Letter From The President

Reflections on our 2019 Annual Conference

Christine Forner, BA, BSW, MSW

Hello My Fellow ISSTD members,

I am recently home from the annual conference and as I write this, the most vivid feeling I am having is that I feel ‘full’. Full of new knowledge, full of hope from the new connections, full of love for each person I met, and full of new curiosity as new perspectives are presented.

For me these conferences are so much more than yearly learning. One of my favourite things about the annual conference is spending a week with my therapy family. Being surrounded with so many others who experience the world in a similar way to how I experience the world provides me with a deep feeling of communal connection. The community of the ISSTD fills me so that I am re-energized and this energy boost from the support I feel assists me in managing this very challenging work.

Thank you to all those who attended. I heard many times over that this conference is different than other conferences. Many people described to me the joy, heart and connection they felt. We are a scientifically based organization, that also values the heart of our community. If you have never been to a conference I would suggest you look into attending one of our annual conferences in order to relationally connect with others who share similar experience.

This year our current attendee number for the 36th annual conference is 595, but a few numbers are still coming in. This is the largest conference we have had in a while. I am so happy to see the growth. Our membership continues to grow and those of us who have been attending the conferences for a long time, have tangibly noticed that the Student and Emerging Professionals are very eager and engaged. Again, for me, the highlight of this conference was the many hugs and warm welcomes.

This year several themes came to the surface. In our full day Board meeting we reviewed our strategic plan to see if we have met our yearly goals, what we may need to do to if some goals were not met and what would we like to focus the direction that our society should go within the next year or two. I am happy to report that most of our goals for 2018 were met. We have been able to launch a new web site. We have the foundation for a universal way to communicate with each other via Higher Logic. We have organized and distributed several funds to assist those who are less able to attend the training, through the Goodwin Fund and we were able to support a impactful study by Dr. Simone Reinders. Last year our main goal was to look at what we can do to continue to bring the society into the mainstream. By making our trainings and other education material more accessible and by focusing our attention in areas that we typically have not focused on, we seem to have continued the trend of informing the wider therapeutic and scientific community about what we have to offer

This year we all, individually, brought to the collective of the Board the observation that we need to conceptualize ourselves in a much larger context. It was interesting to hear the notion, time and time again, that we need to move towards doing what we can to influence larger systems, such as public policies. Our Public Policy Task Force continues to grow and conceptualize a plan to move forward. It will be interesting how this group pulls together to develop a plan, tasks and goals to bring the plan into fruition.

The other major area that is taking form is how we develop our cultural diversity. A quote I heard in the Town Hall meeting was “There needs to be more ‘I’ (International) in the ISSTD”. A few of our newer members were so helpful in guiding us into this broader perspective. In the next few months the Board will be setting up a plan to better organize our committees and update our policies and procedures to reflect the changes that will be needed to move the ISSTD into the next decade. A large part of this goal is to add in cultural awareness and a deeper level of inclusivity.

I am looking forward to the impact that this conference will have on ISSTD and all of us as individual practitioners. I am excited to welcome our new members, and our new volunteers. Your vision, excitement, your passion and your dedication to the ISSTD is what fosters the special community that is found here.

News You Can Use

News You Can Use

Kate McMaugh, Editor, ISSTD News

Psychosis Trauma and Dissociation: Revised second edition
now available

Psychosis Trauma and Dissociation: Evolving Perspectives on Severe Psychopathology is a key text in the field, exploring the complex interface between psychosis, trauma and dissociation. The original edition, no doubt one many of us have on our bookshelves, is now over ten years old and the editors Andrew Moskowitz, Martin Dorahy and Ingo Schafer have updated and expanded the text in this second edition, released this month.
The editors, leaders in the field and prominent members of ISSTD and ESTD, have collaborated with more than fifty other experts from around the world, to explore historical, empirical, theoretical and clinical perspectives. The second edition is a testament to the considerable gains and expanding knowledge in the field since the first edition was published in 2008.

The book is divided into three broad parts: Historical and Conceptual Perspectives, Research Perspectives and Clinical Perspectives, each containing eight to ten thoughtful and scholarly chapters, including nine new chapters.

Many ISSTD Members feature as authors of the chapters including Onno van der Hart, Warwick Middleton, Elizabeth Howell, Colin Ross, Vedat Şar, Bethany Brand, Marlene Steinberg, Ruth Blizard, Valerie Sinason and more, making this another worthy inclusion into our News You Can Use update.

The revised edition is now available for purchase at Wiley Books and Amazon. Remember to use your Amazon Smiles to raise money for ISSTD!

A trauma informed approach to mental health care in Australia

Humanising Mental Health Care in Australia: A Guide to Trauma-informed Approaches has just been published by Routledge. This impressive collection of writings, edited by Australian clinicians Richard Benjamin, Joan Haliburn, Serena King promises to be significant, not just for Australia, but for others around the world.
It outlines the trauma-informed approaches necessary to provide a more compassionate model of care for those who experience a mental illness. The comprehensive book is divided into four parts:

  • theory, constructs and effects of abuse and trauma;
  • the effects of abuse and trauma on specific populations;
  • therapy approaches; and
  • broader organisational perspectives.

Many members of ISSTD have been instrumental in the development of the book. One of the editorial team, Joan Haliburn has been an active member of ISSTD for many years, including serving on our Board and co-chairing our Bookclub.

To highlight just a few chapters written by ISSTD members:

  • President of the Blue Knot Foundation Cathy Kezelman: Childhood Trauma – The Long-Term Impact and the Human Cost
  • ISSTD Fellow and Past President Warwick Middleton: Incest That Continues into Adult Life
  • ISSTD Fellows Christine A Courtois and Julian D Ford: Sequenced Relationship-Based Treatment for Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders
  • Joan Haliburn: Trauma-Informed Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – A Brief History and Contemporary Application
  • Head of Research at the Blue Knot Foundation, Pam Stavropoulos: The Principles of Trauma-Informed Care and The Need for Cultural and Organisational Change
  • Australian researcher Mary-Anne Kate and former ISSTD President Martin Dorahy co-author a chapter entitled: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Developmental Trauma Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and the Dissociative Disorders

The book has been well-received by experts in child trauma with Dr Peggy Brown, AO and former CEO of the National Mental Health Commission stating that:

“Every mental health clinician and health policy maker and administrator in the country should read Humanising Mental Health Care in Australia … No matter what your background, if you are interested in how to improve the delivery of compassionate mental health care, I guarantee you will find true `pearls of wisdom’ in this book.”

