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Ego State Therapy

What’s Ego State Therapy?

Ego state therapy is based on the concept that the human personality isn't a homogeneous whole. Instead, it's composed of a multitude of parts, which are called states. Each state possesses an identity, memory, and specific traits. These states can be covert, meaning they're difficult to observe directly, or overt, which means they're easily observable.

Ego states aren’t something we’re born with. Instead, we create them to cope with specific problems and situations. A new ego state is typically created when an individual experiences trauma and doesn’t have an existing self that can help them cope with the troubling emotions brought on by the experience. In certain extreme situations (such as dissociative identity disorder), ego states might express themselves as separate, nonintegrated personalities.

While ego state therapy has been used to successfully treat a variety of psychological conditions, it’s primarily utilized in cases involving trauma. Although ego state therapy has only been around for a quarter of a century, studies have conclusively shown that it can be highly effective at treating a number of conditions, including PTSD.

counselor talking with patient

Conditions Treated by Ego-State Therapy

Research has shown that ego-state therapy can improve the following conditions:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety

Attachment Trauma

Depression

Dissociative identity disorder (DID)

Eating disorders

Complex Trauma

Stress

The Difference of a Calm Mind 

At Calm Mind Counseling Center, we have clinicians trained in several types of ego state therapy. We’ll work with you to integrate your disparate selves, resulting in greater psychological wholeness and a better quality of life.

Freedom From Dysfunctional Ego States 

Communication with our disparate selves is particularly important when we get hopelessly stuck in an ego state or suddenly realize a state no longer benefits us. Let's say a child abuse survivor experiences so much trauma at a young age that they become trapped in the role of the frightened child for the rest of their life.

This could cause them to develop an anxiety disorder, pursue emotionally destructive relationships, and engage in other self-sabotaging behaviors. All this is because they're attached to a state that no longer works for them.

How Language Reveals Ego States

When two ego states are at war, you'll feel torn on an issue, and your language typically reflects that. When you say, "I hate myself when I'm like that," it might not be you talking—it could be selves that despise each other with a passion.

On the other hand, if you say something like, "I'm at peace with myself," this could indicate that your ego states are in harmony with each other.

Each ego state has characteristics that differentiate it from all the others. For example, when you say, "Part of me wants to...", you're most likely referring to different ego states without realizing it.

Therapy

The Goal of Ego State Therapy 

The goal of ego state therapy is to help clients gain an understanding of their disparate selves so they can use them to achieve greater internal harmony. When our ego states are integrated, our lives suddenly become richer and more emotionally vibrant. In contrast, ego states that aren't united into a single glorious whole can cause us lots of psychological pain.

When your ego states aren't working well with each other, you'll experience inner turmoil, which can make you feel depressed, distressed, and anxious.

A practitioner might work with client's states to achieve a specific benefit. For example, suppose the individual needs to be assertive when challenged. In that case, the clinician will help the client access the state that's best able to do this.

Ego state therapy allows for a more thorough understanding of the makeup of the client’s personality. This can help the therapist uncover the root of psychological problems.

Your states don't need to be on the same page to achieve internal harmony. For example, let’s say you’re contemplating buying a brand-new automobile.

An ego state that constantly worries about how much you spend might be against the idea and instead push you to buy a secondhand car. On the other hand, a fun-loving and carefree self could urge you to throw caution to the wind and have you plunk your hard-earned money down for the vehicle. That way, it can feel the wind in its hair as the car zooms along the highway at 90 miles an hour.

By getting each state to talk to each other, clients will be able to understand each state’s wants, needs, and desires. This will help them make better decisions.

counselor with family members

Types of Ego States 

There are many types of Ego States that exist. Most fall into the following categories:

Vaded:

A vaded state is a state that's experienced trauma in the past and hasn't yet processed it. It can cause us to overreact to a situation, adding more misery to our lives. Vaded states are the root cause of many self-sabotaging behaviors, such as substance abuse.

Conflicted:

These are ego states that clash with each other, resulting in internal conflict. The first thing a practitioner does after establishing contact with different states is to assess how much discord there is among them. The therapist will use various treatment modalities to resolve these inner conflicts so the client can integrate their ego states. For example, the clinician might use family therapy, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, or another form of treatment.

Retro:

Retro states are states that originally learned behavior that used to work but doesn't anymore. If you react in an out-of-control, angry manner, that could be the retro state coming out.

Normal:

A normal ego state not only gets along with the other states but also works well externally with other human beings.