November 21, 2009
There have been some interesting discussions and comments from various trauma survivors about how much their therapists have meant to them. These readers have shared some very tender moments with their therapists and have talked openly about the depths of their heart-warming connections and healing moments.
Clearly, these survivors have found their therapists to be important and significant people in their lives. The work and the effort of developing these therapeutic relationships have clearly been worth it to them.
Why is their therapist important?
On the flip-side, other commenters in this blog have written about horror stories they have had with former trauma therapists. It seems there is an endless supply of the “bad t” stories that get passed around and shared over and over. I can’t tell you how many of those stories I’ve heard. I’m sure each of you have already been told about at least a dozen bad therapists. In these stories, the clients are angry with their therapist, they accuse the therapist of causing all kinds of harm, and they speak of these therapeutic relationships as traumatic or disturbing or exploitive.
Who are these bad therapists?!
Is there any trauma therapist that has not been considered to be a “bad t” by someone or another? Honestly, most therapists get targeted sooner or later by someone. It happens frequently. (Please remember the blogs about love/hate relationships and protecting your therapeutic relationship.)
So if there are allegedly so many bad therapists, or perceived bad therapists, why do trauma survivors repeatedly risk having a therapist in the first place?
Why does a therapist matter to you?
Why bother with the hassle of developing and maintaining a therapeutic relationship?
Why does a therapist warrant your business, your time, your respect, or any caring connection from you?
What does a therapist do anyway?
There are a variety of reasons why dissociative trauma survivors might find therapists to be important. I’ve listed 50 benefits of having a therapist. This is not an exhaustive list. If you have an idea to add, please comment.
50 Benefits of Having a Therapist
1. To have someone encourage you to love and accept yourself to the point that you can truly live, without focusing on death and needing to die
2. To have someone in your life that will make it ok to not have to dissociate away from your real life
3. To have someone to bounce ideas on, to problem solve, to explore new behaviors
4. To have someone to talk to about deeply private and personal things
5. To have someone who can genuinely hear your pain, and sit with you when you are hurting
6. To have someone who can give you their undivided attention, their best listening ear, even if for a specified period of time
7. To have someone who gives you courage and hope to keep going, even in the darkest moments
8. To have someone who provides a gentle, safe environment for the healing of your deepest wounds and painful memories
9. To have someone who repeatedly offers positive emotional support and encouragement
10. To have someone who sincerely believes in you and your abilities, talents, and accomplishments
11. To have someone who truly sees you as a good person, a worthwhile person, a valuable person
12. To have someone who will address the variety of issues that underlies the mental health difficulties in your life.
13. To have someone who will build a relationship with you, willingly connecting with you, no matter how badly you feel about yourself
14. To have someone who will challenge your thinking and cognitive distortions
15. To have someone who will connect the dots of your dissociated life experiences
16. To have someone who will encourage you to be comfortable becoming your very own self
17. To have someone who will encourage you to build a life based on your strengths instead of the life your abusers may have designed for you
