There are lots of different people with lots of different colors in a dissociative system.

Integration: A Requirement for DID Therapy – Or Not?

There are lots of different people with lots of different colors in a dissociative system.

There are lots of different people with lots of different colors in a dissociative system.


I am well aware that many trauma therapists are highly supportive of the treatment goal to integrate dissociative selves.

I have a different approach to this topic.  Please understand I am not at all opposed to the idea of integration if that is what the person wants.  However, that is a very complicated topic, and I’ll discuss the integration issue from that perspective at another time.

In my experience, by far, most dissociative trauma survivors and their systems have been opposed to the idea of integration.  They like themselves as they are, and they don’t want to lose the various individual parts / people from inside.  The concept of integration feels more like killing each other off, or losing unique characters, real people, and best friends. While integration may be the favored ultimate treatment goal of mainstream mental health professionals, it is not necessarily the favored option of the dissociative trauma survivors.

For that matter, I’m not even convinced that true integration is literally or physiologically or psychologically possible.  When one person’s mind-self-body gets pushed to the point of separating and breaking apart into entirely different selves, with entirely different lives, preferences, interests, knowings, time awareness, relationships, friends, hobbies, memories, realities, likes, dislikes, etc. and that distinct plurality solidifies as extremely different people for 20-30-40-50+ years, can it ever really be as if it didn’t happen?   Once that distinct separateness occurs, is it really possible to make that group of folks back into “one” person?

Power of mind 4 - Dissociative Defense / Mogen...

Power of mind 4 – Dissociative Defense / Mogens Jacobsen (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

I’m not convinced there is a need, or even a benefit to trying to do this.

I do believe that creating teamwork, cooperation and communication between the different selves, and lowering and removing the dissociative amnesiac walls is critically important.  I can’t stress how important that is.  But developing these internal communication, self-bonding skills is entirely different than integrating these unique selves into one single solitary person.

Developing a highly successful internal group approach is hard, intense work.  It takes a very long time to achieve that goal.   The good news is that a dissociative person can actually function incredibly well as separate selves.

Power of mind 4 - Dissociative Defense / Mogen...

Power of mind 4 – Dissociative Defense / Mogens Jacobsen (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

So why is there any need to remove or eliminate this amazing talent and ability?  Why would someone want to try to become somebody else when they can successfully cooperate with their selves as they know them and stay who they are?

If a person does not want to integrate, I do not believe that genuine integration can be forced or “made to happen”.  Instead, I think that forcing the integration issue actually causes the creation of new dissociative walls, which means greater separation, not integration.  Internal parts can be forced to hide from the others inside, giving the appearance of integration without an actual integration being achieved.  This is not good!!  This is the very opposite to helpful healing.  It creates an emotional time-bomb just waiting to explode.

Forcing an appearance of premature integration sets up a horrible dynamic within the dissociative person.  All too often the person is rushed into this conclusion when there hasn’t been sufficient time for the parts involved to heal properly.  They are not finished telling their life experiences, or expressing their feelings, or developing connections with the other inner selves, or challenging their own abuse-related approaches to life.  It happens too fast — and the therapy healing work is just not done.  So that is not ok.  The “integrated” but still dissociative person is left with a huge overwhelming sense of failure if — and when — the parts need to reemerge and finish their healing work.

Healing takes as long as it takes, and the point of therapy is to provide that healing, not to cut it off at the pass. Attempting to rush or force the idea of integration causes, in my opinion, great and significant harm to the dissociative client.  It is a huge set-back.

I believe that any kind of system blending and system cooperation takes a very long time.  It is a slow process.  The reasons for the dissociative splits in the first place are huge and fundamental.  Pretending these splits haven’t happened is like denying the reality of a person’s life and all the conflicting things that have happened along the way.  Bridging the gap between the splits requires huge pieces of therapy work.


If this house is a dissociative system, how many different 'people' can you see in this picture?

If this house is a dissociative system, how many different ‘people’ can you see in this picture?


My recommendation is to throw that nasty i-word away. Don’t even go there.  Instead, use your time and energy to focus on getting to know your people and becoming really good friends with them – with ALL of them, including the insiders that you are afraid of or angry with.  Focus on building the connecting bridges instead of smushing and smashing people into each other.  As you develop your internal relationships, you will find a great sense of inner peace and satisfaction.

