Ego State Therapy was originated by the husband and wife team Dr. Jack Watkins and Helen Watkins (now both deceased). They found that giving a voice to disowned or dissociated aspects of self enabled resolution of long-standing internal conflicts. Although it is frequently practiced without the therapist using formal hypnotic induction (or even being trained in hypnosis), Ego State Therapy was originally developed–and is often more effective–in the context of a hypnotic trance.
Among other Ego State Therapy interventions, I employ an imagination-based method called Dissociative Table (also known as ‘conference room’), which was developed by George Fraser, to more readily access ego states.
Ego State Therapy typically involves identifying key parts of self involved in internal dynamics related to “stuckness”, inner conflict, self-sabotage, child-like behavior, avoidance, criticalness, and/or many other presenting problems (certainly, anxiety, depression, anger, shame, trusting others, and attachment are all on the list). Using Dissociative Table and other methods–with or without formal hypnotic work–it is possible to identify and work directly with the younger emotional parts that are mobilized around these long-standing issues. Ego State Therapy provides a means to honor those functions and their reason(s) for being; to hear and validate their concerns, needs, and fears; to appreciate their survival function; and, when indicated, to help them update their “job description” to exist more in the present. We never, ever, ‘get rid’ of parts, though they sometimes choose to blend with other parts as the work progresses. Containment of memories and other emotionally charged material, as well as “tucking in” of parts, at the end of a session are key to helping life move along smoothly between sessions, so the healing work can continue.
Ego State Therapy is about appreciating all aspects and parts of the self, known or unknown, that have contributed to survival such as those that have served as containment for upsetting (and undigested) experience, overwhelming but expressed emotion, as well as protectors–even fierce protectors. Their work is particularly important, and we understand that we can’t accomplish a thing without their being on board.