Ep 14 Understanding Dissociation: A Guide for EMDR Intensive Therapists

Understanding Dissociation: A Guide for EMDR Intensive Therapists

I’m Carolyn Solo, an LCSW EMDR consultant, and today, I want to embark on a journey with you to explore the intriguing world of dissociation.

Over the years, I have worked with many dissociative clients, and so the topic of dissociation has always held a special place in my heart. In episode 14 of my podcast, I delved into the depths of dissociation, shedding light on its connection to mental dysfunction and conditions such as dissociative identity disorder. 

Dissociation, at its core, is a coping mechanism utilized by individuals to survive extreme stress. Picture this: a child enduring sexual or physical abuse, desperately seeking a way to protect their fragile psyche. Dissociation becomes their lifeline, allowing them to separate from the pain and preserve their sense of self. It’s a necessary survival mechanism, often resulting in a freeze response. 

However, when dissociative disorders take hold, they disrupt the normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, emotion perception, body representation, motor control, and behavior.

Now, let’s demystify the symptoms of dissociation. We have positive dissociative symptoms (positive in the sense of something that’s added; not “good”), such as depersonalization, where individuals feel detached from their bodies and emotions. Then, there’s the inability to access information or control mental functions. 

On the other hand, negative dissociative symptoms manifest as an inability to access information or control mental functions. These symptoms can appear in various ways, ranging from rapid movement between personality aspects to multiple episodes of dissociative amnesia. Fascinating, isn’t it?

But here’s the crucial part: Dissociation should not be feared or dismissed. It can be a necessary coping mechanism for many individuals. That’s where EMDR therapy comes into play. As skilled therapists, we must not see dissociation as an automatic rule-out for EMDR. Too many clinicians still believe that dissociative clients cannot engage in EMDR safely. This is not accurate and keeps many clients from being able to access the powerful healing that EMDR can provide.

Instead, we can harness its power to help our clients develop adaptive information and cultivate a sense of co-consciousness, or comfort with their different parts of self. It’s about creating safety, being attuned to our client’s needs, and working within an EMDR case conceptualization frame.

During the treatment of dissociative clients, thorough treatment planning and mapping are essential, as traumatic memories may resurface. We must stay in the preparation phases for an extended period, creating a strong foundation for effective trauma processing. 

The three-phase model of trauma treatment is iterative, with the ultimate goal of reconnecting with a safe, stable, and productive life. We aim to treat dissociative clients with the utmost care and respect, avoiding any harm that may exacerbate their symptoms.

For those in the field, it’s crucial to continue developing our skills and working with complex dissociation cases. Sadly, more resources are needed for this specific area, making it even more vital for us to step up. 

In conclusion, dissociation should not be viewed as an automatic rule-out for EMDR therapy. 

By understanding and addressing dissociation, we can create a safe space for healing, facilitating profound transformations in our clients’ lives. 

If you’re interested in working with me, I do offer a coaching package that gets you up and running with intensives, and in just a single day you’ll make back your investment when you offer your first intensive and also you can use those hours towards certification, the coaching package hours because I’m a consultant. 

If you’re just looking for one off consultation, either about dissociation or for EMDR certification, I offer that as well.