Mother and Child
Mother and Child

SCS Therapy and Counselling Services

Dissociation Therapy

Dissociation is a psychological defence mechanism used at times of threat when there is no other means of escape in order to survive. It is a state where the individual becomes removed from the sense of reality or the ‘here and now’. There are four main categories of dissociative disorders defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V)

  1. Dissociative Amnesia (Psychogenic Amnesia)
  2. Dissociative Fugue (Psychogenic Fugue)
  3. Depersonalization Disorder
  4. Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness. There are five main ways in which the dissociation of psychological processes changes the way a person experiences living:

  1. Depersonalization: A sense of being detached from or not in your own body.
  2. Derealization: A disconnection from the sense of reality environment or of the world being real. Experiencing the world as ‘foggy’, through a veil or like watching a movie.
  3. Amnesia: An inability to recall information that is more severe than normal forgetfulness. The amnesias are often an important event that is forgotten, such as abuse, a troubling incident, or a block of time, from minutes to years.
  4. Identity confusion: When a person sometimes feels a thrill while engaged in an activity (e.g., reckless driving, drug use) which at other times would be repugnant.
  5. dentity alteration: When a person has a sense of being different from another part of themselves. This may present in the use of different voices, languages, behaviours, facial expressions and age presentations.

Dissociation can affect your perception, thinking, feeling, behaviour, body and memory. If you experience a dissociative disorder you may have to cope with many challenges in life. Below are some examples of experiences that may occur:

  • gaps in your memory
  • finding yourself in a strange place without knowing how you got there
  • out-of-body experiences
  • loss of feeling in parts of your body
  • forgetting important personal information
  • being unable to recognise your image in a mirror
  • a sense of detachment from your emotions
  • internal voices and dialogue
  • feeling detached from the world
  • a sense that what is happening is unreal
  • a sense that people you know are strangers
  • feeling you don’t know who you are
  • acting like different people, including child-like behaviour
  • feeling like a stranger to yourself
  • being confused about your sexuality or gender
  • feeling like there are different people inside you
  • referring to yourself as ‘we’
  • being told by others that you have behaved out of character

Although dissociation is an effective coping mechanism at the time of the traumatic experience, the dissociative tendencies can remain and intrude into later life when the threat is no longer present and may manifest in ways that makes life become intolerable. This is often the point where help or treatment is sought.

Dissociative therapy involves helping the client to create safety and stability in their lives, developing a sense of co-consciousness and executive control, processing the experiences behind the dissociation and ultimately either help the client to be able to integrate or if preferred to develop ‘stable multiplicity’ involving good cooperation and collaboration between the different parts of the personality.