At a recent CPD group we took on the interesting topic of working with dissociative clients. Dissociation happens when an individual (usually in childhood) is subjected to horrific abuse. (usually sexual). The mind in its infinite resourcefulness splits and fragments creating different parts, these parts are sometimes referred to as ‘alters’ some of these have a unique part to play in the individuals (or hosts ) attempt to survive. Often alters will have a specific role or job such as the protector, their objective is keep the host as safe as possible often by feeling all the pain of the traumatic experiences. There may be a social alter who can talk easily and be an advocate, sometimes we can witness destructive and sabotaging parts who only bring more turmoil and chaos.
In therapy clients who have dissociation strategies present us with many challenges. At a basic level we are often presented with an extraordinary memory challenge with many bits of information coming from different alters. This is complicated further when one alter doesn’t know some information and the host doesn’t want them to know! We are often thrown into what feels like ethical turmoil and many of us can relate to spending time in supervision trying to work it all out.read more