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
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