Excerpt from Healing the Divided Self

by Maggie Phillips, Ph.D. and Claire Frederick, M.D.

Healing the Divided Self


In recent years, books about trauma, abuse, and dissociative disorders, including multiple personality disorder, have proliferated within the mental health field. Most of them have devoted well over half their pages to the diagnosis and etiology of patient symptoms, a few more of their chapters to the specifics of treatment, and the rest to various issues that affect the treatment process.

Relatively few authors have attempted to present a step-by-step, practical guide to the difficult business of constructing and implementing a plan of action that can actually heal the integrate the effects of dissociated experiences and help to create new identity beyond that of "survivor" or victim of childhood traumas. Fewer still have ventured out into the lesser-known waters of hypnotherapy as a primary treatment modality for these conditions, presuming that hypnosis may be too "dangerous" for patients who are already dramatically dissociated from their internal, and sometimes external, realities, or that this approach is inappropriate for individuals who can only be helped by years of methodical insight therapy. At best, most authors include a chapter on hypnotic treatment approaches, even though many of the professional journals in recent years have presented evidence that points to hypnosis as the treatment of choice for problems of a dissociative nature. Still others do a credible job of presenting methods of achieving the strategic hypnotherapeutic resolution of trauma-based symptoms in a few well-planned sessions.

This is not a book about how to learn hypnosis. There are many excellent sourcebooks which introduce the practice of clinical and Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Of course, there are no substitutes for experimental hypnosis training, personal hypnotherapy experiences, and a commitment to ongoing hypnosis study and practice. Rather, Healing the Divided Self is designed for the professional reader who already has some working knowledge of hypnosis and wants to expand skills in applying hypnotic approaches to th challenging array of dissociative symptoms that are seen in clinical practice today. Throughout this book, we attempt to make accessible numerous references to stimulate additional learning in various areas of applied hypnosis. We hope our readers will find help in what we have learned from and with our patients. More importantly, we hope you will be inspired to apply these concepts in ways that enhance your own style of skillful, creative therapy.

This is a challenging time for the mental health profession, as the issue of "false memory" brings lawsuits, debate, and confusion about how to work effectively and appropriately with clinical material and symptoms related to experiences of abuse, assault, neglect, and other traumas. We know that traumatic memory always includes deletions, mutations, distortions, and other inaccuracies because this is true of all memory. What is also clear is that it is not possible to go through psychotherapy without retrieving some kinds of false memories, because all memory contains some degree of falsehood (Ross, 1994). What is not yet clear is how best to educate clinicians, patients, and the general public about these issues so that the clinical experience results in patients' genuinely taking responsibility for "finding their own truth" during the course of therapy experiences.

Our view is that each patient is different. Much as each human being has a unique set of fingerprints, each patient how comes to therapy has a unique story of how past experiences have affected the evolution of current strengths and difficulties. Because we have been well trained in the uses of hypnosis and have found it uniquely helpful in liberating many of the missing details of our patients' life stories, we have written this book as a partial answer to the question, "How do you work responsibly and effectively with know and unknown traumatic experiences that can create a divided self?"

The clinical information and case material contained within these pages is designed to be used by trained mental health professionals in a clinical setting; this is not intended in any way as a self-help book. Readers are cautioned to note that none of the concepts, approaches, or case examples we provide can be understood or considered properly outside the full context we have presented. In most cases, examples and patient presentations are composites of our work with several patients, in order to ensure confidentiality.

Healing the Divided Self is intended to provide the clinician with a systematic guide to the whole spectrum of dissociative symptoms and disorders and their hypnotic treatment, ranging from a several-session perspective to one of more long-term hypnoanalytic therapy with severely dissociated individuals. Our approach offers a synthesis of both classical and Ericksonian styles of hypnosis, drawing from the most effective aspects of these traditions to find practical methods that seem to work consistently with these challenging patients. Because we work in outpatient private practice settings, this treatment milieu is featured throughout. In order to provide a balanced gender perspective, we have alternated general pronoun references to "she" and "he" on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

To the extent possible, the voice of this book reflects the many voices of our patients who have identified in diverse ways the most valuable aspects of healing in their therapy experiences. A second voice line reverberates from therapist who have worked with us in supervision and training contexts and have raised important clinical questions:

Our primary goal is to present ways of introducing and implementing hypnotic interventions at every stage of treatment within the context of the therapeutic relationship, which we view as the single most important tool for developing and using hypnotic communications. Numerous clinical examples spanning the entire treatment process and a variety of transcripted excerpts from the therapy sessions provide specific application of the concepts we discuss.

Want to read more? Click here for Chapter One

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