THESIS DEFENCE Katelyn Fister, “The Role of Metaphor in the Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder: Listening to the Multiple Voices of Shared Experience”

Academic Events
Trinity Western University
BOG Hall, Reimer Student Centre
Langley, BC V2Y1Y1

Examining Committee

Supervisor: Janelle Kwee, PhD (CPSY)

Second Reader: Richard Bradshaw, PhD (CPSY)

External Examiner: Lara Ragpot, PhD (MAES)

Exam Chair: TBD


In this study, the Listening Guide (Brown & Gilligan, 1992), a voice-centred relational methodology, was used to explore the therapeutic application of metaphor in the treatment of dissociative identity disorder (DID) from the perspective of both client and therapist. Two client-therapist dyads, as well as a former therapist, participated in individual interviews exploring their subjective and shared experiences of using metaphor in therapy.  Through analysis of the interviews, eight voices were identified. These voices are organized into two overarching categories: 1) voices of trauma and dissociation, and 2) voices of healing and integration. Relationships were observed among the various voices of dissociation, as well as between the voices of dissociation and those of trauma and healing. These relationships reveal natural links between clients’ metaphors of trauma, dissociation, and healing. The clients’ core metaphors of dissociation – Hope’s beehive metaphor and ‘Reace’s mansion metaphor – illustrate the complex relationships that exist among these three metaphorical constructs. The beehive and mansion metaphors represented the individuals’ subjective experiences of DID and were used as the main organizers of the healing process across all three phases of treatment: 1) establishing safety, stabilization, and symptom reduction; 2) confronting, working through, and integrating traumatic memories; and 3) identity integration and rehabilitation (International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation [ISSTD], 2011). Importantly, the therapists were open to hearing and engaging with clients’ own metaphors of dissociation, which opened possibilities for healing. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed, with a focus on how this research may inform current treatment guidelines for DID (ISSTD, 2011).