And the Peter McClellan, AM, QC, well respected for his role as Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, further endorses the book:

“The learning from this book will also enable others to develop a greater understanding of the appropriate approach to the treatment of people suffering complex trauma.”

The book is available here.

~ Advanced notice ~
DAVID CAUL GRADUATE RESEARCH GRANT

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is pleased to provide advanced notice of the David Caul Graduate Research Grant. This grant is designed to support research that is primarily concerned with dissociation or closely related topics. Graduate students (in a Masters, PsyD, or PhD program) and undergraduate honors students are eligible to apply for grants up to $1500. Postdocs are not eligible for the Caul award. Please note that grants for projects less than $1500 are also encouraged.

Application materials will be available through the grant webpage from April 15 to May 20, 2019. Further information will be provided before the submission window opens. Enquiries can be directed to: Dr. Judith Daniels (j.k.daniels@rug.nl).

Welcome ISSTD’s New Members in March!

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERS
Gella Asovski
Brenda Beardsley
Maria Paola Boldrini
Therese Byrne
Ermanno Carrara
Malia Gallegos
Suzanne Garber
Temperance Johnson
Shelley Jordan
Lily Kim
Adam Meiselman
Lisa Morris
Barton Sloan
Elise St Andre
Frank Bellaiche
Caitlin Buon
Kay Johnson
HeaKyung Kwon
Timothy Latsko
Ashley Macpherson
Daniel Smith
Annie Southern
Heather Whittall
Olga Winkler
EMERGING PROFESSIONAL MEMBERS
Patricia Adams
Anna Exckhardt
Katherine FOrbes-Pitt
Jillian Kuhn
Jayme Wise
Eitan Zerykier
Jessica Attas
Naomi Azar
Mark Blockus
Patricia Dallacroce
Stephanie Mitchell
J Righter
Karen Williams
STUDENT MEMBERS
Linda Giammona
Jennifer Howells
Mary Montelongo
Ryan Strosser
Sowmya Yeturo
Olga Klepackova
Sarinda Newell
Kelly Pattison

Do You Have News ISSTD Members Can Use?
We need your help to make NYCU a great feature, full of news and sharing the activities of our community members.

Do you have a book or book chapter coming out that you wish to share? Have you received an award for your work in the field? Have you been part of developing a new website or training course? Have you had a chance to develop something creative and unique that you wish to share with others in the field? If so, we want to hear from you! Don’t be shy, submit your news to us so that we can share with other members. (Please be aware: we do not offer book reviews, but a chance to share with others that your book has been published.)

Submission Deadline: 20th of the month
Send to ISSTD Editor, Kate McMaugh: katemcmaughpsychology@gmail.com

Clinical E-Journal

JTD & Frontiers Table of Contents (March 2019)

Journal of Trauma & Dissociation

Check out the entire library online of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation – your member benefit – now!

Table of Contents
Volume 20, Issue 1
Volume 20, Issue 2
Volume 19, Issue 3
Volume 19, Issue 4
Volume 19, Issue 5

Are you interested in auto publication alerts?
To set up a quick and each way to get a ‘new content alerts’ for JTD, go to the JTD page at Taylor & Francis and click the ‘Alert me’ button under the graphic of the JTD.

For full access to the entire library of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation (your member benefit) visit the Member Resources page of ISSTDWorld. Need help to access? Call ISSTD Headquarters at 202-803-6332, or email info@isst-d.org for assistance.

Frontiers in the Psychotherapy of Trauma & Dissociation

Table of Contents

2019

  • The First Individual with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) That One Knowingly Diagnoses and Treats (Warwick Middleton, MB, BS, FRANCZP, MD)
  • Envisioning and Embodying Empowerment in Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Case Illustrating the Two-Part Film Technique (Sarah Y Krakauer, PsyD)
  • Editorial: How are Memories of Entrapment in Abuse Born? (Andreas Laddis, MD)
  • Commentary: Therapeutic Neutrality, Ritual Abuse, and Maladaptive Daydreaming (Alison Miller, PhD)
  • Rejoinder: Maladaptive Daydreaming and Therapeutic Neutrality (Colin a Ross, MD)
  • Commentary: On Dissociative Identity Disorder and Maladaptive Daydreaming (Eli Somer, PhD)
  • Rejoinder: Maladaptive Daydreaming and Dissociation: Both a Continuum and a Taxon (Colin A Ross, MD)
  • Commentary: Understanding Reports of Satanic Ritual Abuse (Warwick Middleton, MB, BS, FRANZCP, MD)
  • Commentary: Truth and Neutrality in the Treatment of Extreme Abuse (Michael Salter, PhD)

2018

  • From Proximity Seeking to Relationship Seeking: Working Towards Separation from the “Scaregivers” (Orit Badouk Epstein)
  • The Relationship of Mental Telepathy to Trauma and Dissociation (Sharon K Farber, PhD)
  • A Simple Algorithm for Medication of Patients with Complex Trauma-Related Disorder (Andreas Laddis, MD)
  • Healing Emotional Affective Responses to Trauma (HEART): A Christian Model of Working with Trauma (Benjamin B Keyes, PhD, EdD)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in Complex Trauma and Dissociation: Reflections on Safety, Efficacy and the Need for Adapting Procedures (Anabel González, MD, PhD)
  • Cross-Cultural Trauma Work With a Tribal Missionary: A Case Study (Heather Davediuk Gingrich, PhD)
  • The Potential Relevance of Maladaptive Daydreaming in the Treatment of Dissociative Disorder in Persons with Ritual Abuse and Complex Inner Worlds (Colin A. Ross, M.D.)
  • Neuroaffective Embodied Self Therapy (NEST): An Integrative Approach to Case Formulation and EMDR Treatment Planning for Complex Cases (Sandra L. Paulsen, Ph.D.)
  • The Case of the Shaking Legs: Somatoform Dissociation and Spiritual Struggles (Alfonso Martinez-Taboas, Ph.D.)
  • Treatment Outcomes Across Ten Months of Combined Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment In a Traumatized and Dissociative Patient Group (Colin A. Ross, M.D., Caitlin Goode, M.S., and Elizabeth Schroeder, B.A.)
  • Maladaptive Daydreaming: Ontological Analysis, Treatment Rationale; a Pilot Case Report (Eli Somer, Ph.D.)

