PHASES OF THE WORK:
CONSTRUCT SKELETON FOR WORK.
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 /
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
- Outer self - largely conscious and 'known'
(masks / roles), ANP
- Inner self -
partly unconscious, pre-conscious. (inner world
fantasy, dreams & memory,
Mindful reflection upon the impact of trauma
upon the 'whole' self.
Establish a self statement or narrative.
& journal process: thoughts, feelings, new awareness,
insights, rehearsal, plans for the work, trying out colours,
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.
trauma impacts the psycho-neurophysiology and meta-physical
dynamics of the self, i.e.: brain and identity (MBSAA) see
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
Mind: - knowledge
cognitions, perceptions - beliefs.
- 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’.
- conscious and unconscious reactions, behaviors
& habituated autonomic responses.
4) THROUGH MINDFUL REFLECTION, REPRESENT AND SYMBOLIZE
‘the whole Self’.
context (family / place of origin, pre-trauma), "What
The self in trauma/s,
The post trauma self – Mindfulness, awareness of ‘adaptation’,
the coping victim/survivor self. ANP & EP
The hoping self – future fantasy, daring to dream of a
establishing plans & goals. Developing
'willingness' of experience. Rehearsing coalescence "What's Next?"
Strength based awareness and skills
OVERVIEW THE PROCESS:
- Reflect, validate, articulate. Feedback loop.
DEVELOP & JOURNAL NEW NARRATIVE.
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
some desired outcomes of completing a series of ATR
Increased awareness and appreciation of:
- Self and survival strengths.
- Knowledge & Impact of trauma.
- Self condemnation – locus of control
- Unhelpful Negative Adaptation.
- Alienation - aloneness.
- Flashbacks, traumatic dreams.
- Conscious coalescence with whole
- Mind, body, spirit connection.
- Ability to
tolerate, contain and regulate
- Ability to transcend trauma
- Ability to process trauma.
- Inter-hemisphere, right & left brain
- Ability to ‘feel’ and ‘know’
- Ability to articulate one’s
- Ability feel connected to self and
- Belief in and a hopeful sense of a
- 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
The group work initially enables
individuals to work in a ‘parallel play’ dynamic gradually
moving towards tentative connections.
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
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,
Desensitization of the trauma/s can be established through
managed arousal and
titrated exposure to the trauma symbols.
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
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
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
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
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.