Category Archives: DID Recovery

The BASK Model of Dissociation


Memories can come in layers as I am coming to learn all too well. I used to think that as the alters felt I was ready, they would share the memories in chunks or events as many as was needed for me to fully recover. Now, I’m seeing it’s not nearly that simple. I always knew that we were fragmented to the degree that the emotions were separated into different alters. What I didn’t realize fully was that emotions from each event can be stored in certain alters. As well as body sensations that come forward in the form of body memories that we get all too often and don’t know what they are connected to. In my most recent session with T, we were reminded of the BASK model of dissociation. BASK stands for Behavior, Affect, Sensation, and Knowledge. So, memories can be dissociated into those categories:

  • Behavior: the actions that occurred/what happened
  • Affect: The emotions associated with the event
  • Sensation: the sensations that the body feels/body memories
  • Knowledge: the meaning

I have some memories that are of the Behavior/Actions. I can rattle them off to my T one by one as if it were me talking about someone else. I guess, in many ways it is someone else. Then, I have been having sensation/body memories for years. Those suck because you FEEL the things that the body felt during a particular memory, but you have no freaking idea what happened. I have had the Affect part of it, too, as in my emotions have always been like a roller coaster ride. I would cry at the drop of a hat, or get angry – much more angry than whatever the current event called for, and fear – so much fear about everything. All the feelings are coming from parts of my system that were created to hold them. And lately, terror has begun to surface on a more real level for me. I will blog about another recent dream I had tomorrow. Until then, stay tuned. . . .

My DID Recovery Puzzle


TRIGGER WARNING: hard talk of triggers and recovery – be safe, my friends.

I am starting to see my recovery in a whole new light. Things are making more sense now. For so many years I was so frustrated and upset that therapy was taking so very long. I just wanted my insiders to tell me what they knew so I could deal with it and move on. I figured they would share whatever memories were necessary to share one at a time or something. It is not the way this has worked. I have often heard the analogy of peeling an onion when talking about therapy for someone with DID, yet I didn’t fully realize what it meant. I mean, I saw the analogy as referring to the parts of my DID system and how uncovering and meeting new parts/alters is like peeling the layers of an onion. What I didn’t see was how the memories also will come in layers.

First, I would get a feeling, something would trigger me and I wouldn’t know why. This goes on for quite some time, maybe even years, then the next clue which was maybe a dream near the triggering event would happen. The dream could have symbolism in it – in my case recently, snakes – add to that the knowledge of the recent trigger as well as noticing  specific insiders and their reactions gives me more information. Add to it, the more severe dissociation I have felt from my body within the last week since the trigger is more validation that something is coming to the surface. Today in therapy, I barely felt the couch underneath me. I told my T that it kind of felt like I was just floating above the couch. It was bazaar.

I should give a little update to what has recently happened so folks know where we are. I had a dream years ago that has always stayed with me. I won’t write of the details here because I don’t want to trigger and also because I don’t think I would be able to write that stuff without breaking down. There was a bed/table with a black cover over it in a room – like a bedroom size room. Needless to say, very bad things happened there. Well, when I went to my group therapy meeting one week ago, one of the therapists had left her energy work table up. It looked just like the bed/table in my dream except thankfully the blanket was blue or purple – not black. I was stunned when I saw it. Many of our system stepped back in shock.

Finally a little one, age six years old, steps out in front and points towards the bed/table and says, “What is that?”.

“What?” replied one of the T’s.

“THAT!” the little girl asked again pointing at it.

She said, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to be more specific.”

The little girl could not bring herself to actually say the word bed or table or anything like that so she said, “That thing with the blanket on it.”

The T responded saying that it was her table for doing energy work with clients and she has an early appointment the next day so she left it up for Group.

I felt some other parts come forward when she said that who then noticed the crystals. These parts are very much into things mystical and were immediately drawn. I was frightened as were many of our insiders and so we shoved internally as hard as we could – pushing them deep inside away from the bed/table and crystals. We could not bear it if they were to go over closer to it to look at the crystals.

