Although the construct of dissociation was introduced into psychiatry at the end of the 19th century by Pierre Janet, the term still lacks a coherent conceptualization, which is partially reflected by differences in the classification of dissociative and conversion disorders in ICD-10 and DSM-IV. Given the clinical significance of dissociative psychopathology in numerous clinical conditions, it is very valuable that various efforts have been made to refine and to specify current conceptualizations in recent years. The most promising and convincing approaches converge in subdividing dissociation into qualitatively different types, i.e. pathological versus non-pathological dissociation, and "detachment" versus "compartmentalization". We review these concepts and discuss their scientific and clinical potential as well as their limitations.