The Snow White Model: Working with Complex and Developmental Trauma

In this short video Naomi outlines some of the key concepts in this workshop

Once-upon-a-time, if Snow White presented to a psychiatrist with her tale of attempted murder, talking animals, whispering trees and seven dwarves, she would likely receive a diagnosis of hysteria, psychosis, schizophrenia or conversion disorder.

In the late 19th Century, Pierre Janet identified the correlation between dissociative phenomena as a psychological defence against overwhelming experiences.  Outlined in his theory on hysteria were symptoms and behaviours that we now recognize as manifestations of complex and developmental trauma. 

Today, through a trauma-informed lens grounded in neuroscience, we would ask not, “What is wrong with Snow White?” Rather, we would wonder, “What happened to Snow White?” In asking carefully, sensitively and respectfully, we would learn of her history of complex and developmental trauma; the loss of her mother at birth, attachment disruption, neglect, betrayal and family violence. Betrayal by those whom should provide safety and security sets the stage for the development of complicated attachment styles and seemingly insurmountable internal and external conflicts.

The therapeutic alliance is the crucible in which the alchemy of healing can safely develop. Paradoxically, forming a therapeutic alliance with a highly traumatised client is complicated by his or her past experiences of betrayal, challenging behaviours, dissociative responses and seemingly insurmountable internal and external conflicts.  This sets the stage for activation of Karpman’s Triangle and therapeutic impasse.

Utilizing structural dissociation theory (Van Der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele, 2006) Naomi will explore the development and function of “Getting on with Normal Life” parts and “Traumatized” parts (Fisher, 2017) as adaptations of the survival responses, fight, flight, freeze (hyper and hypo), submit and attach.

This workshop presents tools and practical interventions to identify "parts" and skills to work within the window of tolerance to enhance self-regulation capacities and develop internal communication to resolve attachment and trauma based conflicts bound up in the locus of control shift and ambivalent attachment to the perpetrator (Ross and Halpern, 2009).

Harnessing the fairy-tale of Snow White as a metaphor, Naomi provides bottom up and top down strategies for treatment of complex trauma within an integrated framework applicable to any trauma diagnosis and related comorbidity.

Using video, case examples and exercises, Naomi will illustrate complex presentations in an engaging and easy to understand approach to enable participants to identify and apply what works for whom and when. 

Program outline

Day 1

Exploring trauma:

The Snow White Model

Complex trauma

Triune brain

Structural dissociation theory

The impact of trauma and abuse on relating and therapy:


Post traumatic transference and countertransference

Trauma responses and related diagnosis:

Untangling complex symptoms and behaviour

Trauma dynamics:

Day 2

Working from a parts approach (we all have parts):

Exploring the role and function of parts of self (applicable to any diagnosis)

Engaging with parts

Resolving attachment and trauma related internal conflicts 

Treading carefully:

Karpman's triangle

Self-harm: Replacement vs Distraction

The trigger loop - safety and stabilization

Working to strengthen and expand the window of tolerance

Emotion phobia:

Difference between emotions and feelings

Purpose of emotions

Stepping toward and processing challenging emotions and feelings: anger, fear, shame, helplessness,  depression, self-loathing and vulnerability

Targeting interventions: "What works for whom":

Identifying which strategy - approach will work when and for whom

 14 hours PD

Participants will be able to:

1.    understand the role and function of trauma-related symptoms and behaviour 

2.    utilise a ‘parts’ approach for working with complex trauma and attachment related conflicts

3.   work with three core trauma dynamics and identify when these are activated within the client’s internal and external world and in therapy

4.   identify attachment styles

5.   respond when the triangle is activated in therapy and step off

6.   utilise the window of tolerance to increase self-regulation skills

7.   work with the trigger loop

8.   apply four strategies to assist with stabilization and affect regulation skills

9.    identify the appropriate intervention at the appropriate time - working with the triune brain