Why is it so hard to find a DID therapist right now?
Y'all may want to move on to another article to find help on Finding or Choosing a Therapist (or move ahead without a therapist such as the No Therapist suggestions), not read this depressing factual stuff about how hard it is to find someone until after you're on some waiting lists and truly have exhausted all resources to find the help y'all need.
- Many professionals “don’t believe in DID”. Between the “Satanic Panic” of the early-to-mid 1990s that caused many DID specialists to retire/leave their specialization or to take on significant trauma, and the discrediting of the industry by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and similar, despite constituting 1+% of the general population (according to the DSM, more in some countries like up to 6% in Turkey).
- DID stigma is rampant. Many therapists refuse to work with clients with DID thus never get EXPERIENCE working with clients with DID. Movies like Split make this stigma worse. Frankly, many ignorant therapists are *afraid* to work with DID.
- Individual DID specialists were publicly & privately harassed, threatened, stalked, and worse due to the courtroom & public drama from #1 — so some therapists are not afraid of the DID client, they’re afraid of the consequences around accepting a DID client if the client were, say, to be a victim of organized abusers who will then come after the therapist. Those who stand to lose if amnesiac boundaries are lowered and victims remember abuse do not like therapists that help victims recover memories.
- Harvard found that 90% of therapists are unqualified to diagnose or treat DID. Hopefully this is getting better, but we can’t promise that. It’s not covered in usual courses — more of a sidebar in a textbook, a 20 minute mention in a lecture somewhere, or a passing mention in abnormal psychology courses then overlooked for the remainder of a Masters or PhD education. Part of the reason is from #1 above. The fact is that many academics (department heads, individual professors, clinical supervisors, etc.) refuse to acknowledge DID as real — it means that it gets left out of curriculums and instruction, textbooks, etc. It can even be department/school policy to leave it out of instruction. So nearly everyone who knows about how to recognize or treat DID found out AFTER they got their degrees, through individualized instruction, the luck of whom their clinical supervisor(s) have been, their caseload goading them to seek out information, personal fascination and joining an org like the ISST-D or attending specialized CEUs or trainings. Or at least reading some books or reading the ISST-D’s 2011 treatment guidelines which are freely available to the public.
- “DID specialists” often only take private pay, and usually have waiting lists because client turnaround with a full caseload of DID is very low. Most/many ISST-D members (these are the folks who know the most about DID treatment generally speaking) do not take insurance, or do not accept public/Medicaid insurance. Looking for a “DID specialist” is not really what we recommend. More below:
- We recommend looking for trauma specialists rather than DID specialists, with about 10–15 years experience, max 20–25. Because DID treatment takes so long (10+ years) and you don’t want your therapist to retire in the middle of your treatment (if you can help it). Then screen them for familiarity with and willingness to work with or even learn about treating DID. By the time they have 10+ years in the field of trauma, they have more than likely already dealt with folk with DID and are familiar with the guidelines for treatment.
- There’s already too few trauma specialists for pre-COVID treatment of everyone seeking trauma treatment. Now they are part of the health industry shake-downs in the pandemic and as folk are being retraumatized, dealing with trauma from grief, trauma from being in the health care industry and dealing with burnout and pandemic-related trauma, etc. nearly all trauma specialists are booked with waiting lists. So not only are DID specialists almost always booked up, now so are trauma specialists.
- Most of the above is applicable to the US and to some degree most of the English-speaking countries. Most other countries overlook DID entirely or believe it to be a US-only phenomenon, and it is barely acknowledged, rarely diagnosed, noticed or treated elsewhere. Studies have shown it’s still there regardless, around 1+%of the population across all countries studied, but some cultures and countries may have alternative frameworks for these experiences (possession, spirituality, etc.) and a wider range of accepting and dealing with these experiences within those frameworks. However time and again we have folk from the developed world seeking resources in their own country that doesn’t exist for a disorder their local resources fail to acknowledge. It’s self-reinforcing. They’ve never seen anyone with DID because they refuse to diagnose anyone with DID.
- It generally takes a lot of privilege to get DID treatment. Some folk see their therapist 3–4 days a week, and some folk put their houses up for refinance to afford private pay therapists, or have a working spouse to support them, etc. Those in poverty, without health coverage, who cannot do private pay, who live in an area without decent therapists available and without good transportation, or who need to continue to support their family or pay their expenses and cannot afford the time or energy for therapy simply can’t access it. So nearly all the DID studies are populated by pre-screened white women, and few men or POC have been included in the studies. We have next to no academic information about how DID presents for minorities or men. We know many men with DID end up in the penal system, and it’s likely many POC do as well. It’s painful, and unacceptable.
One of the pathways where folk with DID seek out DID treatment is that after a time of seemingly “normal” functionality followed by some type of retraumatization that kicks up symptoms they find a therapist and spend some years in treatment trying to figure out what’s wrong. Usually misdiagnosed for about 6–10 years on average, then finally getting an accurate diagnosis and seeking more specialized or appropriate care. Some folk figure it out faster, some slower. Some luck out and their practitioner knows what to look for — but frankly that’s so rare.
Due to everything going on in the world — climate disasters, civil unrest or COVID issues and thus new traumas — folk are being retraumatized and this is kicking up nearly all mental health disorders. DID is not an exception. There probably aren’t enough of any type of therapist right now, but it was already really difficult to find a therapist to treat DID before all of this. Now — well it’s a disaster and that’s why we have so many self-help resources we make available for people. There’s really no choice but to try to help ourselves.
When you’re looking to what ails society, look to its most oppressed. DID is one of the most stigmatized disorders (about on par with schizophrenia and some of the personality disorders), but actually far more oppressed and far less address. Nearly all therapists and doctors understand what schizophrenia is and know how to treat it. And it’s found in a lower % of the population than DID.
DID gets less attention for research and treatment dollars while costing society a lot of money (treatment including 6–10 years misdiagnosis, misapplied medication dollars because there are no medications to treat DID directly only indirect for anxiety and depression etc., 10+ years actual treatment once diagnosed properly, sometimes multiple sessions a week of therapy, and potential money in the court system or penal system for those misplaced there).
Then there’s the absolutely unacceptable cost to the victims in spending about 20 years seeking treatments and help, years in prison rather than treatment programs, continually revictimized and floundering without trained assistance and proper diagnosis.
It’s definitely a huge issue and problem.
PLEASE DON'T GIVE UP ON YOURSELVES!!!! Y'all are definitely worth it. Get on all the waiting lists, and dig in to self help materials ASAP, and start getting your system up to speed! New Y'all can also seek out other assistance like peer specialists, online support groups, and more. Don't give up. The stuff above is a major hurdle, but y'all are survivors.