I went through the Group session with all parts who were triggered safe inside. I’m not sure if they were still frightened, but I have a feeling that they were. I just had to push them deep down for survival’s sake. I could not freak out over a trigger in Group because, well, what would the other group members think of us? “Besides,” another part says to me, “triggers are everywhere and we deal with them all the time. So this one is in Group, same thing, we deal.” But, it’s not just any trigger. It is something that looked exactly like something in my dream years ago where terrible things happened to us. It would almost be the equivalent of seeing one of my perpetrators again.

We made it home and went on with our week dissociated from the trigger, though it eventually did resurface as the image of it came and stayed in the back of my mind. A few nights later, the dreams started coming.

First night, I was on a large bus with a lot of people on it. We were driving through a war zone. There were bombs going off, machine guns being fired, terrible things happening outside that bus. I just sat there watching, sometimes crying so hard but silent so that no one would hear. Sometimes I sat in the floor so I could be alone. I believe this was me catching a glimpse of what it was like growing up in a DID system. Often the bus analogy is used to describe a person’s system who has DID, everyone rides the bus and take turns in the driver’s seat. I had another dream that same night about a boy who had been a victim of war and was found naked with his privates cut or torn off. I saw him and was horrified and had to turn away. I wonder if he is someone in my system as this is how I have met insiders before. In the dream, I think he was dead.

The next night, I dreamed about snakes – so many snakes everywhere that I went. In the past, I have dreamed that there were snakes on the ground and I would fight them or try to get away from them. I was always standing when I encountered the snakes. This time, not only was I standing when I encountered the snakes, there were times when I was lying down. Once a snake crawled over my body and I screamed internally and stayed as frozen as possible for fear that it might bite. Another part of the dream, I went to sleep on the ground and woke up with snakes underneath my body, I could feel them squirming underneath my back. I connected this part of the dream to a feeling that my body has had for years in the mid-back area – a squirming and feeling like something was coming upon me from behind. It is always accompanied with great terror. A connection between a body memory we’ve had for years but never even fully realized it was a body memory and this new snake dream. A new layer is being peeled back. If you have been in therapy for sexual abuse survival, then I imagine you know what a snake can symbolize in dreams. I have always thought that was what it represented in my dreams.

Last night, I had nightmares again. The only thing I can remember is waking up after seeing an extremely scary face in my dream. The face looked crazy in the eyes and had big teeth. It was right up in my face. I woke with a start and was terrified. I got up to go to the restroom. Now, I have many triggers when it comes to the restroom, one being that I cannot go in the dark and I definitely cannot stand at the sink with the mirror there and wash my hands in the dark. It always gives me the terrorized feeling in my back. Last night, I had the light on, but the sensation and fear were so close. This is all somehow connected. Years ago, I recalled in therapy tonight, I also saw scary faces in my sleep. It was when I was in 3rd grade (around) and had gone to church camp with a friend, it was night-time and I woke crying because I kept seeing the crazy, scary faces and they were laughing at me. The camp counselor talked and prayed with me and I slept with my Bible under my pillow to try to help with the nightmares. Interesting about that camp, I actually remember being very dissociated at the time not knowing the people who I shared the dorm with yet seeming to know them at the same time, getting confused and getting people mixed up, etc. This is one of the few memories I actually have of my childhood. Still, it’s more pieces of the puzzle.

In therapy tonight, I was asked if I got an idea of the age range of who was frightened by the bed/table. I got the idea that it was some older kids and that the little girl was the only one brave enough to come out and ask. Still, she was upset and scared, too. The little girl who asked about the bed/table was six years old, but I also got an internal image tonight of one of my four-year-old little girls. I think she is connected to all this somehow. I am beginning to think that this bed/table dream may have been more than just a dream……

DID recovery is like putting together a puzzle without having the picture to go by. Each piece means something even if I have no idea at the time. It’s so complex and therapy is hard work and exhausting. Still, I am happy to have made the realization that we are making progress in that our memory work comes in layers – one piece, one feeling, one trigger at a time. I guess my system knows it is the only way I can manage the information – in tiny pieces – and that’s okay with me.






