The Haunted Self: Understanding and Treating Trauma-Generated Dissociation, With an Emphasis on Working With Dissociative Parts
Traumatic experiences can be regarded as breaking-points, dividing one’s personality into dissociative parts functioning in daily life (ANPs) and dissociative parts stuck in trauma-time (EPs). The earlier in life the traumatization—often involving Attachment/Developmental trauma, inherent in emotional, physical and sexual abuse–starts, and the more intense and frequent it is, the more complex this dissociation of the personality becomes, then the more phase-oriented therapy needs to be, aiming at increasing the patient’s/client’s integrative capacity. In principle, phase-oriented treatment consists of three recurring phases:
(1) stabilization, symptom reduction and skills training; (2) treatment of traumatic memories; and (3) personality (re-)integration and rehabilitation. Such therapy needs to include: a clearly-defined collaborative therapeutic relationship; a systematic plan of overcoming the various phobias which maintain the dissociation of the personality; the thoughtful application of a systems approach, involving working with dissociative parts—also in the treatment of the traumatic memories. This workshop highlights, in particular, the challenges of working with dissociative parts.
The workshop is an exploration of the many ‘mysterious’ questions that arise when working using a ‘parts’ lense. The two days will tease out some of the following questions:
1) How many ‘dissociative parts’ are clients/therapists likely to experience, what is useful when clients seem to have a vast array of inner personalities?
2) What specific exercises/interventions might foster relationships between a client and his ‘parts’
3) Clients/Therapists often speak about ‘parts’ in the therapeutic hour, they often give a ‘commentary’, but when asked to connect with a part in the here and now, have great difficulty doing so. What might be helpful here?
4) Some Therapists/clients, having connected with a part in the therapy hour, often talk about building a relationship with a part during the following week,
Yet week on week nothing happens. What could we do here?
5) What is useful to brings parts into the here and now, so that clients can stop being triggered
6) Are there differences in working with early rupture/Developmental Trauma versus Complex PTSD using the ‘parts’ model? If so, what are they?
Participants will be able to:
- Understand the nature of trauma-generated dissociation of the personality as an extreme form of non-realization
- Recognize the basic division between apparently normal dissociative parts (ANPs) and emotional parts (EPs) and understand the survival roles of various dissociative parts within the context of patient’s/client’s personality
- Understand how various phobias maintain the dissociation of the personality and knowing how to overcome them with the frame of phase-oriented treatment
- Know how to utilize the collaborative therapeutic relationship in helping the patient/client to recognize, accept, and collaborate with parts
- Develop a systemic approach in working with these parts, including child parts (also pre-verbal parts), hostile and perpetrator-imitating parts, perpetrator-idealizing parts
- Use therapeutic approaches that call upon the patient’s/client’s imaginative capacity
- Enlist dissociative parts’ specific collaboration in the challenging work of integrating traumatic memories
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Onno van der Hart, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Psychopathology of Chronic Traumatization at Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and a psychologist/ psychotherapist in private practice, Amstelveen, the Netherlands. He acts as a consultant and supervisor in the field of trauma-related dissociation. He is a past president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) and the recipient of a number of awards for his clinical and