Does phasic trauma treatment make patients with dissociative identity disorder treatment more dissociative?

J Trauma Dissociation. 2014;15(1):52-65. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2013.828150.


Proponents of the iatrogenic model of the etiology of dissociative identity disorder (DID) have expressed concern that treatment focused on direct engagement and interaction with dissociated self-states harms DID patients. However, empirical data have shown that this type of DID treatment is beneficial. Analyzing data from the prospective Treatment of Patients With Dissociative Disorders (TOP DD) Study, we test empirically whether DID treatment is associated with clinically adverse manifestations of dissociated self-states: acting so differently that one feels like different people, hearing voices, and dissociative amnesia. We show that, over the course of the study, there were significant decreases in feeling like different people and hearing voices. These results indicate that this form of DID treatment does not lead to symptomatic worsening in these dimensions, as predicted by the iatrogenic model. Indeed, treatment provided by TOP DD therapists reduced, rather than increased, the extent to which patients experienced manifestations of pathological dissociation. Because severe symptomatology and impairment are associated with DID, iatrogenic harm may come from depriving DID patients of treatment that targets DID symptomatology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Checklist
  • Disease Progression
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / psychology*
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease
  • Life Change Events*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome