Ego-State Therapy

Ego state therapy (Latin "I-State therapy) is a psychotherapeutic method from trauma therapy. It was developed by John and Helen Watkins.

The starting point for ego state therapy is the assumption that a person's personality consists of different ego states. A healthy, non-traumatized person knows and uses about 5-15 different ego states. They are clearly conscious and are guided by the I. Most of these ego parts arise in childhood in the course of normal development. Healthy parts are, for example, the "competent expert" who can give a specialist lecture in front of colleagues, the "good host" who can serve the best coffee, the "cool guy" at a party or the "enthusiastic cyclist". You are in a certain ego state at all times and can constantly change from one to the other as required.

People who have been seriously injured develop defense mechanisms to protect their personality against the feelings of pain and anxiety associated with the injury. Some do this by "splitting off" traumatized ego parts, which are then no longer under their own control. At first, this almost always happens unconsciously. These "ego-parts" can unfold a life of their own like "own personalities", with "own" will, "own" thoughts and feelings.

An example is a person who has been abused by a family member since childhood, now lives in his own apartment as an adult, and continues to feel urged to commit acts of violence. That persons healthy, accessible and conscious ego-parts can learn to suppress these negative impulses through therapy.

Ego-State-Therapy helps trauma victims to better connect these split ego parts and develop towards a holistic personality. This form of therapy takes psychoanalytic theories, hypnoanalytic techniques and recent findings from the treatment of dissociative disorders into account. It is effective for post-traumatic stress disorders, borderline (BPD), anxiety or sexual disorders & dissociative identity disorders.

The therapy takes place in four phases:

  • In the first phase a stabilization and an ego-strengthening takes place.
  • In the second phase, the resources, i.e. the "good" ego parts, are activated. The person concerned is to be strengthened thereby. Afterwards, the trauma-associated parts are also activated, if necessary by hypnosis.
  • The third phase is the biggest challenge. The aim here is to correct or resolve the traumatised ego states.
  • In a fourth phase, both the trauma-associated and the resourceful parts are worked with, trying to establish mututal recognition and communication and empathy between them. "Evil" parts are also part of oneself and should be recognized as valuable resources that can be discovered and applied

The primary goal of ego-state therapy is to reduce stress in the inner system and to refocus energy on shaping a fulfilled life. The affected person should learn to understand their different personality components and the associated needs and points of view, to decide on the essential ones and to act accordingly. Depending on the severity of the disorder, the split ego parts can be fully integrated into the "inner team" or they can now, guided by their own self, symbolically continue to be regarded as "their own personalities", but are now used constructively and integratively.