18. To have someone who will encourage you to try new things and to stretch your horizons
19. To have someone who will expect you to honestly work on your issues instead of blaming others
20. To have someone who will foster your leadership skills, job skill development, educational opportunities, etc.
21. To have someone who will genuinely accept you, warts and all
22. To have someone who will have the courage and ability to tell you “no”
23. To have someone who will hear your heart and the depths of your soul
24. To have someone who will help to remove the jagged edges from your life
25. To have someone who will help you build a tolerance and acceptance of others
26. To have someone who will help you create personal safety, both inside and out
27. To have someone who will help you find and connect with your very best self
28. To have someone who will help you to build the ability to tolerate and sit with intense emotions in yourself and in others
29. To have someone who will help you to contain the extremes of your behavior and feelings
30. To have someone who will help you to emotionally grow, develop, mature
31. To have someone who will help you to move past the blocks, walls, and black holes
32. To have someone who will help you transform self destruction into self acceptance
33. To have someone who will hold you accountable and responsible for troublesome areas
34. To have someone who will hold your secrets with you
35. To have someone who will listen to you, and understand your point of view
36. To have someone who will look for the positive in each and every one of your insiders
37. To have someone who will make it safe enough for you to express your true feelings
38. To have someone who will offer encouragement and support, even when its tough
39. To have someone who will offer guidance as needed
40. To have someone who will offer opportunities to explore trust, acceptance, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience
41. To have someone who will push you to move forward, instead of sitting complacently
42. To have someone who will recognize family dynamics and their impact on you
43. To have someone who will remember what your insiders say, especially when it is too difficult for you to retain it
44. To have someone who will set appropriate limits and boundaries
45. To have someone who will sit with you while you face your deepest fear, shame, guilt, horror
46. To have someone who will sort out conflict and disagreement
47. To have someone who will stay with you, even when you expose your worst self
48. To have someone who will talk to your inner parts, even the ones you are afraid to speak to or unable to speak to
49. To have someone who will teach and model new behaviors, and healthy emotions
50. To have someone who will team up with you in your healing journey
True therapy is so much more than a sequence of techniques to address trauma, or emotional containment, or cognitive distortions, or dissociative separation, or destructive behaviors.
Therapy happens with real people, between real people. Therapy is a healing process. It touches many levels of life. The emotional depth of true healing is founded in the solidity of the therapeutic relationship.
Unfortunately, your trauma and abuse happened at the hands of violent, hateful, destructive people.
Fortunately, your healing will happen within a caring, accepting, compassionate relationship.
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 28, 2009
This week, the readers here have posted a wide variety of reactions to the idea that being multiple could have benefits. If you haven’t yet read all the comments on that blog, please do so. They are very interesting.
When people have DID/MPD, they have experienced life as a multiple since their childhood. It is their norm – basically the only way of life they know. Multiples typically have not experienced life any other way other than being multiple, even if they didn’t realize they were as split as they are. Sure, one or two of the host personalities may not have a strong personal connection to what it’s like to be multiple, and many of them can deny the existence of the internal others to some degree, but the internal system as a whole would have been there for nearly your whole life.
And frankly, many DID’ers that are newly diagnosed just haven’t realized how much they have been switching their whole lives long. But just because they haven’t recognized their dissociative abilities doesn’t mean that they haven’t been living their life as a very active multiple, switching, possibly losing time, and putting amnesiac walls around anything that is too uncomfortable for them.
So what if you are dissociative and you really really detest being a multiple personality? What if you can’t stand being DID/MPD, and you hate it, and you despise it, and you make sure that everyone in your system knows it, and that everyone in your treatment support team knows it too?
- How does that affect how your internal system views you?
- Will they feel loved and accepted?
- Will you feel good about yourself?
For sake of argument here, let’s be sure to separate the fact of being dissociative as being very different from being traumatized and abused. I will clearly and adamantly acknowledge that no young child likes the trauma and abuse that happens as the first step in the process of creating various alter personalities. I am not proposing that the road to becoming DID is a pleasant one. It clearly is not. The very idea of being forced to become a multiple is horrifically tragic in itself. Any trauma, abuse, neglect, violence, horror, pain, that you’ve gone through is too high a price for anyone to pay.
Often the fact of being multiple becomes inextricably entangled with the fact of having been abused. The multiplicity comes to represent all the pain and fear and wrongness of the abuse, and rejection of the multiplicity is part and parcel of rejecting the reality of the painful past that caused it.
But how do those feelings of adamant rejection affect your healing?
One of the ways to treat and understand multiplicity is to join in, to some degree, with the idea that the alter personalities are their own individual people. Of course they are all connected to the same one person, but you can balance that out with also seeing each of the insiders as their own unique person. How would an outside person feel if they were treated the same way your insiders are being treated?
If your internal parts know that you hate the fact that you are multiple, might they begin to internalize that feeling as if you hate them? I would think so.
