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In the last section, we discussed promoting internal communication. Three techniques for promoting internal communication are therapist as a go-between, the bulletin board, and internal conversations.
In this section, we will discuss conversation topics and internal decision making. Regarding conversation topics, we’ll look at basing initial topics on needs and secondary topics. This section also provides several techniques you can implement with your client to foster productive internal decision making skills. As you listen to this section, evaluate how these techniques can benefit your client. Will you apply them as they were applied to Alan?
♦ #1 Basing Initial Topics on Needs
Use of the Bulletin Board technique from section three can be a productive way for clients like Alan who lack productive internal communication to meet specific needs. For example, Alan began posting certain needs on his bulletin board along with all the particulars about how specific tasks or obligations must be fulfilled. Other personalities can also use the Bulletin Board to post their own needs, requests or comments. Would you agree that increasingly effective internal communication shows the personality system that there are direct and immediate benefits from working together?
♦ #2 Secondary Topics
In spite of his anxiety over what may be happening, Alan later stated, "Not knowing what happens is actually worse than knowing the facts." Therefore, I encouraged Alan’s alters to communicate to Alan a summary of what occurred during any extensive period in which Alan was ‘out.’ Also, I encouraged Alan to ask about what occurred whenever he lost a significant amount of time. In what ways could your client learn more about what has been happening during amnesic episodes? Could you perhaps refer to a behavioral contract as discussed in section 3?
♦ Internal Decision Making
In the beginning, the best results Alan obtained were limited cooperation around general tasks in which most of his alters had a common interest. For example, Alan’s initial therapeutic work regarding decision making focused on who was going to be ‘out’ during a dental appointment. Previously, Alan had had several bad experiences in which all of the alters refused to be present while a tooth was being pulled. As a result, Alan’s child alter was shoved ‘out’ and behaved in an embarrassing way. Alan stated, "Later I found out that I was crying and asking for my mommy! Can you believe that!?"
Clearly, there was a common interest in Alan’s personality system in correcting some serious dental problems, but no alter who had the ability to arrange dental treatment was willing to experience it. After a lengthy debate and another behavioral contract, a compromise plan to divide the experience among several alters was worked out. For the most part, the alters were able to stick to the plan and succeeded in obtaining the necessary dental care.
If some degree of internal cooperation is to be achieved, would you agree that an effective means of communication must take place? You might also consider ways to promote a sense of fairness or justice within the system. However, you might find that a number of personalities are exceedingly moral with a strong sense of fair play. I asked Alan’s alters to begin working on some of the practical problems in Alan’s everyday life.
For example, who pays the bills? Who makes sure that Alan gets to work each day? Would you agree that having to formally make such decisions highlights the need for a decision making mechanism and demonstrates the nature of the process already in place? With Alan, I worked through and examined some initial decisions in his system. The groundwork for a cooperative decision making process already existed. If the same is true for your client, you need only to modify the process to achieve a greater degree of internal consensus.
Also, you might find it helpful to foster a decision making process which is along democratic lines. By this, I mean a process with as large a representation of alters as is feasible. Would you agree that to exclude an alter is to invite trouble? However, it is clear that some alter personalities will remain unknown to the therapist and perhaps to the entire personality system until a later point in therapy. So, as with behavioral contracts, any time a decision is made, all unknown alters can be invited to step forward and register their comments and opinions. Would you agree that this technique may succeed in uncovering holdouts from time to time?
Think of your Alan. How can these techniques be applied in your treatment to put in place a smoothly functioning mechanism to match the allocation of resources with the person’s overall needs?
In this section, we have discussed conversation topics and internal decision making. Regarding conversation topics, we looked at basing initial topics on needs and secondary topics. This section also provided several techniques you can implement with your client to foster productive internal decision making skills.
In the next section, we will discuss control over switching. Two ways to help your client gain control over switching are overcoming host fears and facilitation of the switching process.