Four Ways To Recognize A Healthcare Provider With Partner Potential


I am not referring to finding a romantic partner, or a business partner.  A great healthcare provider can be your partner in developing better physical health.

Healing from severe trauma requires a degree of physical health.  For many different reasons, adults with trauma disorders are at a greater risk of health concerns over their lifetime.  Facing any type of illness and injury uses your valuable energy, your time, and some of the attention that could have been used instead to make a better life in the present.  All of us have only so much of these precious commodities every single day.  And even if your system struggles to accept that your body is indeed the body for all of you, it is still the vehicle that all of you inhabit.

A great healthcare provider can be your partner in building (and maintaining) a healthier body that takes you on your journey of healing.


The more complex your medical or dental issue, the more you need to be able to work in partnership with your doctor or dentist.  Your own ability to be in partnership is important too, but that is a topic for another post.  This post is intended to help trauma survivors spot a provider that has the skills and openness to be in partnership with them.

Because healthcare providers are delivering a service that you need, being as discerning a consumer of healthcare as you can be will improve the results you receive.  When you are gravely injured/ill and in the ER, you might have no choice who ends up treating you.  But if you have options for providers, it helps to know how to identify those with the potential to work in partnership with you.  This is not the same as reviewing their scores from an online forum, or even looking at their clinical affiliations and CV.

To be a great partner in healthcare, a provider doesn’t need to be an expert in understanding structural dissociation or even fully understand more than the basics of trauma.


Of course, it will be amazing to find that your healthcare provider knows a great deal about DID.  It is rare, but I would never say that could not happen.  It should not be expected, and there are some skills that can largely overcome initial ignorance about DID.  They include (but are not limited to):

  • They need to be good at perceiving and responding to your needs.
  • They should be able to listen to your felt needs and incorporate it into their treatment when possible.
  • They need to be flexible in their clinical thinking and with their treatment approach.
  • They are able to feel and display a degree of compassion, without becoming overwhelmed by your history or your diagnosis (if you decide to share it).


Here are four suggested methods to identify a healthcare provider with partnership potential:

  1. Listen carefully to the way they speak to you.  Tone, topic, and prosody can tell you a great deal.  A provider that is using a curious rather than a critical tone is likely to see you less as a problem to be solved than as a whole human.  Asking questions about how your illness or your injury is affecting many aspects of your life also shows awareness that you are more than a broken bone or an infection.  Prosody, or the rising and falling emphasis placed on speech, can alert you to their emotional availability.  Many trauma survivors are experts at detecting threat in another person’s speech patterns.  In this case, prosody can signify warmth and openness, or rigidity and doubt.  Listen for it.
  2. Listen EVEN MORE CAREFULLY to how they respond to what YOU say to them. If you are not used to being listened to with compassion, this could be difficult.  You may experience discomfort when you are treated well.  IT might be something you don’t know how to respond to!  That is hard to explain to people who are not trauma survivors, but it is fairly common for adults with DID.  Their attempts to make eye contact with you, to ask questions about your statements, and their body language will all provide valuable information.  Some providers will ask you about what has helped you in the past.  You may not remember if you were co-conscious or switched during past treatments.  You can respond with something you do remember, something as simple as asking them to slightly dim the lights, or be allowed to keep more clothing on during exams.  Your responses do not have to be complex or clinical.  Then listen to how they respond…
  3. Observe their actions, but use as objective a filter as you can generate.  Trauma can cause misinterpretation of another person’s actions.  Silence is an example.  A provider may be silently considering options, but that silence can be interpreted as disinterest.  When providers enter documentation, it can seem as if they are ignoring you.  They may need to enter all of your information because it is complex, and they want to get it in correctly.  Waiting until after patient hours to do documentation is a common way to get things wrong.
  4. Note their actions during their physical treatment of you, particularly when you tell them that a treatment is painful or frightening.  Compassion mixed with open and collaborative exploration of alternatives (if further treatment is needed) indicates a degree of responsiveness and flexibility.

Looking for more information on navigating healthcare?

I wrote a book for you!


“Staying In The Room:  Managing Medical And Dental Care When you Have DID” is a practical guide to building a stronger toolkit for appointments.  It covers how to use a wide range of stabilization strategies effectively when you are receiving care, why strategic practicing your tools leads to greater success, and how your provider can use simple adaptations to their treatments that could make you feel safer without compromising their ability to do their job!

It is possible to get the care you deserve.  Today.

You can grab the paperback edition or the digital download on… (where else?) Amazon  .


Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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