How would you feel if you were repeatedly told that you were disliked and unwanted and despised? Remember, your insiders don’t have to be told these things in actual words. They are connected to you, and they will know how you genuinely feel about them, whether or not you make a point of telling them. They will be able to feel how much you don’t like them. You will not be able to hide this fact from them.
How would you feel, if day after day after day, the people that you lived with refused to speak to you? Or to acknowledge you? Or to care about you? Would you feel cooperative? Would you want to be friendly and helpful? At what point would you lose your patience and tolerance? How might you act when that happened?
In this context, if you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and you also firmly believe that multiplicity in itself is a horrible way of life, that strong pervasive belief will negatively affect your treatment progress and your healing. How could it not? Your insiders are aching for acceptance and kindness and comfort no less than you are – and constant rejection can and will make them continue to act out in resentment and anger and desperation. Nobody else’s acceptance will ever mean as much to them as the acceptance of their own group – their own self – and if that is perpetually withheld from them, then both they and you will be at a self-created stalemate in your healing.
Because the flip side of treating your insiders like individual people is remembering that they are the same person as you.
If you are repeatedly telling yourself that you hate the way you are, what does that do for your self-image and self worth?
If you believe that the way you are is not ok, not good enough, not right, not acceptable, not normal, then you are reinforcing a lot of negative beliefs of yourself – and it is a short road from having a low self-esteem to have a ton of self-hatred.
- What if hating your multiplicity is a version of hating yourself?
- What if accepting your multiplicity is a version of accepting yourself?
Multiplicity is simply what it is – the fact of having more than one personality / “person” in your head. In my opinion, it does not have to be a bad thing. The trauma and the abuse were devastatingly bad – absolutely. The dissociative walls can really cause problems in the current day, even if they were initially helpful. The PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other emotional fallout can be debilitating at times.
But the multiplicity – just the multiplicity… does it have to be bad to share your life with others?
Again I ask….
Is accepting your multiplicity “as is” a version of accepting yourself?
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 11, 2009
A fun and creative way to increase system communication and overall system familiarity is to make a scrapbook displaying pages that describe each of the people in your system. Getting to know your system is an absolute essential part to your healing and recovery, but doing system work doesn’t have to be drudgery. A system scrapbook can be a wonderful treasure and a priceless keepsake for many years to come. It can help create and solidify nice memories for you.
This exercise is similar to making any other personal scrapbook or souvenir album or photo album. You will need a scrapbook, or a notebook, or a binder full of paper. Have a wide variety of writing utensils available, ie: pens, pencils, crayons, markers. Allow for different colors to be used. If you want to get creative with your pages, you could also set out scissors, glue, glitter, strips of fabric or cloth, stencils, rubber stamps, yarn, buttons, dried flowers, photos, ribbons, pretty papers, etc.
Invite each and every one of your internal system parts to design their very own page or two or three about themselves.
The pages are to be created by each of your individual system people to introduce and describe themselves, their activities, their interests, their friends, their history, etc. They each can each decorate and design their pages however they so choose. Encourage your parts to creatively display as much information about themselves on their pages as they are comfortable. It’s also good to include drawings, or photos, or collage, or poems, or lists of information, or “Facts about Me”, etc. The sky is the limit with creative expression!
The purpose of this exercise is to assist your system in getting to know themselves and each other, to increase system communication, and to lower amnesiac barriers between the different parts. As everybody fills out their own personal pages, they are providing a good visual summary for the others in the system to get to know who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, who they know, etc.
There is a particular personal fulfillment in being able to creatively express who you are as an individual. The same principal applies to internal parts as well. Having this freedom of expression is a great way to encourage other levels of communication, and being recognized as an individual within a system is also an important emotional need. The self-worth of each of your internal parts can increase just by being recognized as a valuable part of your system.
