The role of the therapist is a multifaceted and challenging responsibility that requires continuous self-reflection and personal development. The ability to maintain an inner balance and work effectively with clients depends heavily on the willingness to acknowledge and learn from one’s own mistakes. Mistakes are not the end, but rather the starting point for growth and learning, which lay the foundation for therapeutic success.
The therapeutic journey is a fluid and adaptable process that requires a high degree of adaptability to the client and their emotional state. In therapy, clients can confront us with their old role patterns, which they actually want to overcome, and these can trigger a certain reaction in us. The spectrum of their condition can range from a feeling of helplessness and the need for guidance to a profound clarity due to problems that have already been solved – and in each case they need a completely different approach. The better we understand ourselves, the better prepared we are to help our clients with their individual challenges.
A central concept that is often used in this context is the so-called drama triangle. This model describes the negative, repetitive patterns of human interaction and offers a valuable insight into the dynamics between therapist and client.
In this article I will examine the drama triangle and its implications for therapeutic work in more detail. I will shed light on the role of the therapist as “savior” and show why this role is not always the heroic position it appears to be. I will also share strategies and techniques for therapists to get out of the drama triangle and build healthier, more effective relationships with their clients.
My aim is to give you a deeper understanding of therapeutic work and provide you with tools to improve and enrich your own practice. I hope that by reading this article you will gain new insights and be inspired to fulfill your role as a therapist with greater clarity, confidence and effectiveness.
Definition of the drama triangle
The drama triangle, originally developed by psychiatrist Stephen Karpman in the 1960s in the context of transactional analysis, is a socio-psychological model that describes the negative, repetitive patterns of human interaction. It consists of three roles: the victim (the person who suffers), the rescuer (the person who helps), and the persecutor or accuser (the person who criticizes). When you become part of the triangle, you take on all the roles over time. This pattern can be observed in every relationship and in every family. Everyone can find themselves in this pattern and plays different roles in different situations and relationships.
Why are we entering the drama triangle?
The motivation to enter the triangle is often to reduce stress. The driving forces that pull you into the drama triangle are guilt and blame. Gossip is another point of entry. Awareness of these dynamics is the first step to freeing yourself from the drama triangle and promoting healthier relationships.
In a therapy group, a woman described her difficult family situation. The woman said: “I want to work on my love-hate relationship with my husband.” – “He beats my children from my first marriage and that really gets me down.” In this scenario, she was the rescuer, her husband the persecutor and the children the victims.
But then there was a surprising twist: “But you know, my daughter is 15 years old now and she seems fine. I don’t think he’s done her too much harm. Maybe she’s exaggerating the way she judges him.” Here she switched roles. The victim became her husband, the child became the persecutor, and she herself took on the role of savior. She felt guilty because she had said bad things about her husband.
She continued: “But my older son really hates him and will leave home as soon as he turns 18.” And when asked how she felt about it, she replied, “I say to my son, oh, don’t leave me alone with him.” Here we see another drama triangle in which she is the victim, her son the rescuer and her husband the persecutor.
Finally she said: “But you know, if the children leave, maybe my husband and I can finally have the relationship we’ve always wanted.” Another triangle emerged, in which she was the victim, her husband the rescuer and the children the persecutors.
This example illustrates how the drama triangle can appear in our daily interactions and how flexible the roles within this triangle are.
The role of unresolved trauma in entering the drama triangle
Unresolved trauma can play a significant role in entering the drama triangle. They can lead us to find ourselves in certain roles that seem familiar and safe, even if they are dysfunctional. Addressing these traumas and healing the wounds associated with them is an important step in stepping out of the drama triangle and promoting healthier relationships.
The Drama Triangle is a powerful model that helps us to better understand our interactions and relationships. It is important to recognize that the drama triangle is often a form of avoidance of responsibility and ownership. People in the drama triangle tend to blame others for their problems instead of taking responsibility for their own actions and reactions. In order to free ourselves from the drama triangle, it is necessary to practice awareness and self-reflection and to recognize the roles we play in our relationships.
The therapist as savior: the superhero or the true victim?
The preferred starting position is often that of the rescuer – the “hero role”. People who tend towards this role are often drawn to helping professions such as therapist, coach, social worker or carer. They see themselves as superheroes who are able to save the victim and end the drama. They often feel called to help others and solve problems. The rescuer has the feeling of being valuable and useful because he is helping others.
