How the TOP DD Studies Are Shifting Denial and Challenging Myths About Dissociative Disorders
Myths and debate abound about the existence, etiology, assessment, and treatment of complex dissociative disorders. A vast literature supports that trauma, rather than fantasy or cultural factors, contribute to the development of complex dissociative disorders. Unfortunately, few mental health clinicians have received systematic training about the assessment and treatment of dissociative disorders. It is critical that clinicians are aware of the myths and facts about dissociative disorders so their work is guided by clinical expertise and research rather than myths. It is also important that clinicians can knowledgeably discuss the research that refutes these pernicious myths. Two of the most common myths are that dissociative disorders are over-diagnosed and that treatment of dissociative identity disorder (DID) is harmful. Two new myths have begun to spread; specifically, some researchers are arguing that DID can be cured in ultra-rapid, intensive exposure treatment and that the stabilization phase of treatment is unnecessary and even potentially detrimental to individuals with DID. Dr. Brand will discuss these myths and present research that illustrates the damaging impact on patients of clinicians’ denial and lack of knowledge about dissociation. She will then present data from the Treatment of Patients with Dissociative Disorders (TOP DD) studies; this series of studies show a wide range of improvements for patients receiving stabilizing, phasic treatment. The TOP DD studies illustrate that dissociation- and trauma-focused treatment consistent with expert consensus guidelines is beneficial rather than harmful. Finally, Dr. Brand will discuss the TOP DD randomized controlled trial underway that is assessing the impact of participating in the dissociation-focused program called Finding Solid Ground.
This session was originally presented as a live conference session in April 2023.
At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:
- Describe two myths about dissociative disorders
- Refute the myth that treating dissociative disorders causes harm by summarizing the key findings from the TOP DD studies
- Discuss two ways that clinicians’ lack of knowledge and denial about dissociation can potentially cause distress or even damage to dissociative clients
- Identify the phasic treatment model that has expert consensus support as well as growing research support
- Present a research-informed response to the claim that dissociative disorders are over-diagnosed
Presenter: Bethany Brand, PhD
Presenter Bio: Bethany Brand, PhD is a Psychology Professor and the Director of the Clinical Focus program at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland, USA. She has over 30 years of experience in researching, assessing, and treating the impact of psychological trauma with a specialization in dissociation. Dr. Brand received her clinical training at Johns Hopkins Hospital, George Washington University Hospital, and at Sheppard Pratt Health System’s Trauma Disorders program. She has been honored with the endowed Martha E. Mitten Professorship as well as teaching, research and clinical awards including the Outstanding Contribution to the Science of Trauma Psychology from the American Psychological Association. She is Associate Editor of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. Dr. Brand has served on national and international task forces that developed guidelines for the assessment and treatment of trauma-related disorders. She has published over 100 peer reviewed papers and two research-based books about treating dissociation, Finding Solid Ground: Overcoming Obstacles in Trauma Treatment and The Finding Solid Ground Program Workbook. Dr. Brand is the author of the first book on the assessment of dissociation which is in press (The Concise Guide to the Assessment and Treatment of Trauma-related Dissociation). Dr. Brand is the Principal Investigator on the largest prospective treatment outcome study to date of dissociative disorders (the TOP DD studies). She has delivered hundreds of clinical and research presentations at national and international conferences. In addition to treating patients in her private practice, Dr. Brand serves as a forensic expert in trauma-related cases including state, federal and capital cases and an international Supreme Court case.
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