online conference transcript
Paula McHugh is our guest speaker. She is a licensed therapist who has been working with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) clients for the last 10 years.
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com.
Our conference tonight is on Dissociative Identity Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder. We'll be discussing "Whether to Integrate Personalities or Not To Integrate" and other DID, MPD issues.
Our guest tonight is Paula McHugh. Ms. McHugh is a licensed therapist and member of the International Society for the Study of Dissociative Disorders. She has been working with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) clients for the last 10 years. She counsels about 4-6 clients a week. She has helped 2 clients totally integrate, which she says can take anywhere from 4-8 years of consistent therapy to accomplish.
Good Evening, Paula and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being here tonight. I know our audience members have different levels of understanding, so briefly, can you define Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID? Then we'll get into deeper issues.
Paula McHugh: Hello everyone. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a continuum of the ability to back away from stress. It helps people get away from trauma and forget about it. This usually happens in childhood when there is intense abuse, for instance, childhood sexual abuse. The result is a kind of splintered personality, where there is amnesia between people of the same system.
David: Before we also get deeper into the subject, please tell us a bit more about your expertise and experience in working with DID clients.
Paula McHugh: I have worked in this field for 10 years. I learned from my clients and from the experts how to help someone open up communication in the system.
David: What is involved in doing therapy with a DID client?
Paula McHugh: I bumbled around a bit in the beginning because it's a very complex thing and people are hypersensitive to any kind of criticism or rejection because they have seen this too many times before. First, is trust and safety, getting to know each other, then comes communication with alter personalities, if they are ready.
David: And in the type of therapy you practice, what is the end goal?
Paula McHugh: The hardest thing for clients is remembering what happened to them. That is the first goal, and it takes a long time.
There is competition between alters, so it's not easy going for the client, and they have to go slow in the beginning. It's pretty hard getting used to the idea that you're not the only one in the house - so the speak. It kind of freaks people out at first - like someone's watching. They kind of knew it before, but didn't want to know it, if you know what I mean.
They always felt different because people would tell them they were lying about what they did or didn't do. Very confusing things appeared that they knew didn't belong to them. Time gaps where they all of a sudden appear at the beach or somewhere, when the last thing they remember was being in school months or weeks or days before. So at that point, clients know something's wrong - but they don't know what, and they feel ashamed - paranoid, etc.
David: I imagine it must be a pretty scary thing to discover that you have these alters, separate beings so to speak, inside of you. How do people adjust to that or don't they?
Paula McHugh: It takes time. Sometimes they remember things that fit with Multiple Personality Disorder, MPD, and other times they say I'm out of my mind. Of course, I just say - well maybe I am.
The goal in therapy with Dissociative Identity Disorder always changes according to the client's needs.
David: At the top of the conference, I mentioned that you successfully helped clients integrate their alters. From your standpoint, as a therapist, is that your end goal?
Paula McHugh: That used to me my goal before I learned to listen better to my clients. Some people know that they want to integrate, but most people don't want to even talk about it!
I have learned that people change in therapy, alters become more similar - less opposite or different. The increase in communication in the system helps them feel more "together" - like a family. That may be all they want, or it may be all they want for awhile or for years. If it works for them - great!
Integration is not a must - it's a choice. No one can be forced to integrate and, my oh my, don't ever try to force someone with DID to do anything. No one wants to be forced, and they had to put up with people forcing them and abusing them forever, and they're not going to put up with it anymore. I didn't even think I ever tried to control things until one of my clients pointed out subtle things. That's what I mean when I say, I learned.
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