Am I dissociating? Does it matter?

Do I dissociate? Yes, we all do. Some forms of dissociative behavior are a part of everyday life. Getting absorbed in a book or movie, or even a walk, can sometimes be considered dissociative. But if you are having more significant types of dissociation, it can be important to seek help. These are signs that your mind has had to be very creative to help you get through some very tough times in your life. Sometimes dissociated aspects of experience can slow down or halt normal development through life and really get in the way of having a good, productive, and meaningful life.

Examples of dissociation: For example, if you have stretches of time in your adult life that you cannot recall, and they are not related to substance abuse, it can be a sign of significant dissociation. Or, if you have “out of body” experiences in which parts of your body or the world seem distorted or not real, then it is important to get help. If friends describe your behavior in ways you don’t recognize or you find unexplained items in your possession, these too may be significant signs of dissociation. Flashbacks of smells, visual images, or thoughts that interfere with normal life are also examples of dissociation. Internal negative chattering of Internal voices can represent dissociation as well.

How can therapy help? Integrating dissociated aspects of oneself can increase personal power and effectiveness. It can increase your ability to focus and function. Through therapy the annoyance and pain of not being able to be focus and function in your life can be addressed so that you become more present and productive. In cases of dissociated identities, different parts of oneself also learn to work cooperatively together with psychotherapy. Remember, dissociation is treatable, and healing can happen!

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Finding a Trauma Therapist

If you are looking for a therapist to help you work through childhood trauma issues, it is important to find someone experienced in trauma work. You want someone with whom you feel very comfortable. But chemistry is not everything! You want to know if a potential therapist has a good understanding of the importance of the preparation phase of therapy, i.e.grounding and resourcing, safety, and relationship building. Also, you want to know if the therapist is in a position to continue to offer you services, at a price you can afford, over time.

Sample questions to ask in choosing a trauma therapist:

  • What portion of your practice is trauma?
  • Do you consult with other trauma therapists?
  • What methods do you use to process traumatic memories?
  • What professional associations do you use to stay up to date on trauma studies?

A good therapist will not mind answering questions like this.  Asking these questions will help you assess his or her level of interest and expertise in the trauma field. Other questions to ask are:

  • How do you prepare a client for trauma work?
  • What cautions do you take in beginning memory work?
  • How do you handle a client who is dissociating?
  • What is you experience treating dissociative clients?

If alcohol and drugs are part of the picture of how you have coped with trauma, it is also very important that a therapist understand and have experience in these areas too. Don’t hesitate to shop around until you find someone you believe can truly help you.