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Section 13
Mapping Personality Systems

CEU Question 13 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | DID
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed resistance to treatment.  We examined manifestations of resistance as fugues, trances and depersonalizations, acting out, internal uproar and acute regressions, flights into health, and techniques for overcoming resistance. 

On this track we will discuss mapping the personality system.  The idea of mapping the personality system of DID clients is not new; both Morton Prince and Walter Franklin Prince published diagrams of their understanding of how the alter personalities of their patients fit together.  Bennett Braun expanded the idea of mapping into a useful therapeutic technique.  

George, a colleague of mine mentioned in a previous track used Braun’s technique of mapping the personality system when he treated Rob, age 37.  George asked Rob’s personality system to produce a map, diagram, or schema of the alters’ best understanding of how they fit together or their sense of their inner world.  The steps of mapping the personality system that George used were choosing a form of map, identifying useful information, and using maps as final integration tools. 

As you listen to this track, consider your DID client.  How might you begin the process of mapping your client’s personality system?  Can you think of ways to gain your client’s interest in this technique?

3 Steps to Mapping the Personality System

#1 Choosing a Form of Map
First, let’s discuss choosing a form of map. Would you agree that the exact form of map can be left up to the discretion of the personality system?  I have received Mercator projection maps, pie charts, architectural blueprints, organizational personnel charts, target-like arrangements of concentric circles, lists, and some totally unclassifiable documents.  What I find important is that all of the personalities be represented on the map in some fashion.  The results are quite variable, and a substantial percentage of DID clients are not able to produce any form of map at all.  

In some cases, however, your client can create a useful document that can tell you a great deal about the dynamics of the personality system and indicate areas of further therapeutic work.  The form of the map also provides information about the personality system’s internal metaphor, which can be used in working with the system.  One DID client, Rob, age 37, for example, likened his body to a house in which the alters lived in separate rooms.  The map of Rob’s system resembled a blueprint with the alters’ rooms opening into a central hall.  Rob’s therapist used this structure to locate the alters, set up lines of communication, arrange meetings, and so on.
#2 Identifying Useful Information
Next, let’s discuss identifying useful information.  Complex DID clients often represent separate families of personalities on their maps.  This enables the therapist to see which alters group together and which alters serve as connection points between separate families.  Some of the most useful pieces of information contained in Rob’s map were some blank areas where Rob felt that something or somebody should exist.  Rob stated to George, "These empty rooms aren’t really empty.  I just don’t know what goes in there." 

This alerted George, the therapist, to the existence of hidden alters who must be met.  The juxtapositions of alters on Rob’s map were also potentially useful data and can help identify which alters were likely to be able to fuse easily during the series of partial fusions that build toward final integration.  George used Rob’s map as a source of metaphors for generating images and explaining concepts to the personalities.  

For example, two specific alter personalities had adjacent rooms on Rob’s map.  George used this close proximity to convince the two alters of their inherent similarity.  This technique of using the map as a source of metaphors to explain concepts led to better internal communication between the two alters.  George stated, "Rob’s alters began to realize how they were interconnected and not just that they were interconnected.  After that, much uncovering work was done due to Rob’s better internal communication."  Think of your Rob.  What type of useful information would you like to gain from mapping your client’s personality system?

#3 Using Maps as Final Integration Tools
In addition to choosing a form of map and identifying useful information, the third step for mapping the personality system is using maps as final integration tools. 

Once a map is generated, copies should be kept by both the client and therapist.  Rob gave his therapist, George permission to update his copy of the map.  Rob also updated his own copy when he found something he thought should be added or when he felt a change.  Therefore, Rob’s personality map was updated periodically, at which times newly identified blank areas were added, partial integrations were incorporated, and newly recognized alters were added.  

Before any attempts at any "final" integrations, Rob and George went over the map looking for loose threads or ambiguous areas that signaled undiscovered alters or incomplete work.  George stated to me, "Not surprisingly, there were some trouble spots on Rob’s map.  It appeared he had an alter personality that moved between levels of the system in much the same way as the host himself.  This alter had not yet spoken, so I decided to focus the next few sessions on working with this alter.  One of the good things about using the maps is that they serve as a way to track progress." 

Think of your Rob.  Does your client’s personality map indicate a particular level of therapeutic progress?  Can the map be useful in designating future interventions?

On this track we discussed mapping the personality system.  Three steps to mapping the personality system are choosing a form of map, identifying useful information, and using maps as final integration tools. 

On the next track we will discuss therapeutic resolutions.  In my practice, therapeutic resolutions generally consist of four main areas.  These are techniques for fusion and integration, assessing fusion stability, therapeutic interventions for fusion failures, and post-fusion treatment.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Blasini-Méndez, M. (2019). Interpersonal postcolonial supervision: Facilitating conversations of countertransference. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 13(3), 233–237. 

Cavicchioli, M., & Maffei, C. (2020). Rejection sensitivity in borderline personality disorder and the cognitive–affective personality system: A meta-analytic review. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 11(1), 1–12. 

Matz, S. C., & Harari, G. M. (2020). Personality–place transactions: Mapping the relationships between Big Five personality traits, states, and daily places. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Woods, S. A., & Anderson, N. R. (2016). Toward a periodic table of personality: Mapping personality scales between the five-factor model and the circumplex model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(4), 582–604.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
What are three steps to mapping the personality system of a dissociative identity disorder client? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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