The group met 20th April 2018 and used the article ‘Should I talk to Parts?’ by Rob Spring (Multiple Parts (2015) Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 12-17.) as a departure point for our discussion about working with multiple parts & dissociation.
The article starts from the position that there is no ‘YES or NO’ point, but rather it depends on the context. The article continues to talk through 7 arguments that include;
- whether the parts are created by clients for personal gain,
- whether therapists help or harm clients by engaging with parts,
- such as the impact of approaching some parts and not others possibly due to bias of therapeutic approach (e.g. to only address adult parts) or personal views of the therapist around what parts represent (e.g. there may be a perceived risk around further dissociation when engaging with some parts over others or in somehow enabling parts to become more individuated from the ‘host’ rather than working towards integration of parts into a ‘whole-person’ identity.
- Whether therapy may align more with the therapist’s agenda of what is helpful or contain certain bias that do not help clients,
- whether working with parts is a form of avoidance of processing the trauma or helping clients to avoid taking personal responsibility for clinical improvement,
- whether therapists may inadvertently re-active trauma, whether working with parts.
We discussed a few different subjects over the course of the meeting.
We asked whether expertise was important in this area and how it was possible to gain appropriate skills. A key text ‘Looking through the eyes of Trauma by Sandra Paulsen’ was discussed and referred to by several group members who had found this to be a useful and thought-provoking body of work around how to engage in therapeutic dialogue with parts.
One of the difficulties with this subject is defining reality. We discussed the reality of the therapist vs the reality of the client and as we discussed this one emerging theme was that the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client set up a language of its own through which clients and therapists learnt how to position reality and work with parts.
Dissociation although written about and assessable through various means was also felt to be something hard to experientially define and again seemed to be something that was recognised between the therapist and clients at moments of incongruence – each experience being context-dependent and somehow related to how ‘in-contact’ it feels in the moment with clients. Although experience of the therapist in this arena was felt to be helpful in working with dissociation there was a dominant feel that the relationship between client and therapist seemed to be something we all felt would support therapeutic progress.
PB shared work by Knipe (CIPOS Method – constant installation of present orientation and safety, which had some useful theory and approaches around helping dissociative clients to engage with the present and gradually resource clients with ways of making greater contact with their own experiences.
We also asked the question of the difference between amnesia and a ‘split-off’ part? This lead to a discussion of childhood trauma and attachment style and how these contributed within this area of work. We also referred to Sandra Paulsen’s work again here and some work by Michael Patterson on Ego State therapy and the relationship to dissociation which identifies different types of dissociation (primary – being nightmares and flashbacks, secondary being depersonalisation and derealisation and the third type associated with more complex states that have amnesic barriers).