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ISSD-D - Aufsätze im ISSD-D-Angebot / Aufsätze: Übersicht
- Letter from Germany
Ulla Fröhling

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As a sociologist and journalist, I had decided in 1989, "If they have MPD in the United States, we surely have it here." I started inquiring in German psychiatric hospitals, with totally negative results. The replies varied from "*MPD does not exist"* or "You mean schizophrenia?" to "We don’t have that here — it is a typically American phenomenon, resulting from too much TV." I did not believe any of those statements.

It was thus in Amsterdam that we "dissociated" individuals came together, and promptly elected Michaela Huber as our chairperson.

Now we see each other at least twice yearly for a day of lectures, workshops, and communication. Additional workshops and specialised groups meet several times during the year. Several theses are under way. Diagnostic instruments have been translated and are now being validated.

"*Vielfalt"* (Variety), a group of feminist therapists in Bremen, publishes a quarterly professional magazine on DID and has created a considerable network to assist DID patients searching for therapists, social workers, or appropriate hospitals. Matrioschka, a survivors’ magazine, has existed for just 2 years.

At our recent ISSD meeting in Frankfurt, October 11, 1997, more than 100 members and interested professionals are expected. The conference highlighted new developments in Germany and the United States. Michaela Huber spoke about the new ISSD treatment guidelines, and Arne Hofmann about psychosomatic aspects of DID. Discussions of strategies to deal with German insurance companies, however, were the most important topic. Difficulties in that area have been increasing severely; some companies refuse to pay for therapies for very strange reasons. One example: "DID cannot be cured; therefore we do not cover therapies for dissociative patients." The true reason, of course, being a tight budget: Germany has a high unemployment rate (de facto 14%). Health insurance in Germany is state-organised and based on the community of all insured; a fixed amount is deducted from wages and directed to insurance companies. Because there is much less input now, everyone gets less out of it.

Good News: Connection and Integration

Lots of workshops deal with dissociation, and further education is in high demand. Michaela Huber of in addition to her psychotherapeutic work and supervision, accepts many invitations from clinics and psychiatric hospitals to do workshops on DID therapy. Medical doctors are becoming aware and more open-minded about dissociative phenomena. Arne Hofmann followed a call from the Institute for Traumatology at the University of Cologne. His institute plans a conference on trauma and creativity to take place next March. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, Jan Philipp Reemtma, PhD, and –probably– Richard Kluft, MD, will speak. Professionals from different areas are making connections: psychotherapists who treat DID-patients and traumatologists who work with torture victims (e.g. ex-Jugoslawia and Africa).

Bad News: The "Dissociated" Press And Other Ordeals

Despite good research, treatment advances, better diagnoses and more acceptance the German press does not cooperate. Backlash has begun.

This summer Die Zeit, Germany’s most respected liberal weekly newspaper, had a long article on the "nonsense of MPD". All influential German papers (the world-wide known Spiegel as well as Psychology Today, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Süddeutsche) seem to agree that there are no such things as dissociation, Dissociative Identity Disorder, let alone SRA. It is virtually impossible to get a different opinion printed. There were two reasons, why German papers are lashing out against dissociation right now:

First, Richard Ofshe, Ph.D, member of the FMSF (False Memory Syndrom Foundation) advisory board, was here. Now papers are buzzing with ‘UFOs and crazed therapists who ruin happy families by forcing false memories of abuse into poor hysterical females’.

Second, the interview Dr Herbert Spiegel gave to Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen about "Sybil" in ‘The New York Review of Books’. This has been disastrous. Nobody over here seems to realize how amazing it is that it took Dr. Spiegel 30 years as well as the death of both the book’s author and Sybil’s psychoanalyst to muster the strength to voice the opinion that "Sybil" was not a multiple.

Highly qualified doctors, psychiatrists and clinical directors wrote letters to the editors, disapproving, and trying to correct the impressions created. They were ignored — not even replied to let alone printed.

This is highly unusual, but explainable: The press is forever looking for the new approach and the good news. Oh, what lovely good news the FMSF can offer: It is not true! The world is a safe place again! (Nobody put it in better words than journalist Mike Stanton in his article on the influence of the FMSF on the American press, "U-Turn on Memory Lane" (Columbia Review of Journalism, July/August 1997).