Multiple Dream


I had a dream last night/this morning that I thought was symbolic. I was on a large bus full of people and was witnessing all kinds of horrific events going on outside the bus. It was a war-like scene outside the bus. At times, I cried very hard, yet silently so that no one would hear me. At times I was terrified. Sometimes I sat in the floor of the bus so that I could be alone. It was while I was sitting on the floor of the bus that I felt my husband’s hand gently touch mine. He hadn’t been there until then and he held my hand which comforted me. To me, after waking, I realize that it was symbolic of my life. Often times a DID system is described with a bus analogy – everyone in the system is on that bus and we take turns in the “driver’s seat” or fronting. I think the dream symbolized my journey in that bus and the very difficult times I have seen or endured. It was touching that along that journey, my husband reached out and took my hand. We are not alone anymore – not that we ever really were. But, having him by our side is extremely comforting.

DID & Shift into Winter Crew


Hi,

Feels like we haven’t written in forever. We have several things going on lately that we want to write about, but for now we are just getting back into the swing of things…..

If you’ve read Summertime Progress in Life & Therapy, then you are familiar with the fact that we have two separate crews in our system, one that is out primarily in the summertime and another that is out in the late fall/winter time. Well, technically there is a third much smaller group that is out year round. Anyway, we are now fully into the winter crew. Mary is back, thankfully, and so housework and organization is getting back on track as is the yummy homemade foods that she makes. Cassondra is also back. She keeps track of finances and does things that need to be handled in an adult and/or professional manner. They work very well together as a team cuz their jobs are both kind of similar in terms of organizing things and helping the system stay calm.

I did some noticing this year. I noticed that the first week of November is when the ears started messing up again. We have been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease which is basically a fluid imbalance in the ears that causes some extreme dizziness at times.

The second week in November is when I started feeling the pain in some of my joints again…especially the right elbow which we suspect is due to a body memory because most often times when it presents itself there is a specific inside little girl around.

The third week in November, we noticed Mary was back full on. She was cleaning and organizing and got more done in a few days than we got done all summer! She also cooked a huge meal for Thanksgiving even though it’s just us and our husband, but then we love her homemade pies, cheesy homemade mashed potatoes, homemade rolls….well you get the picture. So anyway, needless to say that we LOVE the leftovers  🙂

Another thing we are noticing as the late fall/winter time and crew comes around is that we are more withdrawn. We are not as around online as we had been all summer. We still know of our friends online but seems there is so much going on internally this time of year that we find it quite difficult to socialize online. We still keep those options open on Facebook and Twitter cuz sometimes we are able to reach out either to ask for help or to help someone else. It is a lifeline that we cherish very much. It’s just tough this time of year.

I talked with our T last Sunday (yep, had a session on a Sunday. Cool, huh?) about how now that everyone is back around for this time of year, there is so much pressure from everyone to get time out to do what they want to do. I have felt like I’m in the middle of a whirlwind spinning back and forth as the next person switches out. Makes the term “roladexing” all the more real as I feel like I have been spinning like I’m in one. Our homework this week is to have a system meeting and try to figure out some way to manage our time more efficiently so that each group that has something they are wanting to do has a promised time to do it. That way it won’t be as chaotic. We have been successful with this before, though it has been many years now. The “scheduling”, as with most things for a multiple, has to be flexible as we are not always sure what will be going on from day to day.

We have had so much going on that every time I have tried to write/journal, I get pushed aside and someone else comes out to do something they want to do. So, I am guessing just having what little internal dialogue about it that we have has been helping some since I am able to write this today. When we were in therapy last Sunday, the internal pressure from so many having so many things they want to say was so strong that at one point we had to get a pen and someones were writing as we were listening and talking with T about another topic. Talk about multitasking!

I do know my winter crew much better than my summer crew so it is like getting my good friends back. I have missed them and there is quite a bit of comfort in the familiarity of loved ones. I am one that is around all year. I still experience memory loss as the shifts happen from crew to crew. Like now, I remember bits and pieces from the Summer crew’s time here, but not big chunks of it. I think I remember more this year than previous years because of all the blogging our summer parts did and I’m able to read those as well as the fact that since being with our new therapist, I have been making more of an effort to notice stuff.

Time to sign off for today. We plan on doing some more writing this weekend. Here’s hoping we can schedule it out! Hope everyone has been having a terrific week!