Completing a personalized page will be a challenge for many insiders, as they often do not know what they like. It’s ok to let the pages be filled out gradually – there doesn’t have to be a time limit or a rush for completion. In fact, the longer you allow this exercise to continue, the better. Some of your insiders might have to look around in the outside world to find more things that they enjoy. Many of them won’t be used to the idea of “liking anything”. Having the freedom and encouragement to explore, and to pick and choose for themselves will be a very new – and possibly unsettling – but positive experience for many of your internal parts. The entire design side of this exercise could be a totally new experience for most of your parts.
Of course there will be those who are resistant to telling anything at all about themselves to anybody, even to other insiders. These parts do not need to be forced to participate. There will be plenty of other folks that find this exercise to be a fun and creative way to meet each other. Encourage as much of your system as possible to participate in making their own page, and remind everyone to keep looking through the other pages.
View the amount of participation and interest each insider shows as an emotional barometer. The amount and intensity of interest your parts show in completing their pages and looking through other pages will absolutely parallel how comfortable, interested, and willing they are to participate in overall system communication.
This project can be rather involved, and may take days, even weeks, to complete. That’s ok! Hopefully more and more insiders will get involved over time. And as you do ongoing work in your healing process, you will continue to meet new insiders. As those new parts surface, encourage them to add their pages to your scrapbook as soon as they are ready to do so.
Another value in this exercise comes in your working together as a team. Some of the older parts will probably have to help the younger ones. Who is comfortable being near the kids? Everyone will have to take turns. Who gets to go first? Some parts will have to share when they both want to include the same item on their page, and as a system, you’ll have opportunities to problem-solve the various dilemmas. If someone makes a mistake, who will comfort them or assist them? If someone breaks a crayon, will they get in trouble? If these parts see someone new in the scrapbook, will they try to communicate with that new person on the inside? The actual process of learning to work together as a group in creating such a valuable system book is invaluable.
Please do not show this book to anyone you do not completely trust as there is no need to set yourself up for uncomfortable situations with people who are not open to understanding dissociative disorders. This system treasure book is primarily intended for you to get to know you and all your other inside peoples. It is a good therapeutic exercise and I’m sure your therapist will be very interested in seeing it as well.
Get creative, and have fun!
Kathy Broady LCSW
December 23, 2008
Hello to all my Readers,
I hope this day finds you doing well.
The first part of this article certainly caused a little stir, and maybe raised a few eyebrows along the way. Please know, my intention in posting these blogs is not to offend anyone. If you have any questions or concerns about anything I’ve posted, please comment and let me know what you’re thinking! And here’s a big Thank You! to the folks who did comment to the “Part 1″ post. I appreciate that.
Let me try framing the context of this article. In previous blog posts, we’ve been discussing questions to ask a new therapist. This article is, in some ways, a follow-up to that idea, because these are the kinds of things a therapist is going to be thinking about / assessing in new clients as they arrive at their door. These are also the strengths that you want to emphasize when you are meeting a new therapist.
If you approach your therapy keeping these qualities in mind, you will honestly find that more therapists will stay interested in working with you for the long haul. That is not to say you have to be perfect. Who is???! It means, work on these things. Be mindful of them. Developing these strengths will make you a better person overall, and that is very much the goal of therapy.
These qualities, in my opinion, have nothing to do with mental illness. I have worked with some very disturbed people with huge issues, and yet, they possessed these qualities, and they made huge progess in their healing. I’ve also seen some folks who appeared to be rather high-functioning, and yet, they did not, or could not grasp some of these basic ideas.
I agree with the brave soul who commented that these qualities are an important part of everyday life. The more that survivors strive to incorporate these strengths into their approach to everything, the better. Your self esteem will improve, your self-dignity will be solid, and people around you will appreciate you more.
I don’t expect every trauma survivor to have a solid grasp on these qualities, but I do hope every trauma survivor strives to.
Intermingle these strengths into your life everywhere that you can. You’ll be glad you did!
And here is part 2 of the article, “10 Qualities Therapists Recognize in Good Clients”:
6. Honesty and Trustworthiness
- Are you willing to be honest with yourself?
