For those who have decided (or realized) that therapy is needed, the search for a therapist can feel like a formidable task. Those having issues with dissociation, or those struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder, have the additional challenge of finding a therapist with knowledge in these areas – or else, someone who is willing to learn as they go. Despite the fact that a large percentage of people in therapy have experienced trauma, one can obtain degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and counseling without being required to have an in-depth understanding of trauma or dissociation and its many effects on the psyche.
This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but simply a starting point. Here are some things to beware of:
Therapists who don’t “believe” in Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Unfortunately, they’re out there. And they’re not uncommon. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a controversial diagnosis, one that can sometimes divide the therapeutic community in half. If you have D.I.D., or suspect that you might have it, finding someone with experience with dissociation, or at least an open mind and willingness to listen and learn, can make a big difference.
Therapists who accept the diagnosis of dissociation/D.I.D. but who aren’t comfortable working with inside parts/alters.
Therapists who will only work with the host are going to be very limited in effectiveness, since the host is not usually the one holding the deep pain and awareness of the origin of the different alters. Even if alters are slightly outside their comfort zone, a good therapist needs to have a willingness to work with whatever part of you is present and desiring help at that time.
Therapists who believe integration is the only/ultimate solution.
This is a tricky situation and may actually be compatible with some systems who want integration. But there are some systems who don’t want that, or aren’t sure, and in those cases, they need to be aware up front that their goals may be different from the therapist’s and this may become a problem later on. There are many multiple systems that achieve a level of internal communication and cooperation that renders integration unnecessary.
Therapists who automatically assume D.I.D. is the diagnosis, when it’s not definitive yet, because they see what they want to see.
On the flip side, there are therapists who see multiples as a phenomenon, or as unique and special (which they are, but this shouldn’t be a stipulation for treatment), and – as an extension – it means they are unique and special as therapists in that they are competent enough to treat it. This is a sticky situation but I’ve seen and heard of it happening. This has contributed to the controversy surrounding D.I.D. as a valid diagnosis, because there are some people out there who claim that it’s iatrogenic (therapist-induced). I do believe this can happen in some cases. It would be hard for anyone to resist the idea that they are unique and special in a way that few others are, particularly when the idea is being pushed on them from someone in a position of power, for their own clandestine reasons, and the client has enough of an emotional deficit to seek therapy in the first place.
Therapists who ask leading questions in memory work.
This is another red flag that should immediately be investigated with caution. Memory is already highly suggestible. There is no aspect of memory that isn’t subject to influence and change over time. A good therapist will only ask their client unbiased questions that help the client describe what they’re seeing, sensing, or feeling – NOT suggest any of the aforementioned to the client. There are times when assistance may be needed, or additional prompting, but a competent therapist will know how to do this without influencing the client to perceive something that’s not actually true to their experience.
Therapists who are rude, demeaning, controlling, disrespectful, or hurtful toward inside parts/alters.
I wish I didn’t even have to say this, and I wish it went without saying. But there are those out there who believe it’s acceptable to treat inside parts/alters very poorly, as if they are less human than the host or front person. This is a tragedy, as those insiders have already dealt with enough abuse in their lifetime, the last thing they need is continued poor treatment from people who are supposed to be trying to help them. There are times when inside parts/alters act out, whether by cutting, yelling, being intimidating, hurting other insiders, etc. – but there are always reasons they do this. The therapist needs to be able to address these inside parts without reacting in hurtful or scary ways. Or, if in the event that they can’t (therapists are human too, as we sometimes forget), they need to already have a plan in place for what they’ll do if they need to take a step back and deal with their own emotions.
Therapists who don’t believe inside parts/alters (or the host) when they talk about memories or experiences.
This is another issue I wish I didn’t even have to point out. I wish it was self-evident, but it isn’t. So let me say this: it’s not a therapist’s job to determine whether something that’s bothering the client actually happened. With multiples, particularly those who have – or believe they have – undergone trauma-based mind control, the content of their memories can often seem outrageous. But it’s not the therapist’s place to judge whether something really happened. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. Often enough, the clients themselves are confused about this. The point is, the pain is real. And it’s coming from somewhere. The therapist is there to help the client process and make sense of the pain. Therapists who don’t believe their clients’ stories, or try to argue that something is or isn’t real, are self-defeating.