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Is this therapy? (NO!)

June 02, 2011

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In the field of psychology, the usual treatment for multiples requires years of weekly or twice-weekly meetings with a therapist to sort out the mental chaos. Psychology usually works on diffusing the most dangerous behaviors such as suicidal ideation and personal safety then heads on a quest to find the miscreants who are violating the rules of normal behavior — exonerating those who are more well behaved at the expense of those who may not be equipped to know the rules much less follow them. Alongside this quest to uncover the meek, the angry, the hurt and the rebels, psychology works to uncover the triggers and memories that may have created these “personality branches.” This can send the entire system into healing crisis after healing crisis and may create an unsafe mental environment in the interim, which can result in tender/sensitive residents hiding away for years. In this way, conventional treatment can turn mental chaos into a protracted quest to find everyone, generally with the eventual goal of eliminating them through fusion.

In the current economic crisis, many people are without adequate health insurance to cover this level of mental health crisis. There may only be enough visits with a therapist to handle the worst of a crisis before discharging them from treatment. Adequate visits for the conventional treatment for multiples is simply beyond the current reaches of insurance. Those lucky enough to be given specialized residential treatment will probably still be inadequately equipped to be released by the time insurance runs out, and those who pay out-of-pocket are looking at heavy bills or spacing their treatments farther and farther apart to be able to afford the expense. All while trying to remain gainfully employed. Thus a treatment system that averaged about 7 years in its heyday now probably falls far short of bringing a multiple system to remission, much less the goal desired by psychology: "normalcy". In fact, insurance is much more interested in keeping people out of a hospital than in actually making them well.

The first problem is that therapy for multiples takes what seems like forever. One of the experts on treating people with multiple personalities, Dr. Frank Putnam, says it takes an average of 6 years just to get an accurate diagnosis. What that means now is that the typical multiple is an insurance company's worst nightmare, with frequent visits and possibly hospitalization, constant monitoring of medications that behave erratically at best due to misdiagnosis, and continual complaints that must make the patient seem more like a habitual complainer or hypochondriac. Once properly diagnosed, the process of meeting “alter” personalities, of exhuming, examining, and desensitizing abuse and triggers takes about that long as well. And then, therapy usually turns to a process of integration or fusion of personalities into one another, another process that is always time-consuming. Finally, Dr. Putnam warns therapists and multiples that the first attempts at full fusion generally face several setbacks and relapses into dissociative coping mechanisms. We think it’s too disappointing to go into their methodologies any further. In short, the process is tedious, frightening, and we think it is going about the business of helping multiples become functional people very much from the point of view of psychology and not at all from the point of view of the multiple.

In almost any other field of consultation — which is frankly what any therapy should be — when you have a customer, you tailor your process and the product or service to the customer. You may make suggestions, but ultimately it’s the customer who has the money, so it’s the customer who should direct treatment.

So step back into the role of a consumer. Shop around, decide what you really want to buy into, and make your purchases accordingly.

United Front is a concept I've developed to help you (hopefully simply) reframe your experience of being a multiple. It's based on the principle "As inside, so outside, and vice versa." — your head is home to all these residents, so why isn't everyone behaving like good house(head)mates?

I have no interest in competing with therapists. That's not my role in your life. What I see is a lot of pressure on multiples to conform with society regardless of their personal wishes. There's little to no education about what other options there are than full integration. I see exploitation and demonization of our diagnosis (from the media, mostly — but also anecdotes of psychologists exploiting multiples as well). I see multiple systems treatingf littles like they're crippled entities and spoiling them rotten. And I also see some excuses from multiples that make out like it's OK to be bad members of both internal and external society. And the only help is a young science much more interested in making multiples conform to their expectations than in asking a multiple what would be in their own best interests. What I'm looking to do is treat you and all of your residents like you are valid entities who need guidance to get along better, and more information and time to make an honest decision -- like any mature adult should -- about who you want to be "when you grow up." And that includes opting to fuse with the assistance of a therapist if that's your choice.

I’m not here to baby you, excuse your behavior, tell you what you should do, treat you like a child (with the understanding that some of your residents are indeed children and need additional nurturing and age-appropriate instruction, role-modeling, understanding and guidance), spoil you rotten, trigger your traumas, dig into your past, tell you what’s “wrong” with you, or allow you to waste your current life because you’re too busy reliving your past to function. I’m here as a life coach. It’s similar to a sports team coach. No matter how you did in the game last week, we’re now looking ahead to the game this week, and the training you need today in order to face the game. I'm ready to call the plays — you just have to show up for practice and get in the exercises.

The question here isn’t “What happened?” If that's what you want, go seek a therapist. The question here is “Who are you today, and how will that help you get where you want to be tomorrow?” Along the way that requires some lessons in being self-aware, self-assured, having mindfulness mechanisms in place for the times that things are difficult, focusing on today and the future and doing whatever you can to keep the past from interfering without pretending that it doesn't exist. This is almost the opposite of traditional therapy for multiples, which presumes that you need to go on an archeological dig and understand your roots and ancestors in order to move forward. Sure, there’s a place for that, if you’re interested in these sorts of things, but it is still possible to be a rocket scientist and go to work every day and bring home a fat paycheck without knowing much about the Civil War or where the first cave drawings were found. You certainly don't need to put the rest of your career on pause until you can find out.

No matter what your ultimate decision -- whether to integrate or remain multiple -- you need to get your life in order starting today, and the typical style of talk therapy with sessions controlled and mandated by your insurance or your ability to pay out-of-pocket is not going to do as much about that as it will focus on what meds do you need and how do we keep you out of the hospital — and traditional therapy sessions if you're lucky (8 sessions approved at a time!). Typical therapy for multiples makes mental health progress in years, so we're giving you an option so that you can make tangible and useful mindset or perspective or internal communication changes between appointments in days, weeks or months, depending on how quickly you are able to work and where you are starting from right now. This perspective shifting and improvements in internal communication can speed up your therapy, no matter what your goal!

So my answer to the question: Is this therapy? NO! Not at all. You don't get therapy by reading blog posts or books! However, if you work through these ideas and exercises with self-honesty and great effort, you may find that the results are very therapeutic. We strongly urge you to work on this program along with the aid of a therapist if you have one, and to seek one if you have the means to (whether financial or emotional). If you are a therapist, we hope you will consider this program as a new curriculum to guide therapy with your clients, for homework assignments, and for exploring optional short-term goals of treatment.

If you cannot -- for any reason -- enlist the aid of a therapist to help you through this program, we may be of assistance with questions and so on.

Other Posts in June 2011

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