2017

  • Editorial: How Close Encounters of the Completely Unanticipated Kind Led Me to Becoming Co-Editor of Frontiers (A. Steven Frankel, Ph.D., J.D.)
  • Editorial: Sources for Psychotherapy’s Improvement and Criteria for Psychotherapy’s Efficacy (Andreas Laddis, M.D.)
  • Trying to Keep It Real: My Experience in Developing Clinical Approaches to the Treatment of DID (Richard P. Kluft, M.D., Ph.D.)
  • Expanding our Toolkit through Collaboration: DIR/Floortime and Dissociation-Informed Trauma Therapy for Children (Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D. and Chevy Schwartz Lapin, MA)
  • From Passion to Action: A Synopsis of the Theory and Practice of Enactive Trauma Therapy (Ellert R.S. Nijenhuis, Ph.D.)

Please note that Frontiers has moved to the Member Resources area of ISSTDWorld. You must be logged in as a member in order to view the articles. To access please log in to isstdworld.isst-d.org using your member credentials. Once you are logged in, click on the Member Resources tab in the navigation bar at the top of the page. The archive will be located under the Publications section of this page. For questions or assistance please contact ISSTD Headquarters at info@isst-d.org

2019 Annual Conference

And More on the 2019 ISSTD Awards

In addition to the awards already discussed, the following Awards were made at the Annual Conference.

Bethany Brand

Morton Prince Award
The Morton Prince Award is given to an individual who has made outstanding cumulative contributions to research in the area of dissociative disorders. This year’s recipient is Dr Bethany Brand. Bethany, a Professor at Towson University in Maryland, USA, conducts research in four areas: treatment of dissociative disorders (TOP DD studies); methods for distinguishing dissociative disorders from malingering; investigating the trauma vs. fantasy model of dissociation; and assessing the accuracy of textbooks’ information about trauma. In her private practice, she treats complex trauma patients and serves as an expert witness in trauma-related cases. Bethany is being recognized for her outstanding work on the TOP DD Network program. This program contributes to cutting edge research, provides valuable education to therapists, and provides a resource for clients to better understand how to stabilize and address their symptoms.

Pierre Janet Writing Award

Paul F Dell

This award is given to an individual for the best clinical, theoretical or research paper in the field of dissociative and/or trauma within the past year. This year’s recipient is Paul F Dell for “Reconsidering the Autohypnotic Model of the Dissociative Disorders”

 

 

Daniel Schechter

Sandor Ferenczi Award
The Sandor Ferenczi Award is given for the best published work in the realm of psychoanalysis related to trauma and dissociation in adults and/or children. This year’s recipient is Daniel S Schechter, MD, for the article “On Traumatically Skewed Intersubjectivity” in the journal Psychoanalytic Inquiry.

 

David Caul Award

Mary-Anne Kate

The David Caul Memorial Award is given for the best published or non-published paper, thesis, or conference abstract written by a resident or trainee in the field of dissociation and/or trauma. This year’s recipient is Mary-Anne Kate for her doctoral thesis “The Prevalence of Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders, and Trauma and Parent-child Dynamics as Etiological Factors: Implications for the Validity of the Trauma Model and Fantasy Model of Dissociation.”

 

Fran Waters

Cornelia B Wilbur Award
The Cornelia B. Wilbur Award is given to an individual for outstanding clinical contributions to the treatment of dissociative disorders. This year’s recipient is Frances S. Waters, DCSW.

 

Fran is a past President of ISSTD and has served on many committees with ISSTD, including currently as co-chair of ISSTD’s Child & Adolescent Committee, and Faculty Director of the Child & Adolescent Course in the ISSTD Professional Training Program. She also serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, contributing guest editor for the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, and on the national Advisory Board of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. She is author of Healing the Fractured Child: Diagnosing and Treating Dissociative Youth. This book contains comprehensive material on the assessment and treatment of dissociative children. She maintains a private practice in Marquette, MI.

 

Robert Muller

The Media Award (Written)
The Media Awards are given to an individual or organization for the best-written media (e.g., books, newspapers) and best audio-visual media (e.g., films, television, videos) that deal with dissociation and/or trauma.

The Media Award (Written) for 2019 is being awarded to two individuals this year. This award goes to:
Robert T Muller, PhD for Trauma and the Struggle to Open Up: From Avoidance to Recovery and Growth. This book provides the reader a walkthrough of the ups and downs of the therapeutic relationship with trauma therapy clients, highlighting relational tools and attachment theory.

Tracey Shelton

The Media Award (Written) is also being award to Tracey Shelton, an Investigative Journalist in Australia, for detailed reporting on complex trauma, including the phenomena of ongoing incestuous abuse during adulthood.

Media Awards (Audio Visual)
The recipient of this year’s Media Award for Audio Visual is A&E Network and Renegade 83, for the production of the documentary series The Many Sides of Jane. Also being recognized for their work on this project are: Elaine Frontain Bryant, Brad Abramson, Shelly Tatro, and Rachel Deel from A&E, as well as David Garfinkle, Jay Renfroe, Martin Cutler, Rebekah Fry, Lauralee Rausch, and Kevin Burke from Renegade. Outside of the production, we would also like to recognize Christopher Waters, PhD, Jane’s primary therapist, Richard Chefetz, MD, an ISSTD Member who served as a consultant for the show, and Jane Hart.

Richard Kluft Best Article:
In 2014 the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation publisher, Taylor and Francis established the Richard P. Kluft Award for Best Article. This year’s winner is: Ariel J. Lang & Maria A. Gartstein (2018) Intergenerational transmission of traumatization: Theoretical framework and implications for prevention, published in the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation

This paper has a strong potential to advance clinical reasoning and research related to prevention of intergenerational transmission of traumatization by providing a well-founded, easily tested theoretical framework. The authors diagram both the phenomenon itself and how it might be altered with perinatal interventions. Their recommendation that clinicians couple PTSD treatment with parent-child interaction training follows well from the theory and could prevent at risk children from being abused.

Poster Award Winners Kristina Cordeiro and Meghan Oliver

Poster Award
Each year an award is given to the best poster display, based on both the clinical and research excellence of the poster as well as the visual and aesthetic presentation of the poster. The award winning poster was developed by Kristina Cordeiro and Meghan Oliver and is entitled: Clinical Applications of the Adult Attachment Interview: Findings from a Group Randomisation Study

2019 Annual Conference

ISSTD Annual Awards

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Dr Lynette S Danylchuk, PhD

The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest recognition given to an individual or individuals who have contributed over a generous span of time to the field of dissociation and/or trauma and the ISSTD. This year the award went to Lynette Danylchuk and Ira Brenner.