For the Newly Diagnosed Multiple


Notes to those newly diagnosed with DID:

Let us start out by saying that we feel being able to dissociate to the degree of DID is a God-given gift to help us survive. If we had not been able to dissociate to the extreme degree, we would not have survived. It may not feel like such a gift right now if you are early in your journey or even sometimes those of us who have been diagnosed for years may occasionally feel like that, too. But, it is truly a gift of survival and your inside family is ever so precious.

I know it is scary at first to realize you have others within you and to know that they have knowledge of things that happened to you that you do not remember. Just know that they are there to help you. They were created by your brilliant childhood mind to protect you and keep you as safe as they could in the midst of horrible circumstances. They are not your enemies. Because they are your system, they will not show you anything about your past until they know you are ready. As a very wise therapist once told me, “trust your system”. It is very difficult in the beginning because you don’t even know who “they” are, but just remember they are not your enemy and that they came to help you and save you. They won’t give you more than you are able to cope with. Their job was to take over and experience the terrible things in order to protect you. It is also their job to save those memories and feelings until you are ready to face them and then only at the pace you can handle. You are not alone in your journey. You have an inside family that has always been there even though you may just now be realizing they are there.

Even if you are recently diagnosed and you are an adult, it does not mean that the others just now arrived. They have been with you ever since you were traumatized and they came to help you. When I was able to after I was diagnosed, I was able to look back and see where certain parts were active in my childhood (what little of it I know of) and especially high school and college.

When just starting out, it definitely helps to journal. It helped me anyway. I would write and write and write until I would be exhausted. Later, I could look at my journal entries and see where the handwriting changes start and stop. It helped me to begin identifying each part of me according to their handwriting and tone of writing. At first, I didn’t know any names so I identified parts by characteristics like “the sad one”, “bunny girl” (becuz she loved our stuffed bunny rabbits), “angry teen”, etc.

Another idea you can do as you feel comfortable is to get some colored pens/markers and a journal and sit down and do what is called “open journaling”. When I do this, I will pick a color that I want to write in and start a meeting on paper with my system. I may write a statement or often a question and give others the opportunity to share their thoughts. The colored pens are there cuz different parts may like to write in different colors. The colors along with the handwriting changes also helped me to identify the different parts even without names.

For more, please see How I experience Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Looking “Perfect”


“Got to look good for the camera”

As we lay in bed last night, those words were spoken by someone in the system. I heard them and thought it a curious statement. They said this at the same time I was musing about my meeting with 2 therapists earlier that day. I was doing an intake interview for a support group with multiples. I guess we were very nervous and had our “shields up”. As I mused the meeting, I remember feeling distanced and not being the one up front. The person in front was talkative and enthusiastic about the group. At least from what I saw. They also had a facade of being “all together” which is why I think someone inside said that about looking good for the camera.

It is interesting as we grew up in a family full of photographers so having my picture taken was a normal thing from a very young age. I learned how to pose and smile and how to have my face set, etc.  My inside kids are most of them really good at picture taking. I used to get really frustrated in my early 20’s because when I would have my “school picture” taken (I worked at a school), the inside kids would ALWAYS come out and smile. It was obvious when I got my pictures and I saw the kids grinning back at me.

I imagine the whole being photographed as a child and teen is in part what helped me to maintain the facade that everything is good and well with me. I dared never to let on to ANYone that I was troubled or in danger. For me, it felt like if someone knew then my whole world would fall apart. Little did I realize that my world was falling apart just as it was and telling might have helped save us from further abuse. I am pretty sure I was threatened not to tell. I remember the uncle one time telling me that if  “they” (the family) knew, then we would both get spankings. Now, as an adult, I know that is not true. He was the adult. He knew what he was doing was wrong. He used my cold and violent relationship with my mother to get to me. I had nowhere to turn. No one that I could talk to and tell. Home was a battlefield. The mother was raging and violent at the drop of a pin. Always walking on eggshells, sometimes running from mother because she was after me to give me a beating for something I had no idea what I had done. I felt so terrible that the mother was angry with us and often I would write her a note saying I was sorry and I loved her. I would put it on her pillow so she’d be sure to see it before she went to sleep. Not ONCE did she EVER acknowledge those notes. If I tried to tell her that I was sorry, she’d always say I wasn’t or else I wouldn’t have done it (whatever I did). When I tried to tell her that I loved her, she’d say I didn’t either or else I wouldn’t do things that upset her.  I rarely knew what I was getting in trouble for. Sometimes  just an expression on my face would set her off.

