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9 Questions You Should Ask Your New Dissociative Identity Disorder Therapist

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I will have my first appointment with a new therapist who specializes in dissociative identity disorder (DID) soon and I decided to write out some questions to ask her, so I can assess whether we will be a good fit to work together. Working with DID can be taxing because the trauma history is usually significant and the processing of it can be quite emotionally painful for both parties. It’s important to make the most educated decision possible when choosing whom to work with.

1. So I have an idea how well you understand my experience: Can you describe your most non-trauma based dissociative experience?

So many people claim they understand dissociation, but have only ever read about it or zoned out in the car while driving. Dissociation in DID is different than dissociation while reading a book or watching TV. Sometimes, there are no warning signs — it’s just a blink and someone new is sitting in front of you. It would be nice to know if your therapist really gets it when you say you are starting to dissociate and are asking for help with mindfulness and grounding.

2. How comfortable are you with alters that may interfere with the therapeutic process showing up in your office? Some inside are pretty foul-mouthed; if they were to cuss, what would you do? If they were to walk out?

With DID, there are no guarantees on who might show up in the therapy room. One day I may be fully in control and the next, I can barely hold it together. It’s common to have different values between parts and some may say or do something the host would feel shame about. Knowing where the boundaries are with more persecutory parts will help them feel safe and less likely to act out or try to get attention. 

3. How do you feel about child parts in your office? Do you ever work with children in your practice? Do you have any toys or stuffed animals that can be held? If a young part were to give you something like a drawing, would that be OK?

Inside kids are just like outside kids — they just want love and attention. Someone who spends some of their time in therapy with children may be better prepared for some of the childlike resistance and displays of affection that are a normal part of working out a trusting relationship. 

4. Have you gone to any special training sessions on dissociative disorders? Is there a training you found particularly helpful? What aspect was so helpful?

Asking the potential therapist about training they may have attended will allow them to talk about what areas of DID and dissociation they have the most knowledge with. It also will help highlight the areas in which the therapist may need to be allowed to have a learning curve.

5. What types of therapy have you found useful to do with DID clients?

Have you ever done eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)? Art therapy? Internal family systems (IFS)? Parts work? What special certifications do you hold in those types of therapy? 

It would be remiss to ask a therapist to work outside their scope of training. Trying to do EMDR with a DID client takes special training and consideration; does your potential therapist have it?

6. Are you currently scheduled to do any further training in dissociation?

This question will highlight where the therapist feels they need more training and tell you whether continuing education is important to them.

7. What is your policy on non-life threatening urgent calls?

Therapy often highlights or worsens symptoms before they get better, so knowing what kind of support you will have should emergencies arise is important. This question also gives a clear idea of the kind of boundaries the potential therapist has.

8. How do you monitor session time? What is your policy on sessions running over the allotted time? Can we wait in the waiting room until we feel comfortable driving if needed?

Some therapists may use a timer to indicate the length of the session and won’t continue once the buzzer sounds.  Therapy is hard work — sometimes you may not feel in control enough to drive yourself home right away. It’s important to know if you will be asked to leave mid-memory and whether, once the session is over, it is OK to stay indoors as you gather yourself.

9. What do you do to decompress after work? What are your hobbies?

Hearing such complex trauma can be traumatizing for a therapist too. It’s as important that your new therapist be able to self-regulate and have a way to have fun too.

Photo by Drew Patrick Miller on Unsplash

Originally published: November 13, 2018
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