Disclaimer: this post is not intended to be construed as medical or psychiatric advice.
I know it may sound counter-cultural to say this, but I don’t believe therapy is always the right answer for those with DID. Given what I have learned over the last decade about trauma, dissociation, PTSD, and ritual abuse, the availability of professionals who even know the first thing about these topics is a crap shoot (at best). In that case, it becomes a question of whether bad therapy is better than no therapy – and that’s a hard one to answer. Certainly with trauma survivors it can be helpful to have a place to just talk about anything you need to talk about, even if solutions aren’t forthcoming. Everyone needs a safe place to process life. But if the therapist’s beliefs about you or your situation are contradictory to yours – in a damaging way; not in a challenging, helpful way – it may actually be harmful.
This is a controversial topic, because there are those who believe very strongly in therapy (or counseling) as the primary means to recovering from longstanding debilitating conditions caused by traumatic experiences. There is a certain security to be found in systems, where there is an agreed-upon set of diagnostic criteria and a clear trajectory to follow in terms of prescribed treatment.
I can definitely understand this viewpoint. And I am absolutely not anti-therapy. *Quality* therapy is invaluable. One of the problems is, I have concluded from my own experiences, and from all the stories I’ve heard from others, that those qualified and skilled enough to offer such quality therapy are so few and far between as to be almost nonexistent.
Then there are others – myself included – who have been deeply wounded by the medical/psychiatric treatment model. Rather than being a resource that has helped us cope with crises, I have found myself disempowered and damaged even further by those in positions of power who were supposed to help me. More than once, they claimed that the disempowerment and damage they were doing was helping me – and then told me I was the problem, when I protested or resisted.
So what are the other options? I have personally chosen to pursue a faith-based model of healing, but I know this is not for everyone, either. And even within that model – just like in the therapy model – there are people more educated, and less educated, on the relevant issues. You have to do your homework on someone you may potentially work with, no matter what type of helper the person claims to be.
There is also peer work, which I engage in quite a lot. Two years ago when I started blogging, I had never really heard the term before, but my friend Sarah gives an excellent overview here. You could call my entire blog an avenue for peer work, since it connects me to people with similar experiences and we have conversations about what works for us and what doesn’t. I get to hear lots of stories from people in both camps, and so I have come to believe that therapy isn’t always THE answer. It can be a tool, if you can find a good therapist who knows what they’re doing and whose beliefs and goals align well with yours. I have written more on this on my pages “Choosing a D.I.D. Therapist” and “Goals for Therapy with D.I.D.” if you would like more thoughts about that.
For me, some of my most empowering realizations did not come from traditional therapy. Many of them came from the person I work with, in the framework of the faith-based model of healing. But I’ve been particularly lucky in this area. The rest have come from talking and listening to people who have gone through similar things.
Don’t be afraid to make your recovery your own. If you believe therapy is a good fit for you, by all means, go for it. There are tools like Find a Therapist (USA), the Psychology Today therapist finder tool (USA and Canada), the ACPA search tool (Australia), and the UKCP search tool (UK). You can also google “find a therapist [location]” for more links.
There are some Christian resources for healing listed on my blog here – and you can also contact me for more info on those.
If you are more interested in going the peer support route, there is a lot of information out there for that as well. Peers for Progress (USA) has some good basic information, as well as Mind (UK). All sorts of information can be found with a google search on all of these topics.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not locked in. If you try something for awhile and it’s not working, you can change and adjust your process to what is helpful to you. Everyone is unique. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I believe recovery probably necessitates a combination of different tools. Re-building houses that have been decimated will require different tools depending on what kind of house it was. My tool belt will – and probably should – look different than yours. It’s not about finding the one *right* tool, but about finding as many tools as necessary that you need to build a life that you feel good about – a life that is uniquely yours.