Your Support System: Professionals, Supporters, Helpers & Other Assets
This article is a Stub
If you need crisis support please call emergency services (911 in the USA) — if you urgently need other support resources and hotlines see this page.
You can get physical-world helpers and have real-world physical assets in place to help you cope with external reality, external people, develop your presence skills as well as give more motivation to being in the present, etc.
Recognize Your "Support Needs"
There are many reasons multiples or plurals need support. And we think everyone needs support — even abled neurotypical non-traumatized housed sober sane singular folk.
So there's no shame whatsoever in wanting or needing a support system or support team.
So consider some of these angles to find supports that work for y'all and your& situation and needs:
- Are you sober?
- Do you have or need a mental health diagnosis?
- Are you traumatized? Have you experienced childhood trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault, neglect, emotional abuse, ritual abuse, racial violence?
- Do you think you may have an eating disorder?
- Are you housed?
- Are you depressed or lethargic?
- Are you in pain?
- Are you too worried or anxious?
- Do you have flashbacks or emotional outbursts? (PTSD)
- Have you lost a loved one or family members?
Note this list is just off the top of our head and definitely NOT exhaustive!
All of these issues (& more) have specialized trained assistance that is out there looking for people like you to help. Safety nets and services are out there, funded and with doors open and ears ready to hear you. here's a starter list of services on a US government website, and certainly your own area/region/state/province/country has their own resources and websites that you might be able to find a similar clearing house of information.
Good Support Team Qualities
- Is 100% on your side, looking out for your interests. People with a dual agenda or someone else's agenda are Ok as secondary supports at the bottom of your list. But your top choices should be the people truly looking out for your best interests even if it means they call you out for kicking yourself or hurting yourself.
- Willing to act on your behalf when you can't. Sometimes you just can't and need help. You want some people on your team who will pick up a phone and make a phone call when you have no spoons left.
- Mutual respect and trust. You should both like & trust each other, enjoy each other's company, and respect or cherish your relationship. This is called "rapport".
- They don't hover. You're allowed to screw things up sometimes, but there to help when you really need it. You can't grow unless you make occasional mistakes. You need your autonomy. But when you need help, you don't want them to pull away.
- Really hears you, and gives you their full attention when you need it.
- Jokes with you when appropriate but also totally takes you seriously and soberly when you're serious.
- Doesn't judge you or your feelings/perceptions. Will ask questions for clarification but believe your subjective reality is what you experienced and need help with.
- Works with you to find solutions and get to your goals (not theirs). They're sitting on the same side of the table/problem, they're on your team.
- If you ring their phone twice they drop everything to take your call. This may not be possible for everyone on your team, but someone who knows you might be in crisis ought to pick up and at least ask if you're OK and whether they can call you back later.
- Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Find more people to be on your team. You can look through the long lists below and see if you can name at least 5 people who are on your side. It's OK to have less, but work that number in the upwards direction by trying out some of the ideas below.
- Medical team - all of your physical health supports. Usually there is a general practitioner of some type who oversees and suggests specialists, perhaps a few specialists (dental and eye doctors are typical) do not require the GP's intervention — but most of the other specialists are coordinated under the GP's direction & discretion. For a more holistic "GP" role consider "osteopathy" — licensed medical doctors who are from a more holistic branch of medicine. Otherwise typically western medicine tends to look at parts of a body as discrete systems and have a poor chance of viewing the body as a bunch of interrelated and coordinated parts/system/sub-systems that interrelate. Since many folk with trauma also have systemic issues, genetic issues, or immune issues, it may be difficult to deal with practitioners who do not have a big-picture view of your physical & mental health needs. When you do find practitioners who can see the bigger and interrelated issue picture, hang on to them or ask for referrals for similarly-minded practitioners.
- Psychiatrist - usually prescribing psychiatric medications, but some psychiatrists still practice therapy and other interventions. Many psychiatrists do not believe in DID — which may be influenced by the fact that their practice comes from a medicine/medical-first standpoint. They are MD's first, and study psychiatry & pharmacology as a specialty. They (as a profession, not individual practitioners) prefer to look at mental health as brain chemistry gone wrong and may be extraordinarily helpful in getting medications, or over-medicate & misdiagnose/mis-prescribe when they do not see the real cause of distress or other issues. Again, when you find a good psychiatrist who actually listens and doesn't immediately turn to medication for every issue, hold on to them.
