Seeking Different Types of Therapy for DID
When you are living with a mental health condition such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), therapy is often a part of the treatment plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective launching point, but in my personal experience, it’s been specialized therapy for DID that has helped me grow by leaps and bounds.
Types of Therapy for DID I've Experienced
Treating DID with Medication Alone
My first introduction to any kind of treatment or therapy for my DID came in the form of a meeting with my primary care provider. At the time, I was still living undiagnosed but had experienced a debilitating panic attack that sent me to the doctor. She prescribed me a common antidepressant, but therapy was not yet a part of the equation.
For months, I continued on with my life, pleasantly surprised at the noticeable benefits of the medication I had been given. It wasn’t until I had engaged in several conflicts with family members that I realized medication alone wasn’t going to cut it. I still lacked the tools I needed to prevent panic attacks and communicate efficiently without reaching a boiling point.
Finding a Therapist for DID
I was lucky enough to find a cognitive behavioral therapist in my local area who was taking new patients fairly quickly. Needless to say, I was nervous heading into the experience, never having spoken to a therapist before. Once again, I was surprised at some of the immediate benefits I felt from attending therapy. I felt a weight lifted off my chest as soon as I finished my first session, and as I continued on, I learned an abundance of tools to help me navigate my emotions without having to rely on my medication.
Everything was going well until three years later, my therapist informed me that she was going to be leaving the practice. I felt devastated, and more so, I did not know how I was going to continue my treatment. I thought I had finally achieved the perfect balance of therapy and medication, and this entirely disrupted my system. Little did I know that my departing therapist had a plan, and a whole new diagnosis for me after learning so much about my condition over the years: DID.
The Benefits of Working with a DID Therapy Specialist
I was put in touch with a new therapist in my local area who specialized in DID, and the transition was smoother than I had expected. Right off the bat, I was given the insight I needed to understand my DID, as well as how I could manage it on a regular basis. More importantly, my therapist had been working with several other patients with DID, meaning she was well-versed in how the condition manifests itself in everyday life. I immediately knew I was in good hands, and since then, I’ve never looked back.
While therapy isn’t for everyone, I believe it is a critical component to the healing journey. I have grown as a person through simply having a mental health professional to speak to on a consistent basis, and I know that it will only continue to yield positive results.
Vermes, K. (2020, August 25). Seeking Different Types of Therapy for DID, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, July 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2020/8/seeking-different-types-of-therapy-for-did
Author: Krystle Vermes
Reading the posts and the bios of my DID sisters and brothers on the healthyplace blog brings up my own life story, brings it up in my body. Even though it’s been a lifetime, and I have a book coming out about my DID, embodiment has become a rarity. This is a gritty reminder of what was once my everyday experience. We have so much in common.
I think about when I finally believed my DID diagnosis, how fortunate I was to be working with a therapist who cared more about our therapeutic relationship and less about labels. I suspected DID for a number of years with absolute disbelief, maybe six years, before I had the nerve in about 2009, seven years after starting therapy, to pin down a diagnosis from him. By that time, I had been through enough with my parts that I believed it.
My therapist did not specialize in DID. He didn’t utilize EMDR, hypnosis, DBT, or other therapies often specified for DID. He always had a wider view than I did, a gestalt approach. There is no one approach or method that is right for everyone, so it’s important to emphasize the individual’s need for a good therapeutic fit. In my case, I didn’t trust anyone. That I agreed in crisis to consult Dr. L was based on a two-year relationship as my meditation teacher, to which he also brought a fairly gestalt approach from his vast background. That class was in addition to his clinical psychotherapy practice and his university teaching. I can only speak from my own experience, which is that you are in relationship with your therapist. Ours was often stormy—I considered leaving therapy, just stopping it, at least a dozen times as I learned how to even BE in a relationship where parts of me openly distrusted him and sometimes hated him. An important theme developed of repeated damage-connected-to-repair, as I learned to tolerate our conflicts and all my parts gradually opened to my therapist.
There are certain qualities each person will want to look for in a therapist and a therapeutic relationship, probably different for each person. Even from a position of profound psychological distress, I knew I needed a therapist who practiced mindfulness in its fullness, whose age reflected his/her experience, whose depth of listening was steadfast, committed, and honest. I always thought Dr. L was a step ahead of me intellectually, too, and I needed that as well: a very bright person. People ask why I wouldn’t choose a female rather than a male therapist, and I can only answer that as Dr. L was the right person for me, gender wasn’t as high a consideration as all the rest of it. There were times I told him it would be easier to speak to a woman, and we both just acknowledged that truth and carried on.
Things come up. Eighteen years on, I still see Dr. L, though much is resolved. I came to understand that the developmental aspect of DID meant my parts had so much to learn as I moved away from childhood—I couldn’t do that if they didn’t participate. There is so much more to be said about this, maybe another time. Sorry for being so wordy!