You’ve got good people in there.  Keep them!!!


Many people can work together as many colors, and still be very functional.

Many people can work together as many colors, and still be very functional.





Copyright (C) 2008 – 2014 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation

37 comments on “Integration: A Requirement for DID Therapy – Or Not?

  1. Kathy, I really liked this post. I had this same conversation today with my own therapist, who surprised me by telling me that to her way of thinking, I already am very close to what she would consider “integrated” with the alter I most dread losing, because we communicate freely and are continually aware of each other. She then reiterated that the goal of therapy was to reduce pain and suffering, and improve quality of life, and so if losing a sense of an alter as a separate entity would cause suffering, it would be inimical to the goal of therapy to think about integrating that alter.

    She did feel that trauma-bearing parts tend to naturally relax into the system as their burdens and needs are addressed and healed, but that integration was all about increasing communication, not about elimination.

    Which is pretty much what you’ve said here. It increases my confidence in a highly confusing and frightening process to have consistent information from two professionals who specialize in dissociative therapy. So, thanks for that.

  2. Hi David,
    I’m glad you liked my post – thank you.
    Yes, it sounds like we are very much talking about the same kind of thing. That’s good news to me too.
    Remember, your system and your healing journey belong to you. You don’t have to do anything that frightens you. Take as much time as you need to process through things. Healing and internal blendings will happen naturally as you do the healing work. Nothing has to be forced. In fact, if you are forcing it, then you are rushing the process.
    Keep up with all the internal chats — sounds like you have a real good friend inside there.

  3. On a completely different note — I love it that WordPress thinks a possibly related post is something entitled “Give the Gift of Delicious Beef.” I’d love to know the algorithmic logic behind that one.

  4. Thank you so much Kathy…
    This supports our own ideas about healing and what it means for us.
    We don’t care about the number of alters in this head, but rather finding ways to make this life work.
    One of us made a joke that with our therapist pushing for integration, our mind will become the latest “Survivor” series – “Survivor DID”… Ok so it wasn’t a particularly funny joke, but indicates our resistance (at the moment) to integration. We aren’t discounting integration, but rather would like it to occur in a supportive environment when we’re more aware of what each of us does and our role in this life.
    Take care…

  5. Hi Castorgirl,
    Yes, imho, the actual number of alters doesn’t matter one little bit – everyone is there for a reason, and they’ve managed a piece of your life experience, so.. it is how it is. You’ll have internal leaders, and others that aren’t as active or busy, and as you build relationships with each other inside, that internal cooperation can all be worked out.
    And… seriously, rushing or pushing integration before you thoroughly and completely understand each other will not work anyway, (including knowing and having complete familiarity with each other’s memories, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, realities, etc). So… do the work first — that will keep you plenty busy for a long time.

  6. how do you heal abuse if parts are pushing their way out to be heard? Do they heal then we all work to gether? Or do I heal? How do I heal? If integration isn’t healing, what is?
    I am so confused.

  7. Hi haberlach,

    A really big important part of the healing process is listening to what the parts are saying. If they are pushing out to be heard, that is a good thing!!! They will contain a lot of the info about your trauma and surrounding life experiences, and healing happens as all of you find comfort, and understanding, and have a chance to speak your truth, and to sort out the confusion you feel, and process your feelings, etc.

    I think that healing comes as the each of the people in your system feel a sense of their own healing. And no, integration is not “the point of healing”. Any integrating or blending that happens is more a result of the healing … Any steps towards being less dissociated and separated from each other are signs of healing.

    The healing happens in the process. Its in the step by step work on the trauma that you and your insiders do. It’s developing the ability to communicate and work as a well-functioning group — its addressing the trauma, and listening to each other. There’s a lot involved in healing. Maybe I”ll add that to my list of ideas of posts to come. Keep reading… there is lots to learn…

    Thanks for the comment —


  8. what if they are pushing out just to be close to the therapist, or to get the therapist to hit them? They don’t always come out to talk. One comes out to have sex with the therapist. He NEVER has done anything remotely sexual. One wants to come out to color. But they all push at the same time, it makes for a loud head. Sometimes I can’t even talk.