- (Licensed) Psychologist - generally able to diagnose, and do therapy. This is a Ph.D. level of study of psychology, and a license to do therapy. They run the whole spectrum of specialties in whether or not they are familiar with treating trauma, and some may claim to be "DID specialists" but note that there really is no such designation — it's more an industry recognition or a claim by the individual practitioner. Our recommendation is to look for trauma specialists more than "DID specialists".
- Therapist - someone who does therapy, and can conslut with diagnosticians with observations, but usually not able to directly diagnose. May give an "under the counter" diagnosis pending confirmation, or act as if your suspected diagnosis is true until confirmed or disputed.
- Some therapists are (Licensed) Masters of Social Work, and thus come from a more systems-oriented (as in Systems Theory — social systems, family therapy, relationship dynamics, etc.) approach to therapy and are often quite good with DID if they have a trauma specialization, as they already look at group dynamics and relationships in a different way than Psychiatrists & Psychologists in general.
- While there are some psychiatrist or psychologist peers — you are much more likely to find MSW peers. It's by no means half or more of the MSW population, but those who go into specialities like trauma may have a good chance of having a "giving back" reason they chose that specialization.
- Counselor - some people get licensing, certifications or are in religious institutions and trained as "counselors". Schools, colleges & universities have counselors. There are substance use counselors, counselors for various types of survivors, and so on. Usually these are non-peer helpers (though some ARE peers, just not trained as peers) who can act as a kind of jack-of-all-trades in trying to help with hope, locating specialized services or supports, or give you an ear when you need one.
- Case Workers - sorta a cross of counselor & social worker, these folk are usually action-oriented or service-oriented folk on your team who attempt to help navigate through red tape if they're on your side to get the right applications to the right agencies or departments to get you what you need. When they're on the other side (welfare case workers, etc.) they can be beurocrats and less helpful — they may be more on the side of expediency (there are gems as always!) than really assisting people. Occasionally a case worker is a peer, and trained peer specialists often take on some case worker roles and will help locate the correct applications or services or help with filling them out, etc. Case workers may occasionally lend an ear, but they're more about "what do you need" than "What do you need to say".
- Legal Aid - sometimes you need a lawyer in your pocket. Legal Aid are pro-bono lawyers giving back time to the community and many are mental health advocates and help with applications, legal issues, advocacy, letter-writing, or legal advice. "Legal Aid" is apparently a NY thing but when trying to find Legal Aid globally we got this site and maybe one can find similar services in your state/county/country. Also consider the Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, and the United Nations. The easiest way to find legal assistance if available in the US is to dial 211 and hopefully you will get a hotline that may offer you assistance. We have a lot more resources here.
- Minister - whatever their title in your chosen denomination, where there are organized religion, a role of their clergy is generally to support their congregants. One can turn to a minister for confidential counseling, support, encouragement, hope, and sometimes help finding services or a referral to someone who can give you further assistance. This is part of what they're there for, if you feel you can trust them.
- Coach - sometimes peers, sometimes not — there are life coaches and other types of coaches who may be on your support team as professionals. Licensed or not, specialized or not, etc. They may be part of a sports team, business environment, or you find and hire one on your own. Mental health coaches do exist, and generally will not be interested in your diagnosis or your past so much as helping you figure out where you want to go and how to get there. They may not replace trauma supports, but they can help you work on areas of your life that you don't want to spend therapy time on, or can perhaps help support you in finding an appropriate therapist if you have trauma from therapeutic relationships.
- You may want to look into getting Peer support New. These are people with lived experience in the mental health system who will walk beside you and sit with you and help you find/locate resources, advocate for you or with you, and help you achieve your goals. Peer support is mutual aid — by helping you, people are giving back and helping to affirm their own recovery. It's not a one-sided arrangement.
- Family - whether genetic or marital family, chosen or intentional family, or an informal polyblob/polycule, etc. you can surround yourself with loving and bonded supporters who are dedicated to your health and welfare and highly trusted. They may not use this particular F-word but these people are there for the long haul and have ties to you that they're less likely to abandon.
- corollary: those that turn out to be fair-weather family are not "real" family. There's a lot of words for them that can't be used in polite company.
- conversely: you can have many separate-and-different families. You might keep your genetic/blood family around (and at arms length) due to blood ties, and tell them nothing about the real you while having a much more tightly knit intentional/chosen family or a polycule (a polyamorous group i.e. non-monogamous committed group partnerships) that is your "real" go-to "Family" when it comes to needing supports. This is entirely valid, though challenging to navigate at times.
