Why is it so Hard to Use Many Common Stabilization Strategies in Medical and Dental Appointments?

The short answer?

Because the part of your brain that goes partially “off-line” when you dissociate is the SAME PART that is supposed to remember and use the techniques your therapist taught you in session.


I know.

Me too.


The long(er) answer?

Because you aren’t using them early enough, using more than one, or using sensory-based strategies.

I can’t explain why your therapist hasn’t mentioned any of this to you.  All of the emails I get for continuing education tell me that they are going to teach me the latest, the very latest, techniques based on neurological research on trauma.   Since they never mention what I just told you, I will take a pass on their courses.  Because they seem to be missing a real contradiction here.


What can you do?

  • Start using your stabilization strategies way earlier than you think you need them.  They won’t harm you, they shouldn’t take a lot of your time, and they can help lower your degree of dissociation.  This could mean using them when you are in the waiting room, the parking lot, at breakfast that day, or the day/week before the appointment.
  • Blend and mix strategies.  We know that some strategies target one aspect of dissociation, and some target others.  They use different skills, and different senses.  Mix and match.  Give your brain more chances to succeed.  In my book, “Staying In The Room” I have an entire chapter on how to practice stabilization strategies for maximal effectiveness.  Why therapists think this is “one and done” is beyond me.  Maybe they don’t understand the brain and the effect dissociation has on brain function as well as they think they do.  Maybe it is because a weekend course won’t teach you much about the brain.
  • Consider sensory-based strategies.  I use them because they work, and they don’t require conscious thinking. I just go beyond and below the part of the brain that goes off-line.  They often last longer and have a bigger effect because of how they impact brain function.  They are described in my book, and they they are definitely not squishing a foam ball or touching a silky cloth. That won’t make enough of a difference to a dissociated brain.  Sorry.


“Staying In The Room:  Managing Medical and Dental Care When You Have DID” will help you figure out how to improve your experiences today.  You don’t have to find the perfect provider or wait until you get more therapy.  Those ideas don’t work anyway, because life (and illness, and injury) happens to all of us.

You will learn that there are many things you can do to improve your appointments, and these will also make everyday life better as well.  Becoming more informed doesn’t mean you need to go to medical school.  Simple actions can make a huge difference in your health.  Learn to speak “doctor” just a bit better, and you could avoid expensive and painful complications.  Ask for treatments that reduce shame, pain, and dissociation, and you will leave feeling empowered.  Stay out of the ER if you can, but if you can’t, know how to navigate it with skill.

“Staying In The Room” is available as an affordable e-book or a paperback (you know you want to highlight, underline, and write in the margins, right?) online at  Amazon.com .


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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