - beliefs.

Body (Soma): - Neuro-physiology,  Body & Brain (right & left hemispheres. Neuroception, CNS, ANS, HPA axis, immune system, hormonal system, Vagal nerve, etc.

Spirit: - meta-physical, i.e. spirit ‘essence’ of self.- ability to transcend self - faith, trust, hope.

Affect: - more than just emotion- sensing ’self ambience’. - ‘knowing’, a ‘felt sense’.

Actions: - conscious and unconscious reactions, behaviors & habituated autonomic responses.


  1. The context (family / place of origin, pre-trauma), "What Was?"
    Pre-disposing factors

  2. The self in trauma/s, "What Happened?"
    Precipitating factors

  3. The post trauma self – Mindfulness, awareness of ‘adaptation’, i.e.,
     the coping victim/survivor self. ANP & EP conflict. "What Changed?"
    Perpetuating factors

  4. The hoping self – future fantasy, daring to dream of a future,
    establishing  plans & goals. Developing 'willingness' of experience. Rehearsing coalescence "What's Next?"
    Strength based awareness and skills


  • Reflect, validate, articulate. Feedback loop. 


  • Building new neural circuitry to support mindful self-acceptance and the beginnings of the "desired self": create a new positive self statement: use it in a repetitive way, i.e., (Self injunction/ prayer/mantra) i.e., 3 x daily for a month)

some desired outcomes of completing a series of ATR Mandalas:

Increased awareness and appreciation of:

  • Self and survival strengths.
  • Knowledge & Impact of trauma.
  • Adaptation.

Reduction in: 

  • Self condemnation – locus of control shift.
  • Unhelpful Negative Adaptation.  
  • Alienation  - aloneness.
  • Flashbacks, traumatic dreams.
  • Despair.

Increase in:    

  • Conscious coalescence with whole (psyche) self.
  • Mind, body, spirit connection.
  • Ability to tolerate, contain and regulate emotional arousal.
  • Ability to transcend trauma mindfully.
  • Ability to process trauma.
  • Inter-hemisphere,  right & left brain connectivity.
  • Ability to ‘feel’ and ‘know’ concurrently.
  • Ability to articulate one’s narrative.
  • Ability feel connected to self and others.
  • Belief in and a hopeful sense of a future.
  • Honoring of the whole self.

The A.T.R. Mandala is a gentle process therapy designed to be primarily used with significantly traumatized adults, adolescents or children, either individually or in a group therapy setting.

The concept of using mandala insight orientated psychotherapy originated with Jung. He developed his own archetypal work, and did his own personal therapy, over a two year period using the containment of the mandala circle. Approx. twenty years ago Linehan developed dialectical skills training based upon mindfulness.

The A.T.R. Mandala process outcome is titrated by the ability the individual has to remain ‘present’ to their work and to tolerate discomfort. This skill increases with awareness and practice.

The group work initially enables individuals to work in a ‘parallel play’ dynamic gradually moving towards tentative connections. 

  • The work has applications as both a trauma recovery therapy and a dissociation co-consciousness therapy.
  • Further applications include dual process work utilized by a variety of relationships, i.e. carer and child, parents, couples ,etc. 
  • This mindful model draws from the transformative power of ‘creation’ through art, painting and or collage in partnership with trauma theory, developmental and learning, systems theory, and structural dissociation theory.
  • Safety is established within the room, the person, and the work, using a variety of techniques.
  • Externalization and representation’ are enabled through symbolism using shape, colour, tone, texture, images, words, etc.
  • Desensitization of the trauma/s can be established through managed arousal and titrated exposure to the trauma symbols.

  • As the physiological arousal is contained the participant gradually becomes able to tolerate the previously overwhelming thoughts, feelings and memories, and processing occurs as new ‘meanings’  are attributed and words are used to describe the process. 

*  Written and verbal language are used to ‘put left brain words to the right brain experiences of the work through the use of an ongoing journal together with opportunities to articulate  the process, i.e., the experience of entering into the work – not the trauma details.

*  The work includes ownerships and representation of the hopeful, enduring self, including thoughts, feelings, insights, senses, etc.