It took many, many years to be able to even say those three words, “I love you” because of that. I literally couldn’t get them out of my mouth. I always felt it was due to what the mother said to us over and over as a child. If I really loved someone I wouldn’t do bad things to upset them. That’s the message I got. I always felt like I was damaged and would always do something bad to upset someone so I couldn’t dare say those words to anyone.

When I was in college, my best friend and I were going to travel that summer and go work in the church camps around Oklahoma and Texas. I remember vividly, mother gave me a hug before we left that morning. My best friend was astounded at the impact that had on me. It was the first time I ever recalled the mother hugging me and as a result I feared for my life! I was terrified that somehow the mother knew that I was going to die in a car accident and that is why she hugged me. It took 3 or 4 hours along the trip before I was able to calm down.

“Got to look good for the camera”

I always had to look and act like the perfect child when in public. I always had to pretend that my life was happy and safe when in reality it was anything but. No more. I am an adult now and I can be REAL. I can share my story. I don’t have to hide in shame that didn’t even belong to me. The shame is on my abusers. I am a survivor.

How I experience Dissociative Identity Disorder


Things I would want others to know about me and how Dissociative Identity Disorder has played a big part in my life:

I survived severe abuse at the hands of more than one perpetrator starting younger than age 2 extending over several years into adulthood. To escape this abuse, I dissociated or floated away to another place in my head and through the genius creativity of a child created someone else to take my place. That person or part of me took the abuse for me. Then, I was able to continue in life not aware of what had happened. This happened over and over again until I had several other “mes” that often had their own name and had different experiences, likes, and dislikes. Some of them claim my family as their own, but most do not. I believe this is part of the way they separate themselves from the family that abused them.

In case you wonder how the parts of me get their names, it is all related to names I was exposed to. I would take names from favorite tv shows, books, movies, friends, etc. and apply them to the parts I created inside. This was all done subconsciously. Some parts have names that reflect what they do or how they feel. I have one insider who calls herself Worthless because that is the way she feels. I am still trying to convince her that she is not worthless and to help her find a new name for herself.

I would not be alive today if it were not for the ability to create these other parts. One reason is that my mind would not have been able to take the knowledge of all that was happening to me from a very young age. Having separate parts hold all of these pieces saved me from having to deal with it all at once before I was ready. Therapists have told me that not everyone has this ability to dissociate to the extreme degree. The ability tends to run in families. If I was not able to dissociate as I did, my mind would not have been able to cope and I would have developed some other mental disorder such as schizophrenia. Another way they have saved me is by keeping me safe from myself the many times I have been suicidal in my life. They are able to come out and protect me from doing harm to myself.

The different parts of me hold specific memories related to the trauma, but parts also hold other things. I have one part, Suzanne, who was able to hold the pleasure associated with sex. She kept it for me all my life so that I would still be able to enjoy sex one day. If I didn’t have her to hold that for me – my sexuality – then I would have immense trouble enjoying the gift of sex as an adult. Another part of me, Cassandra, held a strong passion for God. Even though parts of me were severely abused by an uncle who was a preacher and were very confused about God, Cassandra was there to be able to show God’s true nature and share His love with them. She is also one of our strongest insiders that has kept us functional and kept the faith.

I am currently coconscious with the majority of my system (the group of alters in my internal family). Coconscious means that when another part is in the “driver’s seat”, I am still able to look through the windshield (eyes) and see what is happening, sharing the memories. Often times, parts of me can be copresent which means more than one will be in the driver’s seat at once. We often do this when we go to therapy when more than one of us want to be involved in a discussion. The group of 2 or 3 that are copresent are there as representatives of the system. Then there are a few parts, more than I’d like, that I am amnesiac with. This means I am not aware of the things they do when they are in the driver’s seat. Thankfully these times are not usually a long period of time. Usually I may miss anywhere from 15 minutes up to several hours compared to the days, weeks, months, and years that may happen for some DID systems.

