Archive for September 9th, 2009

Man behind desk (c) Lynda BernhardtI am woefully behind on going through old emails and comments, but I did want to address this one. On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Conflicting Alter Parts, a reader posted the following comment:

After 27 yrs of playing off as ‘normal’ to the world, how are we now supposed to find a therapist and how are we supposed to present ourselves? Do we just call up some random psych office and say “Hi. I have DID, but I’ve never seen a therapist. You available?” or what?? ~ AndrAia

If you are healing from DID, you need a therapist. I tried to do it alone at first, but healing from severe child abuse is too grueling to do alone. You really need the guidance of a professional to help you navigate the healing waters, at least in the early stages of healing.

You can go in one of two directions when you are looking for a therapist – you can focus on the DID, or you can focus on the underlying trauma. While both ways involve healing from the trauma, you are coming at it from two different perspectives. If you are seeking to heal the DID, your initial focus will likely be upon managing the DID. If you are seeking to heal the trauma, then the DID is viewed as a symptom, but the focus is on what caused the DID.

I, personally, worked with a therapist whose therapy was the same as for anyone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I eventually told him about the alter parts, but he simply saw them as aftereffects, just like the binge eating, self-injury, etc. He said that I needed to talk about the abuse until I no longer felt the need to talk about it any longer. He challenged anything I told myself (such as that I was unlovable) that was not healthy. When I integrated alter parts and eventually the host personality, it happened between sessions. My therapist was not involved in communication between the parts or anything like that.

Neither way is “right” or “wrong,” but you need to decide which avenue is your biggest concern to get started. There are fewer therapists who specialize in working with DID patients, but they are out there. If you happen to live in Florida or Colorado, I have heard that there are practices that do nothing but work with DID patients.

Next, you want to make sure that you get a referral (if possible) for a therapist and ask for his or her credentials. Only work with a therapist with experience with survivors of severe child abuse. I, personally, believe it is important to work with someone who has a degree in psychology. I would not use a Christian counselor because our issues are far too extreme for the training that Christian counselors receive. Also, you will likely cycle through being angry with God, and you don’t need to hear that this very normal part of healing is a “sin.”

My therapist let me screen him by phone before our first meeting. I felt better when he said he had worked with someone else who had suffered from mother-daughter sexual abuse. I had a good feeling about him by phone. The first session was nerve-wracking but a good foundation for therapy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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