But is the savior really the superhero he thinks he is? The truth is that the rescuer is often the real victim in the drama triangle. While the rescuer feels like a winner, in reality he is the true victim of the situation, as he spends all his energy and time on others. The rescuer often gives up their own energy, time and resources to help others and may neglect their own needs and boundaries. This can lead to exhaustion, burnout and resignation.
Furthermore, by constantly trying to save the victim, the rescuer can actually help maintain the drama. By constantly rescuing the victim, he enables the victim to remain in his role and avoid responsibility for his own problems. This can lead to an unhealthy dependency relationship in which the victim constantly needs the rescuer and the rescuer constantly needs to be needed.
Paradoxically, the real winner in the drama is the victim. It gets all the attention and is constantly looking for someone to save it. As soon as the rescuer reaches his limits, the victim becomes a persecutor and looks for a new rescuer. In this complex and often damaging pattern, it is important that both rescuers and victims recognize their roles and find ways to break out of the drama triangle.
How can the rescuer get out of the drama triangle?out?
Important steps to get out of the drama triangle are self-reflection, setting boundaries, promoting personal responsibility, self-care and, if necessary, professional support. But what kind of professional support could be helpful?
Our recommendation is transpersonal regression therapy. This form of therapy is particularly effective in uncovering and processing traumatic experiences and healing the associated emotional wounds. It helps to prevent the re-activation of trauma – also known as restimulation.
A particular advantage of transpersonal regression therapy is its openness to transpersonal causes, such as experiences from previous lives or the attachments of deceased persons. This holistic approach makes it possible to work where other forms of therapy reach their limits due to their more limited view of the world.
By integrating transpersonal elements, transpersonal regression therapy offers an extended framework for healing and personal growth. It enables clients to look beyond the boundaries of the personal self and experience profound changes on all levels of their being.
The importance of a structured therapeutic framework for stepping out of the rescuer role
For therapists who tend to slip into the role of rescuer, a structured therapeutic framework provides a safe and orderly environment in which they can act out their helping tendencies without turning from rescuer to victim.
This framework includes clear agreements on the time, place and duration of therapy sessions as well as the therapist’s remuneration. Furthermore, a clearly defined therapy assignment is crucial, in which the goals and limits of the therapy are determined. This assignment forms the basis for the collaboration between therapist and client.
Such a therapeutic framework then automatically contains essential elements of the recommendations for exiting the drama triangle:
- Set boundaries: The therapeutic framework sets clear boundaries, both for the therapist and for the client. This protects the therapist from excessive demands and burnout and enables them to fulfill their role as a helper in a healthy and sustainable way.
- Promoting the client’s personal responsibility: The therapeutic framework encourages the client to take responsibility for their own healing process. This helps the therapist to step out of the role of rescuer and switch to the role of companion.
- Self-care: The therapeutic framework enables the therapist to respect their own needs and boundaries. He does not have to be available all the time, but only at clearly agreed times, and can also take breaks. This is a form of self-care that helps to maintain the therapist’s mental health and well-being.
- Increasingself-esteem: The therapeutic framework confirms the role and value of the therapist. He is valued and paid for his work, which boosts his self-esteem and satisfaction in his role as a therapist.
In therapy, we are all heroes on our own journey. But as we have seen, the savior in the drama triangle is not the superhero he thinks he is. Rather, he can get caught up in a cycle of guilt, acceptance of responsibility and exhaustion that ultimately makes him a true victim. It is important that we are aware of this dynamic and find ways to get out of the drama triangle.
Transpersonal regression therapy offers a promising approach for this. It enables us to uncover and heal deep-seated traumas and at the same time offers us an expanded framework for personal growth and transformation. By integrating transpersonal elements, we can look beyond the boundaries of our personal self and experience profound changes on all levels of our being.
If you are now wondering how you can find out more about this form of therapy, there are various options. One of these is to take advantage of a therapy session to experience the method first-hand. Another option is to read the book “Deep Healing and Transformation” by Hans TenDam, which offers a comprehensive insight into the theory and practice of Transpersonal Regression Therapy. And finally, you can also register for training as a transpersonal regression therapist to become a hero in therapy yourself – not as a savior in the drama triangle, but as a companion on the path to healing and transformation.
In any case, it is important to remember that the true hero in therapy is not the one who saves, but the one who has the courage to face their own challenges, take responsibility for their own life and walk the path of healing and transformation. Because ultimately, it is this journey that makes us the true heroes of our own lives.