Dr Lynette S Danylchuk, PhD
Lynette has been working in the trauma field since mid-80, starting with Vietnam Vets and people with DID. She served 12 years on the original Board of Directors of Survivorship, and then worked for the Board of the Star Foundation for several more years. She continues to be active in private practice, in teaching and in providing consultations to other professionals.

Lynette has been an active society member since 1996. She has volunteered countless hours in support of the ISSTD and her care, warmth and energy is well known to most of us. She has worn the hat of ISSTD President, Board Member, PTP Program Chair, Volunteer Chair, and Chair of the UN Task Force, among others. She has chaired the Volunteer Committee, and the Professional Training Program. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors, the Conference Committee, the PTP Task Force, the EMDR/PTP Task Force, and Chair of Certificate Program Committee, and the UN Task Force.

Professor Ira Brenner, MD
Ira is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia where he was formerly the Director of the Adult Psychotherapy Training Program. Ira is currently in private practice with a special interest in psychological trauma. He lectures across the country and internationally, and has authored over 90 publications, including five books.

When it comes to the world of organized psychoanalysis, Ira, who is both a child and adult analyst, and a training and supervision analyst, is the preeminent voice for the sophisticated study of dissociation and trauma. He addresses the major national and international meetings, psychoanalytic and otherwise, and teaches world-wide on a regular basis on the subjects of trauma, dissociation, disaster psychiatry, transgenerational trauma, and psychoanalytic studies on genocide and ethnic and international conflicts. Ira was unable to be at the conference to receive the award.

Distinguished Achievement Awards

The Distinguished Achievement Award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves within the ISSTD.

Dr Marilyn Korzekwa, MD, FRCPC
Marilyn completed medicine at the University of Toronto in 1982 and psychiatry at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1986, where she is an associate professor (part-time). She has published in the area of dissociation and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She has completed both levels of training in DBT, EMDR and Lifespan Integration.

Andreas Laddis and Marilyn Korzekwa

She is a fellow of the ISSTD and has been a member since 1992. She has been on ISSTD’s scientific committee since 2011. Marilyn essentially formed and then chaired the ISSTD Webinar Committee, which she has led as Chair since 2015. Working with headquarters staff, her collaborative efforts and organisational skills have transformed the ISSTD Webinar program to offer well-scheduled regular webinars covering a large range of topics and greatly improving the profitability of this program. Currently she is devoting her time to the committee that is developing the curriculum for ISSTD’s EMDR course.

Dr Andreas Laddis, MD
Andreas is a general psychiatrist, with a fellowship in neurology. He has drawn his professional satisfaction mainly from psychotherapy for patients with trauma-related disorders, which began with his psychiatric training at the Sheppard-Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland. For many years later, he has cultivated the practice of psychotherapy in government-sponsored psychiatric agencies, mainly in community mental health centers.

Andreas has led the development and solidification of the ISSTD’s clinical E-Journal, Frontiers in the Psychotherapy of Trauma and Dissociation, and is now the sole editor. He has generously dedicated many, many hours to the development of this important publication, drawing on his clinical connections to have articles in the E-Journal on a monthly basis. Through his hard work is the reputation of Frontiers is building.

The President’s Award

Sandra Baita and Andrea Calleja with Awards Show Hosts and ISSTD President Christine Forner

The President’s Award is given to an individual, or individuals, who have given outstanding service to the Society.

 

Sandra Baita, Andrea Calleja, and Mariana Graña
Sandra, Andrea and Mariana have been honoured for their work in translating course materials for ISSTD Child and Adolescent Professional Training course into Spanish. Their work has allowed us to provide trainings to more international students in their native language and ensure that this Society remains a true International resource. The first offering of the new Spanish Child and Adolescent course was wildly successful with nearly 40 participants from around the world.

Karen Hopenwasser

 

 

Dr. Karen Hopenwasser, MD
Karen has also been honoured for working to ensure ISSTD has an international voice. Karen serves tirelessly as ISSTD’s representative at the United Nations. Karen’s work as the ISSTD representative to the NGO Committee on Mental Health has been instrumental in expanding ISSTD’s reach and recognition, enabling the Society to continue to grow and educate the international community on complex trauma and dissociative disorders.

And Introducing our New Fellows

Each Year at the Annual Conference ISSTD awards some members the status of Fellow. To be considered for ISSTD Fellow status, a person must have at least five years’ membership in ISSTD and must present evidence of outstanding contributions to the field of dissociation in two or more of the required categories. This year the Award Recipients are:

Dr Ericha Hitchcock Scott, PhD, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
Ericha has 34 years of experience in the trauma and dissociation field. Her research and clinical work has been published in book chapters and peer review journals in the United States and abroad. She is also an award winning addiction and trauma therapist and artist. She has been recognized for her decades of dedication to the field of trauma and dissociation, as well as her continued efforts to further the mission of the ISSTD through workshops, including presentations at ISSTD Annual and Regional Conferences.

Dr Heather Hall, MD
Heather is a board certified adult psychiatrist, practicing in Northern California. Before establishing her private practice, she was an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF and then UC Davis. She is currently on the board of directors of the ISSTD and specializes in the treatment of complex trauma.

Heather is being recognized for her service on the Board of Directors and the Annual Conference Committee, as well as the Public Health Task Force. Her continued devotion to diversity and inclusion is invaluable to ISSTD, and her dedication to advancing the fields of trauma and dissociation is outstanding.

Our new Fellows: Sandra Bouabjian, Rochelle Sharpe Lohrasbe, Garrett Deckel, D Michael Coy, Heather Hall, and Ericha Scott

D. Michael Coy, MA, LICSW
Michael is a clinical social worker in private practice, whose treatment interests include pre-verbal and attachment trauma/wounding, addictions/compulsions, and complex trauma and the dissociative disorders. He is also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant. In 2017 Michael began collaborating with ISSTD member Jennifer Madere and Multidimensional Inventory of Dissociation developer Paul F. Dell, PhD, in 2016 to overhaul the MID Analysis and MID Manual.

Michael is being recognized for his tireless work to advocate for the fields of trauma and dissociation, and his willingness to put his time and effort into ensuring that ISSTD continues to be at the forefront of the field, both in treatment modalities and technology. He currently serves as our Treasurer and Webmaster and is Co-chair of its EMDR Therapy Training Task Group, which is in the midst of developing ISSTD’s own, home-grown EMDR basic training.