  9. Hi haberlach,
    Oh dear… well, yes, I can certainly understand how all that stuff makes for a loud head. I think it is critical, especially in these situations, to understand what the parts are trying to say through their actions. They may be “showing you” what they know, instead of using words or their voice to “tell you” what they know. Of course, it is important to set appropriate behavioral limits for them, but it is also ok to encourage them to keep talking about what their lives have been like. It sounds like your insiders may very well be testing the therapist, or acting out traumas (that’s called re-enactment). Either which way, it is important to talk about all that is going on for them. Find a safe way to talk about this stuff, and keep working at it. Those insiders certainly need time to address whatever is going on for them.

    Thanks for sharing – I can hear how much you are struggling. It must be so very scary for you.


  10. Thanks Kathy.

    I appreciate your time to answer my questions. I am working on understanding all that you have said.

    I want to clarify the the ‘noise’ and ‘loud head’, if I can. It isn’t physically loud, like in my ears. But it feels loud, lots of energy, commotion, confusion. Now that sounds like someone who is mentally-ill, or crazy.

    I don’t always believe what they say, there is no corroboration. And it seems like someone else is making me move, or talk, but I can still hear, and see most of the time. i just can’t stop what is happening.

    There is so much about this that I just don’t believe , or understand how it could be me.

    So thanks for all your time and effort. You are a special person to choose to work with dissociative people.

  11. Hi Haberlach,
    It’s good to hear from you again. :)

    I am going to guess that what you are describing as the “loud head” is just your sensing, “hearing”, feeling the presence of your inside system. So, no, that’s not crazy at all. I promise you, it’s really not crazy, (even if it feels that way sometimes.) It’s the others inside, and I can guess it is a very active inner world in there. Dissociative people typically have internal worlds, internal landscapes, etc. One day, when it’s safe to do so, and when you are ready, you’ll be able to see the other people that you are “hearing” now. In the meantime, you can learn more about your inner people by listening to the stuff you are hearing. It really will all make sense one day.

    It sounds like you have a lot of work to do in terms of meeting your internal people. I understand how that can feel overwhelming, and you can take that as slow as you need to – it can happen tho’, and I bet things will calm down more once you get more of a friendly working relationship with these other parts. There really is a lot to understand about dissociation tho’ — but you will learn. It will be ok.

    Thanks for posting — I look forward to hearing more from you. :)

  12. haberlach,

    you sound so much like where I used to be. I guess every now and then I end up there again. I just wanted to share one thing that really seemed to help us with the “loud head” stuff. We left out a notebook in a safe place that anyone could write in. We asked questions and then would come back later and discover that the questions had been answered. It really helped to confirm things for us and also opened up communication. WE also learned that people could mention their needs and wants there instead of just going after them, so we could meet those needs in a safer way.

    Good luck,

  13. Kathy,

    I just wanted to say I agree. Our former therapist was obsessed with integration as she herself claimed to be integrated. I don’t believe she was ans the charade just made me completely opposed to it.

  14. Hi Gobbies!!!! :D

    Nice to see you here. :)

    And yes… I’ve met people who’ve claimed to be integrated when it was really really obvious they weren’t. I didn’t understand the pull for it either. It’s a bit scary to think of seeing a therapist who was putting on a charade of integration… hmmmmm……
    Nice to hear from you.

  15. My husband seems to think that integration is the ultimate goal. To get rid of all the inside people. When he thinks of me going to therapy, he wants me to “get better and heal”– and in his statement I can practically hear him shouting, “and just STOP being DID!! Get rid of all those people!”
    However integration has not ever been a real consideration for us. Our ultimate goal is cooperation and having good relationships with each other, and functioning properly and appropriately in the world.

  16. yep, it is as we said
    INTEGRATION = IN – TO – GREAT – IONS = a really big bang and more splitting and more pain. we’ll take a pass on that plate of pain tyvm.
    nobody has to die.
    thank goodness, nobody has to die.

