Engendered Responses to, and Interventions for, Shame in Dissociative Disorders: A Survey and Experimental Investigation

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This study examined shame and responses to it in adult dissociative disorder (DD; n = 24) and comparison psychiatric (n = 14) samples. To investigate how helpful different therapeutic responses are after shame disclosures in therapy, participants heard two vignettes from “mock” patients disclosing a) shame and b) surprise. Participants rated the helpfulness of five potential responses. Interventions covered withdrawing from the affect (withdrawal focused) to feeling it (feeling focused), with other interventions on cognitions (cognitive focused), management strategies (management focused), and previous experiences (history focused). The DD sample reported higher characterological and bodily shame, and more shame avoidance and withdrawal. There was no difference across groups for intervention ratings. For shame, interventions focused on feelings, cognitions, or previous shame experiences were deemed most helpful, but this was qualified by experiencing dissociation while hearing the script, where the history intervention was reported less helpful. Exposure to shame while monitoring dissociation should accompany therapy for DDs.

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