Dr Garrett Deckel, MD, PhD
Garrett is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, where she teaches psychiatric residents in the areas of Complex PTSD and Dissociation. She is also currently in private practice in Manhattan and White Plains. She frequently gives invited talks, lectures and interviews on Trauma and Dissociative Disorders.

Garrett is being recognized for her continued dedication to ISSTD in her various volunteer roles, including the inception and organization of this year’s inaugural Psychiatric Resident’s Track at the annual conference. Garrett also serves on the ISSTD Conference Committee, is a Moderator for the ISSTD Book Club, and has presented at ISSTD Regional Seminars.

Dr Rochelle Sharpe Lohrasbe, PhD
Rochelle has over 30 years of clinical experience in the areas of post-traumatic stress, attachment trauma and developmental wounding. In addition to clinical practice, Dr. Sharpe Lohrasbe teaches regionally, nationally and internationally as a faculty member at the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. She provides consultation services for clinical cases, educational design and organizational support in Canada and abroad. Rochelle has presented at EMDR and Trauma and Dissociation conferences, including the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Her approach to mental health and well-being incorporates a keen interest in Integrative Mental Health, drawing on a strengths-based approach and guided by cross discipline research in neurobiology, neuropsychoimmunology, philosophy, integrative medicine, psychology and the social sciences.

Rochelle is being recognized for her contribution to the world of trauma informed education. Rochelle has educated and trained practitioners on almost every continent regarding trauma, complex trauma, and dissociation. Rochelle is part of the ISSTD/EMDR training group and has been part of the ISSTD pre-conference training for many years. Rochelle’s unique ability to assist practitioners in understanding the sensory impact of trauma on the body has helped many thousands of people recover from their trauma wounds.

Sandra Bouabjian, MA
Sandra is a licensed psychologist with a Masters in Counselling Psychology from McGill University and is in private practice in Montreal. Sandra has been an active member of the Montreal Study group in Trauma and Dissociation for over 15 years and contributes as both an organizer and a member of the group. In addition, she offers consultation and supervision to other mental health professionals working with these challenging clients. Sandra has also been teaching in ISSTD’s Professional Training Program for several years and is currently the Chair-elect of the PTP Committee.

Dr. Jan Ewing, PhD
Jan is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society (FAPS), with specialist endorsements in both

Jan Ewing

clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology. She has specialised for over thirty years in the medico-legal evaluation of closed head injury and the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic syndromes, particularly those relating to military service and childhood maltreatment. In addition to private practice, she lectures widely on the neurobiology and treatment of psychological trauma across the lifespan and the assessment of feigning and exaggeration in clinical and medicolegal practice. Jan has been providing training on the assessment and treatment of dissociative disorder in Australia for many years. She has been a member of the ISSTD for many years and was on the 2015 Sydney regional ISSTD conference committee. She also presented an invited workshop on the treatment of complex trauma and dissociative disorders at the Brisbane regional ISSTD conference in 2017 and the hugely successful Hobart regional conference in 2018. Jan was unable to be at the conference to receive her award.

 

 

2019 Annual Conference

2019 Annual Conference Recap: A Story in Pictures

Kate McMaugh, Editor, ISSTD News

(Pictures by Warwick Middleton and Tally Tripp)

The ISSTD 36th Annual Conference in New York covered a wonderful five days, including the pre-conference and main conference as well as post conference workshops.

Attended by almost 600 people, this was the largest annual conference for quite a few years. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. As a first-time attendee, I was touched by the welcome I received from other members. As a Society our kindness, generosity and welcome was just as much on display as our scientific and clinical expertise.


A great deal of thanks must go to our Conference Committee, conference volunteers and Mary Pat and Bethany at Headquarters for all the work they put into this amazing event.

We are also indebted to Past President Professor Warwick Middleton, MD, for his excellent documentation of our conference through photographs. I invite you all to look through this pictorial record of our conference and in the month ahead we will post more articles about the conference. During April pop onto the ISSTD News site to check out the articles.

Trauma & Dissociation in the News

Organized Abuser Groups’ Use of Supernatural Powers to Intimidate Victims

Dr. Alison Miller, PhD

Humanity’s belief in a God, or gods, and other spiritual powers, is as old as our species. Contestants on Jeopardy produce the names of gods and demons from multiple ancient cultures. Every possible human characteristic is attributed to these divine beings, from goodness and love to malignant hatred to stern judgment and punishment for offenders.

And the idea of these beings watching the lives and behaviors, even thoughts, of lesser beings like ourselves has permeated popular culture to the extent that we even make them up now: Santa Claus, according to the song, “sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good, for goodness’ sake.” Even though adults acknowledge Mr. Claus to be a myth, we still strike fear into our children through this song. Perhaps Santa is a replacement for the “cosmic policeman” God about which J.B. Phillips wrote almost seventy years ago in “Your God is Too Small” (Phillips, 1952).

Organized groups who sexually abuse children have been quick to take advantage of these belief systems. The implied spiritual power of Roman Catholic priests has intimidated those who have tried to speak out against those who are abusers, delaying the revelations which are now shocking the world.

The implied involvement of spiritual entities in abuse ranges from: “God meant us to be together” (allegedly spoken by music superstar Michael Jackson to his victim Wade Robson); to a cult leader calling himself “God”; to “Satan’s eye is always watching you”, a common message of ritually abusive perpetrators to the children they abuse (reinforced by pictures of this all-seeing Eye.)

There is nothing like an invisible, omniscient and omnipotent watcher, with a capacity for severe punishment, to intimidate a child into loyalty and silence.

Abuse in the Catholic church is currently at the forefront of our news, but the misuse of religion in child abuse is not just a Christian problem. For example, some branches of Hinduism have had a practice of young girls in a role of temple prostitutes (Shingal, 2015).

A recent U.S. study of forensic interviews in child sexual abuse cases revealed the use of religion to justify abuse and silence children in many different religious groups (Tishelman, A.C. & Fontes, L.A. 2017).

Ritually abusive groups take this a step farther. They “educate” children with books and films about the demonic. They set up staged scenarios in which costumed abusers impersonate the beings of Western Christianity, including God, angels, Satan and demons. They also impersonate beings from other traditions, including Egyptian and Norse deities and even made-up ones such as “Lady Luck.” They dress children up as “little demons” and teach them how to behave as demons, resulting in alter personalities who believe themselves to be demons. Whether they are genuine Satanists and Luciferians (who do exist, and have organized networks), or secular pedophile rings using religious trappings to intimidate the children makes no difference. The purposes of such impersonation include devastating a child’s self-esteem, leading the child to believe s/he is evil and complicit with the abuse, making sure the victims will never talk about the abuse, making pornographic films featuring the apparent occult, and making sure that disclosures will not be believed, as the preposterous trappings make the abuse seem unbelievable (Miller, 2014, 2012).

