Perception Is Reality: Helping Systems View Childhood Dissociation Through a Complex Lens
Working with dissociative children is both challenging and rewarding. Seeing positive transformation occur when dissociative barriers erode and clients “awaken” to seeing the world through a clearer, more holistic lens is a joy of our work as therapeutic helpers. However, for that to occur, interconnecting child serving systems must support the healing process. Regrettably, the systems children depend on for developmental and recovery support, such as child protection, family courts, education, mental and physical health, and juvenile justice, are often compromised by their misguided and distorted perceptions of these children. These malformed systems’ lenses can hinder clients’ recovery from unimaginable trauma, or worse, can add “system” trauma and cause unintended further damage when dissociative symptoms are discounted.
As wise persons have stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.” A modified adage for dissociative children might be, “It takes an integrated systematic approach to raise a child with complex trauma to health and wellness.” It’s a challenging task to counteract typically well-meaning professionals’ erroneous “perceptions that are their realities” about childhood dissociation, particularly regarding children with high rates of disruptive behavior and emotional dysregulation, self-destructive behavior, and perpetrator self-states. Children who are unresponsive to treatment in which dissociation is ignored and untreated, are often misperceived as resistant, and are stigmatized as “bad” and untreatable.
However, such lenses of misperception often reflect professionals’ fears, biases, false or missing information about dissociation and its neurobiological research, turf issues, or simply resistance to new ideas. It is, indeed, very challenging to embrace the complexity of trauma in which dissociation plays a critical role in a traumatized child’s life. A new lens is needed and often requires a paradigm shift for individuals and systems.
This workshop, designed for clinicians who serve children, confronts the reality and complexity of system dynamics that create additional treatment challenges and interfere with effective treatment of dissociative children. Strategies to gain the cooperation of disbelieving, sometimes punitive professionals to participate in a unified, specialized dissociative treatment plan will be described. Clinical examples of dissociative youth with the types of disturbing behaviors that often create system dysfunction will be emphasized. Creative strategies will be offered to help professionals develop empathic attitudes toward complex youth and those who care for them, and to change their lens toward a respectful, collaborative, and coordinated team approach.
This session was originally presented as a live conference session in April 2023.
- Identify dynamics related to dissociative blindness that are often encountered in the systems that interact with young clients with complex trauma
- Discuss case examples of dissociative children that are prototypical of generating systemic stigmatization
- Describe strategies to gain the cooperation of disbelieving, sometimes punitive professionals to understand and accept dissociative diagnosis for youth
- Describe integrative intervention strategies with professionals in various systems that shift from a lens of fear and punishment to a lens of empathy, understanding and effective treatment for youth with complex trauma and dissociation
- Describe treatment techniques for complex youth with identified comorbidity
- 3.00 APAThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
- 3.00 ASWB ACEThe International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), #1744, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ISSTD maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: 08/20/2021 – 08/20/2024. Social workers completing this course receive 3.00 continuing education credits.
- 3.00 ISSTD Certificate ProgramThis program is eligible for 3.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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- ISSTD defines a student as those enrolled in a program of study leading to a degree or certification in the mental health field and who have an interest in trauma and dissociation.
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