Supporting Extreme States, Psychosis and Dissociation

On her blog Meditations & Musings, Shelley Karpaty — an author for Mad in America and Mad in the Family — describes MIA’s recent virtual panel that focused on ways to support loved ones experiencing extreme states: 

This past weekend, I attended a webinar hosted by Mad in America board members and therapists, Louisa Putnam and Kermit Cole, where we heard from Olga Runciman and Cindy Hodge who live in recovery with voices and with Sam Ruck who is a caregiver to his wife, Ka’ryn, who lives with DID, (dissociative identity disorder). This group of brave and compassionate individuals shared some of their stories and provided participants concrete ways to help their loved ones or how to help themselves. There was a mixture of parents and individuals who live with these extreme states who attended the webinar. . . . 

Olga and Cindy expressed what worked and works for them. These are all nuanced and I realize it is quite difficult when you are “in it” with them especially if it is a new experience. This is not easy to witness and it is not easy to stay curious and calm. Keeping individuals safe is important.

  • It is very important for individuals who are witnessing a person’s extreme state to be respectfully curious within their context.
  • How did we get here? (I guess this would need be figured out away from the situation at times.)
  • Assumptions may be different than their reality. Trust them in what they are expressing and try to figure it out.
  • Be curious.
  • ‘I got you. I see you. I love you. It’s going to be OK. You are safe.’
  • While the system tells us to distract individuals from their voices, it is better to stay calm and support them.

Side note: If we look back historically, Carl Jung supported this option and worked with his patients in compassion and curiosity. He kept them safe and allowed his patients to exist in their worlds providing them with space, art supplies, gardens to walk in and other modalities.”

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