The therapist needs to meet the various alters, introduce them to each other and give them some education about dissociation and MPD. The therapist needs to contract with them not to hurt anyone inside or outside their system. Sometimes the therapist needs to take the lead and be very directive with these clients and sometimes the therapist needs to follow the lead of the clients. Therapists new to MPD treatment should consult with more experienced therapists.
When the alters abreact these memories, they relive painful feelings. They often have panic attacks and need medication to help them cope with extreme fears and depression. I recommend Richard Kluft’s article “Playing for Time: Temporizing Techniques in the Treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder” (1989). As the alters abreact each memory, feel some relief, another one comes up. Eventually the ones that have done their work help the ones that have work to do by sharing the intensity of the emotions. As they get their turn, they will hopefully draw closer together and become more of a team or integrated as a whole where they all co‑exist and eventually are co‑conscious as one person.
Clients ask regularly “Why should I bother to open up this Pandora’s box of memories?” Some clients are so fed up with their lives that they just want change even if it is extremely painful. Some clients have an inner knowledge that their life needs healing and wholeness. And some clients do not really know what they are getting into, but they are already being flooded with nightmares and flashbacks so they decide to embark on their journey of therapy.
It takes a great deal of courage for clients to do this work. The pay‑off is that they feel freer from the pain of their abusive pasts and more in touch with their full potential and true selves.
References Available Upon Request
Patrick Purcell, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, specializes in the treatment of child sexual abuse and the treatment of multiple personality disorder and dissociative disorders. He was trained in hypnosis and stress reduction.