  17. Pingback: United States of Tara is Integrated Now? Really? « Discussing Dissociation

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  19. Kathy,
    You wrote: “My recommendation is to throw that nasty i-word away. Don’t even go there. Instead, use your time and energy to focus on getting to know your people and becoming really good friends with them – with ALL of them, including the insiders that you are afraid of or angry with. Focus on building the connecting bridges instead of smushing and smashing people into each other.”

    I’ve got 2 persecutory introject alters. The only time they talk to any of us is to threaten us with really bad stuff. We’re all scared of talking to them because of this. How do we build connecting bridges with people who say they are going to t*rture us and k*ll us? If these guys had bodies, I’d get a restraining order from the police or move… but they live inside my head, so I can’t. How do we become friends with alters like this?

    Scared, but wanting to heal…
    ~Caro, the Littles, and Crew

  20. Heck-to-tha-friggin-no! I SOOO agree with you on this. Few things annoy us as much as when our T starts talking about integration of the systems! Ugh! If we can just learn to live as a ‘community’ and function in our various HEALTHY roles, the why not just keep on that way? What’s the problem in that?

    Love this post!

  21. Ohevet, lol… love the enthusiasm, lol. Thanks for the comment.
    In my way of thinking, of course, if y’all can live as a healthy community and function in healthy roles, that’s wonderful. Living a healthy, peaceful life is the point, yes?

    I hope you are making big steps in reaching that place —

  22. I value your opinion. I do have to say that integration has NOT been the loss of anyone or anything. It has been the way to greater understanding of each part, of knowing myself fully. It’s sad if people are afraid they are going to lose parts of themselves by coming to accept them completely. Integration brings all these unique and valuable components into harmony. To be in one complete mind all the time is the greatest blessing of all the hard work I’ve done.

  23. Hello Sharon,
    Welcome to Discussing Dissociation, and thanks for writing.
    I like that you’ve found the most important elements of healing. To me, the most important things — not losing anyone, accepting each other completely, and living in harmony — that’s what healing from DID is all about, no matter how it looks or feels or is defined in the end.

    It’s always wonderful to hear when someone has reached that point in their system work and healing where they can live in peace. Well done, and congrats on the hard work!


  24. God, your blog was a lifeline. I have been going crazy trying to prove to myself that by being close to my best friend *and* his most prominent alter, that I wasn’t hurting him. I even paid for one of those services online and they all said the same thing: “the alters are not people. Don’t buy into the fiction that they are people.” And that made me just want to cry. I can’t stop seeing his alter as a person!!! Both my friend and his most prominent adult alter love me very much, and I care for them more deeply than I can say. His alter sometimes expresses sadness that his primary’s wife cannot love him, and I tell him to give it time – they’ve only been ‘out’ for less than six months. But my friends AND health professionals keep telling me that integration is the point of healing, and my feeling that I’m hurting him is like running my hand over a cheese-grater every time I send a loving email to her alter. I feel stupid and deluded at best, criminal at worst. Your post is the one thing I have found that doesn’t make me feel like a criminal. I’m crying now. Thank you.

  25. Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation.

    Oh my goodness… I am so very glad that this blog has had such a powerful impact for you. That’s good to hear. It means a lot to me that this blog can have such a positive effect for people.

    And yes, insiders can very very much be their own person in how they are / relate to others. I simply don’t agree that integration HAS to be the point of healing, so please do encourage your friend to find what works for him, and to stick with that.

    Please keep being a good friend…. because that is NOT criminal, and yes, insiders need good friends too!

    Thanks for your post.

  26. Reblogged this on Discussing Dissociation and commented:

    Hello everyone, thank you for continuing to read here at Discussing Dissociation while I was away. That’s very much appreciated. Let’s start up again with a complicated and somewhat controversial topic….. integration. What do you think about integration? Is it necessary or not?

  27. Thank you, Kathy.

    Integration is something that for me/we feels like an impossibility, at the present time.

    For us, communication and co-operation are the aims. Hopefully, if we gain those to c`s, we will reduce time-loss and will be more able to manage trauma, safely.

    Really, though every person surviving with D.I.D has developed D.I.D in ways unique to their individual trauma[s] and are more than capable of finding their own aims, and should never be re-traumatised by any therapist/Dr “forcing” a specific recovery model.

