Psychiatrist Baer recalls “the most important and deeply fascinating experience of my professional life”—his many sessions with a patient suffering from dissociative identity disorder.
Supplementing his detailed notes with audio and video tapes, drawings, letters and journal entries, the author builds a dramatic, novelistic account of the years he spent treating a woman known here as Karen. Baer first met her in January 1989, when she came to his Chicago office complaining of depression and suicidal feelings. Her periodic losses of memory and her accounts of horrific childhood abuse led the psychiatrist to suspect that Karen had what used to be called multiple personality disorder. After nearly four years of therapy, his suspicions were confirmed when he received a letter from one of her “alters,” a seven-year-old named Claire. Karen then provided him with the names and descriptions of 11 distinct alternate personalities, each with a unique history. At this point, Baer began hypnotizing Karen and guiding her through trances in which more personalities—male and female, young and old—were induced to speak to him. They also sent him drawings and wrote revealing letters, portions of which are reproduced here. Baer then led Karen through an integration process, sometimes guided by advice from an alter. As Karen consolidated these alters, whose function had been to protect her, painful memories emerged, but so did her coping abilities. By 1998, she had integrated them all; however, years of abuse had taken their toll, and she remained Baer’s patient for another eight years. While controversy still surrounds the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, Baer’s account is given weight by Karen’s participation—she verified its accuracy as it was being written and provides a prologue and an epilogue.
A compelling account of abuse so repellent as to sometimes defy credulity.