I have blank spots in my childhood memories as well as teenage years. This is because I had others in my system who would come out and live life for me when I was unable. It is also, of course, due to the times of trauma when others would come out and protect me from it. I have people tell me that I said things that I didn’t remember saying or doing something I don’t remember doing. That is very frustrating. Sometimes, I can ask inside and the one inside who did it or said it will share that memory with me and then I will be aware. Other times, I just have to decide whether or not to trust the person who told me because no one inside will own up to whatever it was.  I do appreciate the other person letting me know, no matter the frustration, because it helps me to know what I have been saying or doing. There have been times when my husband will be upset at me and I will have absolutely no idea what had happened because I wasn’t there when the upsetting event occurred. I usually have to wait for him to calm down to be able to tell me what happened. This is also quite frustrating and confusing.

I also know this experience from the outsiders point of view because I am 100% certain that my mother has undiagnosed DID. There were a great many times growing up when I would be sitting in the living room talking with my parents. I’d bring up something that my mother had said just a few minutes prior and she would blatantly deny that she said any such thing. I remember being so confused because I knew what I heard and I remember often times desperately looking to my dad who would kind of laugh and tell her that she did say it. I never understood my mother until I was able to understand myself(ves) and how DID works. Then, so many things started to make sense!

It has been said in the past that DID is rare. Well I can tell you that it is far from rare. If you watch the video I have on my blog about Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder, you will see that it is as common as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. You could know someone who has DID (and that person may or may not be aware of it themselves!) and just view them as moody and having a bad memory. While there are many people who have DID and are on disability unable to work, there are also quite successful and functional people with DID who have careers as doctors, nurses, lawyers, psychologists, etc. Unfortunately, most of us don’t “out” ourselves as having DID to more than just a few close friends due to the terrible stigma that is still attached to this condition.

I hope that I have helped explain some of what Dissociative Identity Disorder is like. It is a complex condition and takes a while for someone to get a grasp on all it entails.

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder Video


This is an excellent educational video about DID!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Questions for a Potential Therapist


Having moved a few times along our journey to recovery, we have needed to interview and find a new T. We typically request a list of T’s in our area who are members of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation. Although, believe it or not, we found that some of the therapists on the list we received did not even know what Dissociative Identity Disorder was. Yeah, we were shocked, too. Another good idea is how we found our current T. We just so happened to be in a trauma unit in a hospital specializing in DID and they gave us a referral to her. I’m not suggesting you go inpatient, but rather call the nearest hospital that specializes in DID because they are likely to have a list of T’s in your area. We lived 2 1/2 hours away from the hospital we went to and they had a great one for us!

We typically start by calling different therapists and ask them a key question: Do you have any experience in working with Dissociative Identity Disorder? I always say DID rather than MPD because while lots of people know what MPD is, we’ve found that if a T says, “What??” then they don’t know enough about DID to work with us and we say, “Thank you.” and hang up!

We prefer someone who has previously treated DID, though it is not an absolute requirement. I mean, everyone has to start somewhere, but the sad reality of it is there are too many therapists out there that have no clue or worse they believe it doesn’t exist. Period. Those kinds of therapists, I simply don’t have the patience or the time for.

After we weed out the list of T’s with phone calls, we usually ask the ones who know about DID and maybe have even treated it if we can meet them for 15 minutes or so in their office to ask them a few questions (interview). This also gives everyone in my system time to check out the office space and the person (do they have any super triggering features that we can’t deal with?) and see if we are a good fit. Below are a list of questions we like to ask. Some of them we found online and some we added.

