Complex and Relational Trauma: The Snow White Model

 12 CPD hours

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 experiences of attempted murder, talking animals, whispering trees and seven dwarves, she would likely receive a diagnosis of hysteria, psychosis, schizophrenia or conversion disorder.

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 who should provide safety and security sets in motion the development of complicated attachment styles and seemingly insurmountable internal and external conflicts. These conflicts manifest in a myriad of emotional, physical and psychological symptoms and behaviours. While protective in function, these defenses limit potential and fulfilment.

Drawing upon several theories, models and approaches, including her book co-authored with Dr Colin Ross, Trauma Model Therapy (2009), Structural Dissociation theory (2006) , developed by Van Der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele, and Internal Family Systems therapy model (2020) Schwartz and Sweezy, Naomi will explore the development and function of “Getting on with Normal Life” parts and “Traumatized” parts (Fisher, 2017) as adaptive survival responses.

Harnessing the fairy-tale of Snow White as a metaphor, Naomi will introduce each character in the story as a 'part' of Snow White, protecting her from the pain of overwhelming trauma, abuse and neglect. In a non-pathologizing approach, she will present tools and practical interventions to identify 'parts' and assist them to heal attachment and trauma based conflicts.

The concepts and approach presented are applicable to any diagnosis. Using video, case examples and exercises, Naomi will illustrate complex presentations in an engaging and easy to understand approach, enabling participants to identify and apply what works for whom, and when. 


[The Snow White fairy-tale is based on a caucasian heterosexual female lead character. However, the framework presented applies to any gender identity and sexual orientation. Snow White originates in northern Europe and variations of the Grimms brothers tale is familiar throughout Europe and most English-speaking countries. While the themes and characters won't be familiar and may not resonate with people from other cultures, the concept of parts is applicable across all humankind. I encourage therapists to find myths, folklore and stories belonging to the culture of their clients and to explore the ways in which these stories may provide a recognisable parts framework.

Program outline - Total 12 hours PD

Part 1    23 July   1.00 - 4.00pm AEST

Setting the scene:

The Snow White fairy tale as metaphor for complex and developmental trauma

Exploring parts approaches:

Normalizing multiplicity of mind

Integrating two 'Parts' approaches: Structural dissociation theory and Internal Family Systems model

Developmental trauma and attachment:

The impact of developmental trauma on attachment formation and style

Getting on board with a parts approach:

Introducing Snow White and her parts

Part 2    24 July     1.00 - 4.00pm AEST

Making sense of complex symptoms and behaviour:

Understanding complex and 'resistant' behaviours as strategic and important survival strategies

Treading carefully:

Identifying and working with internal and external triangulated relationships

The adapted trigger loop - working with the cascading triggering of parts

Facilitating the development of internal communication

Clients Parts and Your Parts:

Transference and Countertransference

Part 3      30 July     1.00 - 4.00pm AEST

Emotion phobia:

Pivotal role of shame: The shame compass adapted to Snow White's parts

Educating about emotions and feelings

Stepping toward and processing challenging emotions and feelings:

Part 4    31 July      1.00 - 4.00pm AEST

Targeting interventions: "What works for whom":

Utilizing top-down and bottom-up strategie to target work: identifying what will work for whom and when

Developing internal secure attachment: 

Healing childhood wounds and internal conflicts through connecting parts and their disowned stories and emotions


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 develop internal communication and assist with developing internal secure attachment

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