- Friends - similar to family, there's friends then there's Friends. Some friends are people you just hang with or have a good time with, but other friends are those you can lean on in times of need, who have your back, and can be trusted to stick with you. They're not usually bonded like family (otherwise they'd be part of your intentional family!) — and it's necessary to make sure that you don't strain these relationships so that they break. You need to feed all relationships, some more than others. Make sure that it's a give and take/balanced. You might need more help sometimes, try not to make it all the time. Many hands make light work: having more friends and spreading out both love and need maybe better than all your friend eggs in one "best friend" basket.
- Support Groups - whether run by professionals, moderated groups, online groups, etc. there are a lot of support group environments where folk can get anything from general Q&A through to actual crisis supports or discuss trauma and the tough stuff. Be careful about unmoderated, uncensored, or trauma-dump groups where you might get triggered into flooding or people might be more likely to get nasty at each other. Check out the track record of groups for member disputes, their policies about what can/can't be said, and their polices about contacting members outside of group time to make sure that y'all are comfortable with any restrictions, censoring, the culture of the group, who is in the group, and whether y'all will feel — and be — safe in the group.
- Self-Help Groups - these are more self-work oriented groups where folk may have homework, discuss self-help materials, do assignments in books together, share what works with one another, and actually do some healing together. These became very popular during the mental health activist movement and there are self-help groups for plurals as well. They might talk about headwork, inner world work, etc. They may or may not profess to replace therapy, or work as an adjunct to therapy. Just watch for personality cults, wild claims of how quickly people heal or get better, or the price tag both in spoons, money, or isolation, that might come from being in these groups. Any group that pressures members to cut off ANY of their external supports is a big red flag.
- You can have a service animal (currently in the US, only dogs and miniature horses are fully qualified as service animals) who can provide actual trained tasks and emotional support. This is a trained, housebroken, working animal who can accompany you in public spaces, businesses, at work, at school, etc. There are a few restrictions for service animals such as when you're visiting someone in the hospital or undergoing surgery for reasons of maintaining sanitary conditions for wounds etc. Otherwise, they're able to go everywhere you can go and respond to commands or observed signals such as dissociating with trained behaviors. For a list of examples of how a service animal can help people with psychological issues please see this link: http://www.iaadp.org/psd_tasks.html
- You can have an emotional support animal. If your need is undocumented, then they are limited like any other pet. If your need for an emotional support animal is properly documented (and the documentation required varies), they have additional leeway in certain circumstances (mainly housing and air travel accommodations). US Laws on this vary and are in a very grey territory so anything can change at any time. Emotional support animals do not need as much training as service animals, but for a pet to get certified there are traits and training they must exhibit (friendly, housebroken, etc.) so that their behavior does not disturb or threaten others. Emotional support dogs may get more access if they do not disturb others.
- You can have human assistance such as home attendants. In the US, there are a variety of ways to get this assistance if you need in-home care. If you need in-home medical assistance, such as to administer shots or care for bandaging and wounds, then you need help from a licensed home care agency. A newer "consumer-directed" program allows you to hire your own workers (which can include friends or family), train them, and they are paid through a 3rd party through Medicaid. These are excellent choices if you are unable to perform daily tasks of living, and you can have part-time or full-time assistance. They can assist with travel, making appointments, making meals, keeping your home clean and sanitary, reminding you to take medications, doing laundry, personal hygiene routines, bedtime routines, getting ready for work or school, etc.
- Electronic assistance includes devices and applications such as mindfulness meditation applications, calendars with alarms and appointment reminders, there are alarm clocks that vibrate your pillow or bed to help you wake up, smoke alarms that flash a light in case you have deaf alters or are hearing impaired and may not hear if there's a fire, etc. Electronic pet applications may comfort and occupy littles in a safe way, for example. There are a lot of mindfulness and meditation apps out there that folk find helpful.
- Stimulation devices such as those used for people on the Autism spectrum can be useful for people with dissociation and anxiety issues from PTSD as well. Safe chew toys and "adult" (disguised) pacifiers, fidgets, weighted blankets, compression vests, tools for "brushing" one's body, even scraps of cloth that feel nice, stuffed animals ("stuffies") to hug and pet, worry stones, necklaces or bracelets with beads, etc. can all help one ground, get into the Here & Now New, or self-comfort.
- Headmates — don't forget that your system may have internal self-helpers, healers, carers, support folk, folk who care for your system kids, protectors, parental figures, etc. These are a part of your support team and can help coordinate inner world needs with external world support team members, or look after y'all when no one else is available, and can often be your first line of request before picking up a phone or logging into a website.