Here are some sample questions we usually ask:

  • Are they a member is the International Society for the Study of Dissociation?
  • Are they  supervised? If so, by who?
  • What is their fee and how long are sessions? Do they have extended sessions ever for DID clients?
  • What types of insurance do they accept? Do they file for you or would you need to file? (this isn’t always a bad thing. We are extremely happy with our current T even though we have to file claims ourselves.)
  • How many MPD/DID clients have they treated?
    • Total?
    • To Cooperation?
    • To Integration?
  • Do they believe that Integration is the only true way to be totally healed? Or do they believe that integration is an inside families/system’s choice and will they support you whether you decide to integrate or live in cooperation?
  • How many years of experience have they had?
  • How many years experience have they had treating DID clients?
  • How do they work with child alters? (talk, play therapy, etc.)
  • Do they have toys, etc. for child alters?
  • Do they believe writing and drawing helpful?
  • How would they feel about you participating in a survivors’ group?
  • Could you schedule extra sessions or call them in time of crisis? Also, do they email?
  • How would they handle it if you came to them and said there was a “problem” in therapy? (we added this question because we had a T that was quite defensive when I brought up issues with how she handled something in session)

After your meeting with the potential therapist, it is helpful to have a system meeting and find out how your system felt about it.  Here are some questions you can ask yourselves:

  • Did I feel respected and listened to?
  • Why or why not?
  • What did I like about the session?
  • What didn’t I like?
  • How did I feel during and after the session (disappointed, hopeful, excited, scared)?
  • Why?
  • Could I imagine ever trusting this person?
  • Why or why not?
  • What, if anything, do I still need to find out?
  • Do I want to see this counselor again?

We made Microsoft Word documents with the above questions on them and enough space to make notes when we went for our introductory session/meeting. Also, the post-meeting questions, we put on a separate paper along with the therapist’s name, phone number, fee per session, and insurance they accept. This helped us to be organized in the process of finding a new therapist. It is stressful enough trying to find a new T, this just makes it a bit easier to make sure you can find the right one for you!

Grounding Techniques


This is a compilation of grounding techniques we have collected over the years that have been a really big help to us. I do not have reference as to where I got them from but I know they were from online sources back in the 90’s. If you recognize these, please let me know so that I can give proper credit. Thanks!

  • Get ice or ice water
  • Breathe – slow and deep, like blowing up a balloon.
  • Take your shoes off and rub your feet on the ground.
  • Open your eyes and look around. See you are in a different place than then.
  • Move around. Feel your body. Stretch out your arms, hands, fingers.
  • Peel an orange or a lemon. Notice the smell. Take a bite. Focus on the taste.
  • Pet your cat, dog or rabbit.
  • Spray yourself with favorite perfume.
  • Eat ice cream! Or any favorite food. Pay attention to the taste.
  • Hold a stuffie. Pay attention to the feel of it.
  • Repeat “this is now, not then”
  • Call a friend, or your T.
  • Take a shower.
  • Take a bath.
  • Go for a walk. Feel the sunshine (or rain, or snow!)
  • Count nice things.
  • Dig in the dirt in your garden.
  • Turn lights on.
  • Play your favorite music.
  • Hug a tree!
  • Touch things around you.
  • Frozen Orange – put your nails into it – the cold and the smell can bring you back
  • Pull up the daily newspaper on your browser. Notice the date and read a current article.
  • Stomp your feet to remind yourself where you are. Press your feet firmly into the ground.
  • Try to notice where you are, your surroundings including people, sounds like the t.v. or radio.
  • Concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep cleansing breath from your diaphragm. Count the breaths as you exhale. Make sure you breath slowly so you don’t hyperventilate.
  • Cross your legs and arms. Feel the sensations of you controlling your body.
  • Call a friend and ask them to talk with you about something you have recently done together.
  • Take a warm relaxing bubble bath or a warm shower. Feel the water touching your body.
  • Mentally remind yourself that the memory was then, and it is over. Give yourself permission to not think about it right now.
  • Keep a rubberband on your wrist and pluck it — feel the slight sting as it touches your skin.
  • Realize that no matter how small you feel, you are an adult.
  • Go outside and sit against a tree. Feel the bark pressing against your body. Smell the outside aromas like the grass and the leaves. Run your fingers through the grass.
  • If you are sitting, stand. If you are standing sit. Pay attention to the movement change. Reminding yourself — you are in control.
  • Rub your palms, clap your hands. Listen to the sounds. Feel the sensation.
  • Speak out loud. Say your name or significant others name.
  • Hold something that you find comforting, for some it may be a stuffed animal or a blanket. Notice how it feels in your hands. Is it hard or soft?
  • Eat something. How does it taste, sweet or sour? Is it warm or cold?
  • If you have a pet use that moment to touch them. Feel their fur and speak the animals name out loud.
  • Visualize a bright red STOP sign to help you stop the flashback and/or memory
  • Step outside. If it’s warm, feel the sun shining down on your face. If it’s cold, feel the breeze. How does it make your body feel?
  • During a non-crisis time make a list of things that are in your house and what room they are in. Give this list to friends that you can call during a flashback so they can help remind you what is around you.
  • During a non-crisis time make a list of positive affirmations. Print them out and keep them handy for when you are having a flashback. During a flashback read the list out loud.
  • Take a walk outside and notice your neighborhood. Pay attention to houses and count them.
  • Listen to familiar music and sing along to it. Dance to it.
  • Make a list of known triggers and give it to your therapist. Ask them if they can help you find a way to desensitize those triggers so they aren’t quite so powerful.
  • Write in your journal. Pay attention to yourself holding the pencil. Write about what you are remembering and visualize the memory traveling out of you into the pencil and onto the paper. Tear the paper up or seal it in an envelope. Give it to your therapist for safekeeping.
  • Go online and talk with an online friend. Write an email.
  • Imagine yourself in a safe place. Feel the safety and know it.
  • Watch a favorite t.v. program or video. Play a video game.
  • If you have a garden, work in it. Feel your hands running through the dirt.
  • Wash dishes or clean your house.
  • Meditate if you are comfortable with it.
  • Exercise. Ride a bike, stationary or otherwise. Lift weights. Do jumping jacks.