*  A feedback loop is created through the input from other group members or the therapist, and, when appropriate.

*  A changed ‘self’ statement is articulated, which becomes a repetitive daily ritual using mantra, prayer, or self injunction. The ongoing repetitive use of this statement is important as ‘rehearsal’ for enabling the establishment and reinforcement of new neural circuitry to support the new ‘self’. 

The model has been successfully used in individual, group, shared therapy with couples, parent and child, adult child and parent, and in staff development workshops. Once the individual has mastered mindful grounding skills and has an understanding of the scaffolding and skeleton of the work, the mandala can also be safely constructed at home and used as a very effective adjunct to regular individual therapy. 

Brief Description of the theoretical underpinnings of the ATR Mandala:
a ‘Mindful coalescent psyche therapy’: 

The ATR Mandala model enables mindful representation of historical trauma and the associated ‘affect’ and impact, together with recognition, ownership, validation and representation of the survival strategy of adaptation, (both helpful and seemingly less helpful aspects), including the most commonly used strategy- that  of ‘avoidance’.

Included in the adaptation category is the psycho-neuro-physiological dynamic of ‘dissociation’. 

Grounded in trauma theory, the model is both mindful and wholistic enabling ‘mindful observation’ of a new temporary synthesis between the often previously unconnected ‘parts’ of the psyche or ‘action systems’ within the brain. This ‘rehearsal coalescence’ within the psyche, together with the establishment of right and left brain connections, seems to facilitate new processing of previously ‘stuck’ material enabling a new perspective, and thus a new narrative-including a changed ‘self statement’.  

The ATR Mandala process encourages movement away from ‘avoidance’ to ‘mindful awareness and acceptance’ of both the impact of historical events and the adaptation to those events within the whole self, i.e., mind, body, spirit, affect and actions.  

Similar to EMDR, a domino effect is often experienced as the synchronicity  between newly established coalescent psyche and increased right and left brain connectivity are experienced. 

As the trauma victim/survivor moves out of ‘immobilization’ into experiencing ownership, loss and grief, and agency, a renewed sense of empowerment and hopefulness begins to develop within the emerging identity. 

The ATR Mandala work is undergirded by recent psycho-neurobiological work into the impact of emotional trauma to the developing brain, psyche and thus identity of the young child. 

The six stage  process therapy is undergirded by the work of Vander Kolk, Schwartz, Ross, Siegal, Schore, Perry, Niejenhuis, Linehan, Doiges and the ‘body’ work of Levine, Ogden and other important names in the emerging work of trauma, mindfulness and the whole self.

The repetitive narrative work is basic Learning Theory informed by the Neurodevelopmental work of Perry, etc. 

Excitement for the work is based upon new awareness that there is greater plasticity within the brain than was previously recognized, (stem cells have been found in adult rat brains).  

Further influences upon the work include Freud’s notion of the  ‘unconscious’ which is interpreted by the writer as ‘unknown’ and often ‘unprocessed’ ‘right brain’ experiences. The dynamics of the personality model ‘The JoHari window’ also inform this therapy. (Luft & Ingram). Grateful acknowledgment of the introduction to 'mandala as a therapy' to 'Yvonne Sherring-Howard'. Local artist and art therapist.

Posttraumatic Stress and the Dissociative Disorders literature describe the complexity of the dissociative psyche of individuals who have used both conscious ‘avoidance’ and ‘dissociation’ as their primary modus operandi to survive the ‘feelings of the experience’ of the original trauma and, eventually, feelings of discomfort of any kind. 

The work itself is usually experienced as an intense and difficult, yet paradoxically, enjoyable creative experience and participants are most often proud of their work and keen to do another mandala.


Lindy Bearup

Copyright © 2010, Commonwealth of Australia

The material contained on this website constitutes Commonwealth copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form crediting the authors. All right reserved.



Moonyah acknowledges that we work on the land of the Wurundjeri Traditional owners.


"Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today well lived - makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope"
old Sanskrit proverb.


Copyright © 2010, Commonwealth of Australia

The material contained on this website constitutes Commonwealth copyright and is intended for your general use and information.
You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form crediting the authors.
All right reserved.