A young child does not know how to distinguish reality from fantasy or from story: that is why we are able to convince our children that Santa Claus is real. Abuser groups are easily able to convince young children of the reality of the spiritual beings they teach about. And when they deliberately traumatize those young children, parts are split off who remain at that developmental stage and believe all the lies they were taught, resulting in terror and silence. In working with clients who talk about these supposed spiritual realities, we need to be gentle with those young parts, while assisting the older parts of the clients to recognize and unmask the deceptions and develop critical thinking.

References:
Miller, A. (2014). Becoming Yourself: Overcoming Mind Control and Ritual Abuse. London: Karnac. Chapter 20.

Miller, A. (2012). Healing the Unimaginable: Treating Ritual Abuse and Mind Control. London: Karnac. Chapters 5, 7 and 15.

Phillips, J.B. (1952). Your God Is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike. London: Epworth Press. (Book now republished in many editions.)

Shingal, A. (2015) The Devadasi System: Temple Prostitution in India, UCLA Women’s Law Journal, Vol.22(1), pp.107-123

Tishelman, A.C. & Fontes, L.A. (2017). Religion in child sexual abuse forensic interviews. Child Abuse & Neglect, 63, 120-130.

Trauma & Dissociation in the News

Abuse Within a Faith Context

Dr. Valerie Sinason, PhD

“Spiritual abuse is the use or misuse of a position of power, leadership or control in which a child or adult is made to feel that they, their families or those they love are doomed in this life and in an after-life if they do not follow unquestioningly what they are asked to say or do”.
– 
Valerie Sinason and Asha-Kin Aduale June 2008
Safeguarding London Families

On Jan 14th, 2015, I gave a speech at a packed meeting in the House of Commons in London. It was a meeting convened by the Whiteflowers campaign to support victims and survivors of institutional abuse under the auspices of Members of Parliament (MPs) John Mann and Sarah Champion (from Rotherham). Amidst the pride and anger many survivors felt, several left in tears, triggered deeply.

“Can you imagine?”, said one woman. “I was abused by an MP and told no one would believe me as he was so important and powerful. And there I was standing in the place that gave him his power, the heart of British democracy and power. Right inside the Houses of Parliament. It is the hardest thing I have done. Do you know, I could not even vote for the last few elections”.

As we all know, the impact of betrayal and trauma does not stop with a physical or sexual act. Everything connected plays its part. For John, aged 9, abused by the Headmaster of his primary school, an act of rape destroyed all belief in education and adult authority for the next thirty years.

For May, aged 15, incest from her father from 5-12 had destroyed her belief in loving families:

“My social worker keeps saying I was a victim of “child abuse” because she cannot bear the idea of incest. How can I get married or have a baby? Mother. Father. The words are full of horror.”

I have deliberately started with secular examples to help us think of how hope and trust in authority is eroded when sexual crimes are perpetrated by attachment figures who have authority and power.

However, from my clinical sample, the level of terror increases with the actual world-power of the abuser. What, then, is the impact of abuse when it is within the context of belief that involves this world and next world power?

“To me he was God.”, said one 50 year old man, weeping for his child self. “Pleasing him was my pathway to heaven and a promise of safe passage for my mother and brothers. Without his love I and my family were condemned to hell “.

All around our countries are Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples and smaller places of worship. For those who frequent them, they are not just earthly places of emotional attachment, linking children and adults in shared spiritual and social values, but also a conduit to eternity. A child who receives loving, wise and shame-free support from a religious figure gains something incalculable. A child who is emotionally, sexually, physically or spiritually abused by a religious leader has lost something hard to express.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Leader of the Muslim Parliament in the UK, has highlighted the vulnerability of 100,000 Muslim children in mosque schools because of a lack of safeguarding police. (Siddiqui, 2006).

Dr Alison Feit of the Jewish Centre for Trauma and Recovery has commented:

“For too long family and communal concerns have been prioritised over the needs of the victims. A culture of silence followed by communal neglect, has compounded the survivor’s initial trauma with a lasting sense of betrayal.” (Feit, 2015).

It was only in 2009 that the Ryan report revealed the extent of ritualistic abuse and humiliation of Irish children at the hands of nuns and priests. (Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009).

Of current interest is the news that on December 11th, 2018 a jury in Melbourne, Australia unanimously convicted Cardinal Pell of child abuse. He will appeal his conviction, but at the moment, as the third most powerful figure in the Vatican and the Roman Catholic world, he is indeed a fallen Prince and there are repercussions throughout the Catholic and other faith worlds.

Church abuse survivor and founder of NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood), Peter Saunders, commented (personal communication March 6th 2019):

“I think abuse perpetrated by someone purporting to have a special relationship with the Almighty-and most Catholics are firm believers in this-has an added dimension of nastiness”.

Most professionals dealing with abuse within mainstream religious contexts do not think churches and other religious groups can police themselves. A sad problem I have noted is that where a religion is linked to a minority group, there is a fear that court cases will lead to racist attacks. This further deters these organisations from openly responding to allegations of abuse.

Twenty years ago I met a priest who informed me that, until he took international action, a disclosure against a priest was an act of heresy as the priest represented God. It was not heresy to report a nun. I have since met people from many religious backgrounds with the same bias.

To deal with religion and trauma is problematic. I find attachment theory is the most helpful way to deal with this. Where a temporal religious representative has a disorganised attachment to their deity or deities we have shame, blame and punishment and where a religious representative has a secure attachment to their deity or deities we have Gods of love and understanding. In this way it is possible to separate people’s religious beliefs from their temporal religious representatives. This applies to abuse within mainstream religions. With cult groups we have a different task

References
Siddiqui, G (2006). “Breaking the taboo of child abuse”. In Child Protection in Faith-based Environments: A Guideline Report, The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, London.

Feit, A (2011) Understanding and treating sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish World. Conference Paper presented at The Sexual Abuse Service of the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis & Psychology, Sunday, May 22nd, 2011.

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009) Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, Volumes 1-5. Available at: www.childabusecommission.ie.