Another list of grounding techniques:

1.) Visualize internal safe place.

2.) Visualize setting aside overwhelming /memory/emotion/experience

3.) Change sensory experience/input:

Sight: look at a picture, read a book

Touch: allow yourself to feel the chair you are sitting on, touch ice, hold a smooth stone

Sound: talk to someone, listen to music, TV

Taste: eat something

Smell: perfume, favorite scent

4.) Concentrate, become absorbed in activity.

5.) Express something verbally — go to an empty room and yell, if necessary

6.) Write in your journal.

7.) Do safe anger work with your therapist.

8.) Breathing exercises.

9.) Relaxation exercises.

10.) Self-hypnosis

11.) Connect with internal support/resources

12.) Visualize a “STOP” sign

13.) Use positive affirmations. “I am strong.” “I am safe now.” “I can take care of myself.”

14.) Connect with the here and now

15.) Look into a mirror and talk to yourself

16.) Transfer your feeling/memory into a safe “container” either through visualization or by creating an actual box where you can write the feeling/memory on a piece of paper and slip it into the box leaving it to be dealt with together with your therapist.

17.) Monitor self-talk, change negative to positive.

18.) Identify cognitive distortions and replace with counter statements

19.) Dance

20.) Repeat a grounding phrase: “I’m here right now.” or “I am safe.”

21.) Give yourself permission to address one thing at a time (“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”)

22.) Identify (in writing) all problems you’re facing. Then divide them into two groups:

a.) Those you have control over, and

b.) Those you cannot control

Concentrate on only one of those issues that CAN be controlled.

23.) Decide what is important and what is not.

24.) Keep It Simple

25.) Hold a safe object (smooth stone, stuffed animal, watch, ring, cup or mug, etc.)

26.) Pray (e.g. Serenity Prayer)

27.) Exercise

28.) Draw

29.) Find a safe person

30.) Listen to a tape of your therapist

31.) Listen to a tape of self-affirmations

32.) Listen to music

33.) Make a cup of warm chamomile tea

34.) Put a washcloth on your forehead

35.) Take a bubble bath

36.) Have a cigarette

37.) Do something mundane like washing dishes

38.) Concentrate on your breathing

39.) Listen to a relaxation tape

40.) Dribble a basketball

41.) Curl up in a warm

42.) Cozy blanket

43.) Call a friend

44.) Take long, slow, deep breaths

45.) Hold an ice cube in your hand

46.) Most importantly… Identify the Trigger