Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening, wherever this finds you. This is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot these days. It’s something I have questioned my own opinion on and second guessed time and time again. After all, therapy is something pretty widely known to be beneficial, and a testament to oneself taking the time out of their life to rest and make space for themselves.
But if I’m being honest with myself, therapy has never felt like the safest or most healing of spaces for me. Yet, because I struggle with PTSD and fear based symptoms and paranoia from that, I’ve often doubted this gut feeling of mine and wondered if it’s simply my mental illness playing tricks on me. The more time goes on, the more I realize I need to trust this gut feeling and it’s not just my symptoms getting in the way.
Here are the reasons why, for me/us , therapy has also caused harm:
As much as I wish it wasn’t true, most therapists out there aren’t qualified to treat people with cPTSD or dissociative disorders. And sometimes, the ones who are supposedly the most qualified are the most corrupt with underlying intentions.
Access to therapy depends on the healthcare someone carries and location, as well as many other barriers. If I lived down the street from a clinic that specialized in D.I.D. I might be able to get some really great guidance and help in therapy. Unfortunately though, that’s not the case. I have insurance through the state and that makes my resources even more limited. I’m lucky I’ve found a therapist that allows me the space to express what I need and not try to force us into one treatment path or another– but that being said that’s a pretty basic thing that should be given in a therapist.
I’m sad to say that I’m realizing when I say “I’m lucky” with the therapist I’ve found, it basically means that this therapist isn’t harming me. I’ve heard horror stories from fellow systems on how their therapist will demand to talk to the one with their birth name and treat the others as fallacies. My first therapist simply reassured me everything would be alright with no other treatment plan. My second therapist told me that she spoke with spirits and asked me if I was sure I wasn’t experiencing something like that. She tried to encourage me to not use terminology about being multiple, and was no help in our journey. The third therapist I saw was multiple, just like us. We thought this would be a great benefit, finding treatment from people who got it… but I realized only years after that the treatment they gave was extremely unethical. Way too much sharing was coming from their end, they didn’t time our sessions and blamed us for going over, and they projected a lot of insecurities on us during our sessions. I now realize they hadn’t healed before trying to help others and I’m still working through an extreme distrust for therapists based off of this realtionship mostly.
With our current therapist, we still have to educate her on how to be supportive to us. Although she means well, she’s learning from a field that only treats Fusion (the combination of all alters into one) as a treament plan. They don’t educate other ways of healing, and not every system wishes to give up their individuality and fuse to become one.
Even though our goal is closer to Fusion than Functional Multiplicity, we still despise the idea that an entire field of experts seems to feel there’s only one acceptable way to heal. There are so many complexities and often times beautiful parts of sharing a life as a system members that I don’t know I could ever communicate in words. Why would I try to have a relationship with a system that doesn’t take the time to truly understand me?
It sounds harmless, but in reality it’s not. The first degree I pursued out of highschool is Psychology. After one semester, I realized I was searching for what was different about me. I had inclinations that I was Bipolar or had Schizophrenia (due to my lack of education on mental health and stigmas or stereotypes I’d come across in media.) If I was that invested in myself , I could never truly be in it for the right reason and be thinking as much about others… and clients deserve much more than that.
And with so much unresolved trauma I was unaware of at the time, I would have ended up projecting on my clients as well. I’m happy I made the decision to soul search and turn away, but I can see clearly that many people don’t have a wake up call that helps them realize this. I’ve seen many therapists that are unethical, projecting, harmful, and self involved or there for other wrong reasons. It’s a field where people can very easily take advantage of others during tough times and can become a very dangerous place if not monitored correctly.
To my therapist that was also multiple, I now see that they had internalized a fear of being multiple and imposed their treatment goal of fusion onto us without our consent, striving for it in very underhanded ways while denying it if asked. For me, it seems that they were there to heal themselves, and often times even admitted they felt they learned more from us than we did from them, and would keep us over to better understand themselves. Situations like these lead me to feel used, misunderstood, and disrespected, whereas we deserve a therapy journey where we feel empowered, seen, and safe.
This is getting long winded, so I promise this is the last one y’all.
There’s something about me that feels more “off” than ever after so long in therapy if I’m being honest, and only last week did I start understanding it.
Even though I’ve learned a lot of valuable insights about myself throughout this journey, I’ve realized that inherent in the framework of therapy is the idea that this is a doctor for your brain and your mental wellness. Underneath that lies the idea that I am broken and need to be fixed.
But mental wellness is not the same as physical wellness. You can break a bone, but I would argue that you can never truly break a brain or a person’s being. Just because I was raised in an unsafe environment, taught behaviors that although helped me survive my own house would harm me in the regular world, and not given the proper care and attention I needed since my caregivers were never given that themselves… that doesn’t mean that who I am is broken.
With this black and white thinking, this boxy way of clinically looking at things, ways of communicating are also put into structures and labels. I learned so many ways to diffuse situations. I learned how to mediate heated arguments, control my own emotions, and be level headed so much that I could convincingly keep my cool in situations that no one should ever have to. But, when conversations have structure that’s predetermined, I find myself checking out.
Having a dissociative disorder, I already space out a lot… but after a while of making sure to use “I” statements, saying “I hear you and respect the view I’m hearing” etc… it all starts to feel fake. Am I really connecting with the person at this point, or am I just worrying how to maintain myself and what framework to use next? Sometimes the conversations in my life started to sound the same, and that made me really uncomfortable and feel like a bit of a phony. I’m not saying there’s not a space for it, there’s plenty of situations where these tools come in handy… but for me I only use them now in emergency situations where I fear feelings will get hurt or people are starting to say things they don’t mean.
So to sum it all up, therapy is a difficult place to find a right fit for anyone. These pitfalls can become harmful to anyone who’s striving to get help and these are all things I wish more therapists would pay special attention to. However, being a part of a community that is so highly stigmatized in the therapeutic world leads me to more succeptability of being hurt in the first place.
My wish is that in the future, more therapists will be properly trained and people like us will be believed to be real instead of made up. Until then, I’ll continue to speak on better ways to support people like us.
If you’re a mental health professional and would like to speak to someone with lived experience, we offer consultation and would love to work with you.
Until next time,