Trauma & Dissociation in the News

The Conviction of Cardinal George Pell: Recognising the Impacts and Implications

Pam Stavropoulos, PhD

The conviction and sentencing of Australian Cardinal and high-ranked Vatican official George Pell for sexual abuse of two 13 year old choirboys in the mid-1990s is generating a tsunami of media report and debate. In stark contrast to the period prior to delivery of the verdict late last year (when a suppression order in relation to his previous trial precluded media reporting of it in Australia) commentary on the conviction and imprisonment of George Pell has, as we now say, `gone viral’.

This is as it should be. In light of the silence which has long surrounded the topic of child sexual abuse (a silence which the 2013-17 Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse did so much to dispel) a muted response to the conviction of Cardinal George Pell would be a travesty in itself.

His, of course, is no ordinary case. It is entirely appropriate that the attention paid to it is unstinting. But such scrutiny should also be unflinching. And in the early aftermath of response to the Pell conviction there have been notable deflections from some of the hugely challenging issues it raises about the nature of structural, as well as individual, power in our society and the ways in which power is exercised.

This may seem a strange claim to make. Particularly when the enormity of the challenges highlighted by the Pell case is being dissected from multiple angles. But it is precisely because the challenges are so many that they risk being discussed in isolation from one another. When this occurs the connections between them can remain unrecognised.

If the crime of child sexual abuse is to be confronted and responded to effectively, it is imperative that the interrelationship of its enabling components, not just the separate elements, is recognised and addressed. This is more difficult than it might seem when the component parts are themselves complex, and when powerful interests are served by their interconnections remaining obscure.

The immediate aftermath of responses to Pell’s conviction is illustrative. High profile figures have expressed doubt and incredulity. Some media outlets have also publicly and vehemently professed their belief in the Cardinal’s innocence.

Such protestations include those of two former conservative Prime Ministers. One of these former leaders tendered a glowing character reference prior to sentencing, but after the conviction was recorded. The other stated that “we have all made `mistakes’”(cited in Tyeson, 2019).

Support for a friend may be an admirable quality. Yet the fact of the friendship is also itself problematic in the circumstances. And if doubt about a person’s character is not registered in the wake of their conviction for the crime of child sexual abuse, one wonders what would be sufficient grounds for reappraisal. Furthermore, relegation of this crime to the status of a `mistake’ is surely breathtaking.

It was not only former leaders of the government and senior church figures who reflexively and assertively expressed their support for the disgraced Cardinal. Extraordinarily, his defence counsel, Robert Richter QC, immediately declared his belief that there had been a miscarriage of justice, that he was `angry’ about the verdict (cited in Loomes, 2019) and that he lacked the objectivity to lead the forthcoming appeal of it (while retaining sufficient objectivity, apparently, to remain a member of Pell’s legal team).

Such comments risk undermining public confidence in the jury and the legal process of which Richter is a high profile participant. As the forthcoming appeal means that process is not yet complete, this is disquieting to say the least. It is especially so when sections of the public are struggling to assimilate the fact of the conviction and are thus likely to be influenced by the defence counsel’s extraordinary description of the verdict as `perverse’ (cited in Loomes, 2019). The effect on many survivors of the defence counsel’s pronouncement on the verdict does not need to be spelt out.

Richter’s assertion follows his shameful and confounding description of the acts for which Pell was convicted as `no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating’ (Australian Associated Press, 2019).

An apology quickly followed, but the need for that apology remains disturbing. That such comments were merely a graceless and over-enthusiastic defence of his client (which is the light in which Richter’s apology implicitly requested us to regard them), in no way obviates their outrageous inappropriateness. That they could be uttered at all – in any circumstances – is surely the primary objection. That they were expressed in a court of law – the institutional arena in which justice is sought, should be seen to be done, and pursuit of which should not be prejudicial – evokes broader questions about the extent to which child sexual assault is analogous to other crimes with respect to the way in which it is both defended and prosecuted.

With respect to the institution of the Catholic church, its manifest failure to address the child sexual abuse exposed by the Royal Commission as rampant within its ranks – and of which the trial and conviction of Cardinal George Pell is the most dramatic illustration – is now widely critiqued.

But even wide-ranging criticism can deflect attention from aspects of the Church which need to be reflected upon. Distinction is frequently drawn between the institution of the Church in terms of its structure, composition, and administration on one hand, and Catholic doctrine and practice of the faith on the other. In this context, a distinction between Catholicism and clericalism is often also asserted, where the latter describes status and authority within the church (characteristically hierarchical, `top down’, and male) and the former the Catholic faith per se (to which millions of laypeople around the world subscribe and which is widely and increasingly recognised to have much less to do with its institutional expression).

While persuasive to a degree, it might also be asked whether focus on the `institution’ of the Church goes far enough. This is because sole focus on the ‘institution’ – in the more specific and familiar sense of the term – means that the realm of Catholic doctrine is exempt from the questioning that is now being applied to many other aspects of the Church. Whether the epistemology which underpins the Catholic faith should be exempt from this process of critical reflection is a legitimate question to ask. It is also a question which potentially raises deeply challenging issues.

In a recent episode of the radio program `God Forbid’ (ABC, 2019) it was queried whether the prominence accorded forgiveness and compassion for the sinner in Catholic doctrine may serve to deflect from the suffering of the victims (in this case children who are not only damaged in multiple ways by the sin itself, but by the secondary serious trauma of not having been believed). Thus an ostensibly laudatory doctrine may have the corollary of insufficient focus on the magnitude of the suffering caused by the sinner. Equating such acts with `mistakes’, as per the comments of the former conservative Australian Prime Minister who is also Catholic, comes to mind in this context.

To the extent that Catholic doctrine – particularly as it may be applied in relation to the sin of child sexual abuse – may contain a scintilla of even the most indirect succour for perpetration or minimisation of this crime, it surely merits careful analysis from this vantage point.

The significant and singular role of the Catholic priest as conduit and intermediary between God and members of the Catholic congregation (e.g. via performance of sacraments such as Penance and Reconciliation in the form of Confession) also imparts an imprimatur of authority to `God’s representatives’. Historically this has been a further and compounding disincentive not only to the reporting by Catholic laity of sexually abusive `men of the cloth’. It has fuelled disbelief by the wider Catholic congregation that their priests could even be capable of such sins (crimes).

Current reappraisal of the `seal’ of Confession (which precludes disclosure by the priest of sins confided within it) is a potent and disturbing example of the intersection of the doctrinal and institutional aspects of the Catholic Church which do not prioritise the safety of children from the sexual predation of clergy and which need to be revisited as a matter of urgency for this reason.

