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  • Jan Mcdonald

What is dissociation?

Dissociation refers to a psychological experience characterized by a detachment from one's thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity. During dissociative experiences, individuals may feel as if they are observing themselves from outside their bodies, or they may have a sense of being disconnected from their physical sensations or surroundings. It can involve a temporary loss of connection with one's memories, resulting in gaps in recall or a feeling of being disconnected from one's personal history.

Dissociation can occur as a response to intense stress, trauma, or overwhelming emotions, serving as a defence mechanism to protect the individual from distressing experiences. It's important to note that dissociation can be a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, and its causes and manifestations can vary from person to person.

Therapy can play a crucial role in helping individuals who experience dissociation. Therapy approaches may vary depending on the specific type and severity of dissociation, as well as the individual's unique needs and circumstances. Bottom of Form

As a person-centred counsellor, I would approach dissociation with empathy, acceptance, and a non-judgmental attitude. Here are some ways in which a person-centred counsellor might help someone experiencing dissociation:

  1. Establishing a Safe and Supportive Environment: The counsellor would prioritize creating a safe and trusting therapeutic environment where the person feels comfortable expressing their experiences of dissociation. This would involve providing a space free from judgment, where the individual's feelings and experiences are validated and respected.

  2. Building a Therapeutic Relationship: The counsellor would focus on developing a strong therapeutic alliance with the individual. They would aim to foster a warm and genuine connection, demonstrating unconditional positive regard and empathy towards the person's experiences. This relationship would help create a foundation of trust and encourage open communication.

  3. Facilitating Self-Exploration: The counsellor would support the person in exploring their dissociative experiences, helping them understand the triggers, patterns, and impact of dissociation on their daily life. This may involve a gentle exploration of past traumas or events that may have contributed to dissociative experiences.

  4. Enhancing Self-Awareness: The counsellor would assist the person in developing greater self-awareness regarding their dissociative symptoms, including recognizing the signs and triggers. By gaining a deeper understanding of dissociation, individuals can begin to regain a sense of control and develop strategies to manage and cope with dissociative episodes.

  5. Encouraging Emotional Expression: Dissociation often involves a disconnection from one's emotions. The counsellor would create a space for the person to express and explore their emotions safely. This may involve helping the individual identify and label their feelings, and encouraging them to express emotions that may have been suppressed or dissociated.

  6. Integration and Self-Integration: The counsellor would support the person in integrating dissociated parts of their self, promoting self-acceptance and self-integration. This process involves acknowledging and working through the experiences and emotions associated with dissociation, helping individuals reconnect with their authentic selves.


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