I find that when a new insider makes themselves known it is rather like when I first got my rescue dog, Sandy. I hadn’t previously had much contact with dogs so was very much the novice. She sat on one end of the sofa and I sat on the other, and we looked at each other. It is funny to think about it now. I even phoned a friend to ask if all dogs’ tails go up, because Sandy’s was down, and she looked sad. When I first took her to the vets I didn’t even know how to lift her onto the table. I didn’t know her story. But I could work out some of it by the way she behaved in different situations. She was very frightened of men, and if they wore a uniform she would be found cowering in a corner, in a puddle, shaking. She also hated people standing in doorways – presumably she felt trapped.

I assumed that she would behave the same as my friend’s dog, Ben. When he holds up his paw, he wants you to sit and hold it. But Sandy didn’t want that. I discovered that when she holds up her paw, she wants to be tickled under the leg.

At first she could not tolerate having her head touched. It was challenging to put on her car-harness that has a seatbelt clip because it goes on over the head. I found myself using a soothing voice and saying, “It’s ok – Mummy’s here”. She is used to it now. In fact we have discovered that she now loves having her head scratched. She nuzzles into me when she wants her head scratched.

She doesn’t really play with toys – she doesn’t seem to know what to do with them. But she loves to have a chewstick and will throw that in the air and chase around after it. She also loves to play ‘hide and seek’.  She is really good at it, and one day I lost her completely. She had sat perfectly still for ages behind a massive rhubarb leaf in the garden. She tried the same place in the middle of Winter when all the rhubarb had died back, and presumably wondered why I found her straightaway.

When I need to leave her, I tell her to have a snooze and that I’ll be back later. When I go to work, she goes to play with Ben, and my friend looks after them both. I reciprocate at other times. She goes absolutely crazy when I get home.

Having been scared of contact, she now rolls over for a tummy rub, and leaps up to be held in my arms for a cuddle. We have found a way to have safe touch. She makes her needs and wants known by going to the door when she wants to go out, making a noise if her dishes are empty, and tapping my leg when she thinks she should share what I’m eating. I seek to meet those wants and needs as far as is appropriate. She tries to round me up when it’s bedtime, but will go by herself now.

Of course we don’t always get it right all the time. Eating the entire front of one of my work shoes wasn’t her best move. Attacking anything that comes through the letterbox is also less than convenient sometimes.

From that very tentative start when I really didn’t have a clue, we have come to a very companionable and in-tune relationship. And all without her saying a word.

When I first met a new little insider I didn’t a clue what to do. At first I didn’t want to be in the same room as them. I didn’t know if they were supposed to be doing what they were doing. I didn’t know how to make them comfy in the counselling room.

I didn’t know all of their story, but I could gradually put it together by picking up on what they were afraid of and observing their habits. It took time to build up trust and gain understanding.

They are all different. I can’t assume that, because I have got to know one, the next will be the same. They all have their own needs and wants, and my challenge is to discover them and provide as appropriate. Some want to play.

When I said to the dog, “It’s ok – Mummy’s here”, lots of insiders pricked up their ears and said, “What? What? What did you say? Say it again! Say it again!” So I discovered something they wanted to hear.