Each of the issues raised in the above commentary, which by no means exhausts the range of issues to arise in the wake of the conviction and imprisonment of Cardinal George Pell, merits sustained consideration. In combination they raise formidable challenges for the comprehensive reflection in which society as a whole now needs to engage. Not only the church but government, the judiciary and the media are institutions which, while themselves complex and containing internal diversity, can converge in ways which may initially be hard to recognise.

As long as recognition of the points of convergence does not occur, this also deflects attention from interests which enable the crime of child sexual abuse to be widely deplored in words, but undercut in ways which escape scrutiny. Focus on specific issues and institutions is important. But failure to also address their areas of intersection obscures the connections between them which serve to make society-wide addressing of the crime of child sexual abuse less comprehensive than it needs to be.

References

ABC Radio (2019) `How far does the Catholic Church need to reform?’, `God Forbid’, 10 March
https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/godforbid/how-far-does-the-catholic-church-need-to-reform/10878924

Australian Associated Press (2019) `Robert Richter apologises for describing George Pell’s abuse as ‘vanilla sex’ 28 February
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/28/robert-richter-apologises-for-describing-george-pells-abuse-as-vanilla-sex

Chang, C. (2019) `Some people can’t accept Cardinal George Pell is guilty of child sex offences’, 26 February
https://www.news.com.au/national/some-people-cant-accept-cardinal-george-pell-is-guilty-of-child-sex-offences/news-story/d6608a9380f4c036219947fed454b832

Henning, P. (2019) `Pell’ Tasmanian Times, 3 March

Pell

Knaves, C. (2019) `Strength and Sincerity: John Howard’s glowing character reference for George Pell’, The Guardian, 27 February
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/27/tony-abbott-says-george-pell-verdict-is-devastating

Loomes, P. (2019) ‘I am angry’: Pell’s key defence barrister Robert Richter steps back’ 5 March
https://www.news.com.au/national/victoria/courts-law/i-am-angry-pells-key-defence-barrister-robert-richter-quits/news-story/4cfa8039c4ae19720c1f890310b04cd3

‘Perverse’: Barrister Robert Richter won’t lead Cardinal George Pell’s appeal bid’ 2019, 6 March
htps://www.sbs.com.au/news/perverse-barrister-robert-richter-won-t-lead-cardinal-george-pell-s-appeal-bid

Pearson, N. (2019) `Tony Abbott: Pell going through ‘very bad experience’ 4 March
https://www.9news.com.au/2019/03/04/13/34/tony-abbott-george-pell-going-through-very-bad-experience-news

Tyeson, C. (2019) `Shockingly, Tony Abbott Isn’t Readily Accepting the Pell Conviction Either’,
27 February

Shockingly, Tony Abbott Isn’t Readily Accepting The Pell Conviction Either

Trauma & Dissociation in the News

Dissociative Identities Awareness Day

Kate McMaugh, Editor, ISSTD News

Artwork by ISSTD Member Noula Diamantopoulos (https://www.nouladiamantopoulos.com)

March 5 was Dissociative Identities Awareness Day, also known as DID Awareness Day.

I wonder how many of us knew this? I have to admit this Awareness Day has mostly just passed us by in Australia, where I work. As a therapist who spends most of her week with highly dissociative people, I am rather embarrassed to admit that I was not aware of the day until a few weeks ago. It has apparently been around in one form or another for over 20 years! Interestingly I have since had three clients with DID text me to let me know they had also just ‘discovered the day’. Maybe our awareness of the Awareness Day is increasing? (At least Down Under!).

I have been reflecting on the meaning and importance of this day. Why do we have awareness days? Could we, or should we, relate to them in some way as health professionals? Is there a role for ISSTD to promote this day?

And, just how successful are awareness days anyway? We seem to have so many of them. A quick literature search showed that we actually know surprisingly little about the efficacy of awareness days despite their proliferation.

Purtle and Roman (2015) analysed this exact issue in the American Journal of Public Health. They found that quite often these days have poorly defined aims and are often not evaluated. They also contend that they are at risk of placing too much responsibility for health on the individual. However, they do not throw out the idea of health awareness days, but rather suggest that if well planned, using good health promotion principles, they can be effective.

It seems that for our field such a day could be used to good effect. In promoting Dissociative Identity Awareness – we are not at risk of placing responsibility for good health solely on our client group, as we (ISSTD) widely acknowledge the need for therapy. We also know that we work in a field where awareness of dissociative identities is still very low among both clients and health practitioners. We know that there is still mis-information widely promoted including allegations that DID is a result of fantasy or iatrogenesis. These claims may result in a great deal of pain and suffering to clients. Perhaps a little bit of carefully thought-out public awareness raising could go a long way!

Since this is an awareness day it seemed important to consider the perspective of those with lived experience. I asked some of my clients what it meant for them. One woman, a mental health advocate who lives with DID, has spent most of her life in a mental health system that did not recognise or treat her DID. She regards that as a severe secondary trauma. For what she wants out of the day, her focus was on us, the professionals:

“I would like DID awareness day to educate the educators. I would like to see people who work in the mental health sector learn and incorporate tools (for treating DID) and offer more support for people who present into their health systems. Trauma is often compounded by ignorance and misinformation which can sometimes lead to stigma being formed. For many years I have experienced more trauma by people who have little or no understanding of the complexities of struggling to live daily with DID.”

Another client shared with me how she would like the wider community to understand.

“I’d like people to get that it’s not rare- just as child abuse is not rare. And that people with DID are just normal people who utilised a creative strategy to survive what would otherwise not be survivable. I’d like them to understand that it can feel so lonely to not be able to share this because of fear of how someone might react.”

This same client, a small, gentle and softly spoken professional woman went on to say how she shared with one of her closest friends that she had DID and the reaction was not as she had hoped:

“She said she was scared of me… and that’s me! The least looking/behaving scary person there is. How can this be changed?”

As health professionals we spend so much time with people in a deep one-to-one way, that we tend not to focus so much on the bigger picture of the community in which our clients live. However, lack of acceptance from health professionals, being met with fear in the community, or not being able to share important information about yourself with significant others, is actually re-traumatising. Three stage trauma processing emphasises safety as part of stage one. It seems we have a long way to go before the community or health services feel safe for people living with DID. Perhaps this day can go a small way to change that.

What ways can you promote this day or focus on these issues next year?

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