Category: Treating dissociation

Making the most of therapy

We often see therapy – treatment for trauma – as the holy grail, and put an extraordinary amount of effort into obtaining it. But do we make the most of it when we get it? Carolyn Spring shares her thoughts about how to maximise this rare and valuable resource.

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The Beginning of Understanding: Part 2

The beginning of understanding was really just that—a beginning. Little did I know how much I had to learn and how much I really didn’t know. When my peer supervisor mentioned to me this strange word ‘dissociation’, it was an entirely new concept to me. Now I wonder how that can be.

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Should I talk to parts?

Should we talk to parts? Or does that make things worse? When someone switches, is this attention-seeking behaviour? And is talking to a ‘part’ in some way dangerous—does it reinforce pathological behaviour? What should you do?

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The beginning of understanding: my first experience of dissociation

Suddenly, like a party popper, out came her words. ‘It happens all the time. People will be talking to me and I can’t remember what they’ve been saying. I used to think I was just forgetful. But it’s not that. It’s like they can be talking to me and I know rationally who they are but it’s as if I’ve never met them before in my life

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Done and dusted: giving shame a spring clean

Andrea, a client of mine, cupped her hands, as if around a big cabbage. ‘People think that shame is contained, out there, somewhere, an extra.’ She then swept her hands all over, from top to toe. ‘It’s everywhere.’ She was showing me that shame seemed to be a part of her, transcending time and space.

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My experience of phase three work

I used to struggle to understand what phase III could possibly be about, because my life was so consumed with just surviving, and then so consumed with working through traumatic material to neutralise it, that I imagined that therapy would always be like that, and that once it was no longer happening, there would be no more need for therapy.

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No sex please, we’re dissociative?

My role as a psychosexual therapist is to help a client understand what ‘language’ their body or their behaviours are speaking. Once people understand their triggers and behaviours, they are more likely to allow a change, if that’s what they want.

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The Trauma Traffic Light

The ‘trauma traffic light’ represents three physiological states that the body can shift gear between, depending on levels of threat or security in the world: the green zone, the amber zone or the red zone. Carolyn Spring explains this concept she developed based on Stephen Porges’ polyvagal therory.

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The three phase approach: part two – treating trauma

Phase 2 of the three-phase approach is the aspect of trauma therapy that is most geared towards facing and resolving the intrusive traumatic memories that plague a trauma survivor’s life and manifest in forms such as flashbacks, physiological dysregulation, avoidance, numbing and re-experiencing.

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Working with parts: a therapist’s journey

In 2000 I met my first client with dissociative identity disorder (DID). I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of love and horror. We worked with her internal chaos with mutual bewilderment and devotion. I kept meeting someone different: another age, another gender, another language. More and more parts.

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Boundaries

‘Dissociative parts of the personality’ grabbed the headlines, but my inability to set boundaries was the silent assassin destroying me from the inside… I said yes to everyone else, and no to myself. Other people mattered; I did not. And so, breakdown.

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Working with a dissociative disorder diagnosis

Once we understand dissociation as a logical response to overwhelming trauma, it stops being so dramatic and different, and the person suffering dissociation stops being ‘complex’ and ‘bizarre’ too. There is nothing bizarre about dissociative disorders—what is bizarre is how some people can be so badly mistreated that they end up with a dissociative disorder.

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