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What You Need to Know About Dissociative Identity Disorder to Be Our Therapist

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

As someone with dissociative identity disorder (DID), complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), an anxiety disorder, and who struggles with self-harm, I know we aren’t easy to deal with. I know we cause a lot of our own problems and drama, but that doesn’t mean we deserve less in a therapist. We are about to have to meet a new therapist in a few weeks, so we developed these guidelines to help the new guy out.

1. We do best when we feel heard. Even if we don’t get an answer immediately, letting us know you heard us makes a big difference.

2. If you don’t know or don’t have an answer, let us know when you will have an answer or at least by when you will next check in with us. Concrete details help keep our anxiety at bay.

3. Stay true to your word. If you say to give you three days, be sure to check in at the three-day mark — even if you still don’t have an answer. Consistency and honesty will go a long way.

4. On that note, be brutally honest. We can tell when someone is holding something back or is not being honest with us and it just sets off our protector parts. We’ve been through a lot; a therapist holding back or not being honest with us isn’t going to aid in our healing.

5. Anxiety is a huge issue for us. If we email you and don’t ask for a call in return, don’t call us — just email. Invariably, that call will come while at work and set us off. Even the anxiety of thinking a call will come in while at work is enough to set a whole day off.

6. Be real with us. If you don’t think you can handle us, say as much. We’d rather work with someone who wants to be around us because, for us, this truly is work.

7. It isn’t easy to let you in; our default is to fade into the background and not be seen. Our past has shown us that being seen leads to being hurt, so please don’t help reinforce this belief.

8. Treat us with respect — always. We know we make bad decisions and do dumb shit, but we do it all for a reason, even if often misguided. Don’t belittle us; teach us a different (safer) way to get the underlying need met.

9. Don’t open up something that you can’t close back up. You may forget about us when we leave your office, but we have to live and deal with it for the next week or longer. If you aren’t willing to be available or flat-out can’t be, be mindful of what can of worms you choose to open at certain points in a session.

10. Give us homework. We do well having direction because when left to our own devices, our decisions about what to do with our time often aren’t the smartest. Give us a goal and challenge us to meet it. We’ll do our best to make you proud; it’s an emotion we like and often don’t feel. If we can make you proud, maybe some of it will rub off on us.

11. Don’t think we don’t see everything! We know when you are uncomfortable or bored, and we know when we’ve said something that sets off your own stuff. Trauma’s a real bitch and it taught us to read all cues for danger.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

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Originally published: March 30, 2018
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