Dissociation: Perceptual Control Theory as an Integrative Framework for Clinical Interventions

W. Mansell, T. A. Carey

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter uses Perceptual Control Theory (Powers, Clark, & McFarland, 1960a,b; Powers, 1973, 2005, 2008) to explain dissociation. In particular, it focuses on the phenomena that are described under the umbrella of ‘dissociation’ and concentrates on defining when, how, and why, these phenomena would be significant problems for a person. It is widely accepted that dissociative experiences lie on a continuum with normal experiences (Ray, 1996). This chapter provides a framework for these normal processes and illuminates when they present as significant problems and therefore how to treat them. In essence, we conclude that dissociation represents functional splits within a person’s mind. These splits become a clinical problem only when they disrupt the capacity of the individual to realise important personal goals (e.g. to maintain a social identity, to form close relationships, to keep safe, and so on). We propose that therapy involves helping the person experiencing dissociation to become more aware of the dissociation process and to let go of rigid ways of controlling it (e.g. social withdrawal, self-criticism). We describe techniques derived from Method of Levels cognitive therapy (Carey, 2006) designed for this purpose, as well as ways of implementing established techniques. Through this increased awareness, they can learn more flexible control over their dissociative experiences so that the experiences and their attempts to manage them no longer inhibit their pursuit of their most important life goals.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDissociation and Cognitive Therapy
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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