    Hoping this makes some sense!

  28. Question- for a person who is highly dissociative, what is the difference between having a very clear and strong sense of inner child vs a fairly well integrated alternate?

  29. Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for reposting this. I have just started the journey after a 30 year break. Seems like a lot more has been learned. I had given up on therapy. What I didnt understand is there ARE persons inside and not just unfeeling, unseeing fragments or shadows. My T met one and he wrote me a letter. I am a bit confused on how to communicate but think that will come. PLEASE KEEP POSTING!!!!

  30. Thank you, Devia, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation.
    I’m glad this blog has been a good resource for you – that’s excellent news. And yes, I will keep posting, bit by bit. There are lots of ideas written here about internal communication. Talking with your others inside is extremely important, so yep, keep working at that whole process – its key to making progress in your healing.

    Please keep reading!

  31. Dear Kathy and Discussing Dissociation, i can’t thank enough for your words here and those of others too. For the first time in my life, i don’t feel alone. I feel understood and accepted for who i am with all my alters. I value your advice and information on this site and thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting me as ‘normal’ (not that we want to be normal in that sense). My alters are all trying to speak and be heard so my head feels like it’s about to burst but it is such a relief to find you here. Thank you again x <3

  32. No no no we dont ever gona do that
    We be are own pepol
    We dont want to go awae
    If you do this do it be like pepol die?
    That wud be so sad :(
    Well we wudnt miss mical he cud go awae!
    We like to ech be are own persin
    That be all we no aneway
    It wud be weird to be just 1 persin
    How do you diside who gets to stay?
    That dont sownd nice at all

  33. “I do believe that creating teamwork, cooperation and communication between the different selves, and lowering and removing the dissociative amnesiac walls is critically important.”

    I get what you are saying in this post. If I want to get better, I do have a long journey ahead of me. I have a strong sense just by doing the work some parts of me would come together better–whether that is integration or something else.

    The thing that really confuses me about this post is “how” to lowering and removing amnesiac walls. I have some very severe amnesia, from the past (understandably) and even over little things from day-to-day. It is very disabling sometimes. I have had to learn how to fake it in the world because I can’t remember so much. I wish I knew how to make the amnesia better. I hate worrying I am going to get found out some day by people who think I am this high functioning, successful person.


  34. So my best friend with DID does not intend on reintegration of all her alters. I support her in this decision because some of them have been there since before she was even four years old and have full lives on the inside. But what if I’m falling in love with one of them? My bestie says she doesn’t mind and HE has already professed feelings for me many times. Could this be harmful to her therapy or her connection to her system?

  35. I have been wondering if there is anything that is documented of what happens in your actual mind when things inside are changing while healing is in progress? What I mean is that I have seen a few articles regarding a brief description in the healing process. For example, it is hard work, processing feelings, talking and remembering and than all of a sudden it will read it was like I woke up, I could feel, I felt as one, etc.

    I wonder if there is a level that a person may experience like being in several different worlds in their mind (levels) simultaneously and at some points a person may feel they are balancing between sanity or insanity in their actual mind (no emotional things going on at the time). It is like your mind actually feels broken and separate and that you are very aware of this and it could be possible to choose to go insane or not?

    I guess it is like “unbreaking” up within yourself? I mean, I would think at one time while you were breaking up into parts, you may have been possibly aware of this at the exact time and maybe when things are starting to come together in your “mind” you can actually see the breaks?

    I guess the other option for me is that I am finally losing my mind totally as I cannot find anything anywhere about the “healing in the mind” progress what so ever!

    Has anyone that you have worked with ever described what actually happens in their heads somewhere between being broken and just before healing takes place?

    Thank you!

  36. Well I see my post from Saturday has been removed and I can now understand why! The questions I have asked are too complicated! Since I had not received any feedback regarding my question, I searched the internet in-depth these last several days and now I truly get the whole picture of this MPD/DID stuff from the following –

    There was never any hope to begin with for a “full” recovery! At least now I know the truth and am saying my good-byes!! I will not bother you any longer or anyone else for that matter as it seems I am nothing more than a joke on this earth!!

    Wishing you a better life than mine!

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