- Are you willing to lie to your therapist, or hide information, or lie by omission?
- Do you gossip and tell lies behind people’s backs?
- Do you gossip about your therapist?
- Do you lie to your inside parts? Does anyone in your system try to trick or deceive the others in your system?
Therapeutic relationships are built on honesty and trust. Your therapist will need to know you possess these qualities as well.
- Will you treat your friends and family members with kindness and respect even if they have done things you do not like?
- Will you loyally protect your internal system from predators and perpetrators, putting the safety of your inside parts as a priority?
- Are you loyal to your therapeutic process and will you keep clear boundaries around the therapeutic process?
- Will you respect your therapist’s trust in you to the same degree that you expect your therapist to respect your trust in them?
- If you and your therapist experience a conflict, where do you look to resolve that? Do you expect to resolve the conflict within the context of therapy, or will you spread the conflict outside the therapeutic relationship and draw others into it?
Your therapist and support team can be your greatest allies in your healing journey. However, a deep level of mutual respect is expected and needed in order to progress in therapy. It is crucial that you thoroughly differentiate the “good guys” from the “bad guys”. Therapists understand the concepts of transference and projection, and they will work with you in those tender moments, but there will be limits to that. I can promise you, your helpers do not want to be thrown under the bus any more than anyone else.
- Are you determined to do the same things over and over again?
- Are you open to trying new options?
- Can you think outside of the box instead of being boxed in?
- Do you help to problem-solve the various dilemmas that surface?
- Will you work on ways to reach even the most difficult of insiders? Even if this involves several failed attempts before you successfully connect with these parts?
We’ve all heard the saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting to get different results.” A huge part of the healing process is learning new things and doing different things.
9. Gratitude and Appreciation
- Do you appreciate what people do for you?
- Do you recognize when someone is doing something for you?
- Do you thank them for helping you?
- In relationships, do you overlook smaller imperfections in appreciation of bigger strengths?
- Do you thank others in your dissociative internal system for the ways they have helped you to survive through the years? Do you recognize their strengths and talents in the current day?
Gratitude and appreciation are key elements of any healthy relationship. Don’t take the goodness of others for granted. Be thankful for what you receive from others.
- Are you a safe person?
- Do you use threats of violence, or threats of harm to others, or threats of emotional blackmail, or threats of any kind to destroy or control other people or to get your own way?
- Do you threaten self-harm or suicide as a way to manipulate others or to get your own way?
- Are you willing to hurt yourself or someone else in order to get your way, including others in your internal system?
- How far is “too far” to go to get what you want or prove you are “right”? Do you think there is such a thing as “too far”?
Therapists will model safe behavior. If you are acting in ways that are unsafe for yourself or manipulative of those around you, your therapist will set boundaries with you — just as you should set boundaries with someone who is unsafe in your direction.
If you follow these guidelines, you will have a much better relationship with your therapist and others around you. If you are looking for a new therapist, remember that the more you can genuinely offer in the areas listed above, the more those therapists will view you as a client with potential — and the more positive potential you demonstrate in these areas of your life, the greater interest more therapists will have in working with you. It goes to your advantage, your healing, your self-respect, and the amount of respect others will feel toward you to learn these things.
All people, including trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD), can claim these strengths as their own. Work hard to be a “good person” in your therapy, and you’ll be amazed at how much difference this can make in your relationship with your therapist and with your system. Remember:
Maintain your stability the best you can.
Be dependable in what you do, and do what you say you will do.
Maintain your motivation and your willingness to work hard.
Be courageous, even when it is scary.
Stay clear and upfront about your personal responsibilities.
Be honest and trustworthy at all times.
Stay loyal to your helpers.
Be creative in the hard times.
Have gratitude and appreciation for the good things and good people.
And be a safe person. Be safe for yourself, and be safe for others.
You can do it. I’m just sure of it.
Kathy Broady LCSW