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"[A]n absorbing journey through a psychiatrist’s dauntingly challenging first case of multiple personality disorder--from the beginning of therapy to stable integration and recovery."
-- Colin Ross, author of Multiple Personality Order and The Osiris Complex
In 1989, Karen Overhill walks into psychiatrist Richard Baer’s office seeking help for her depression and a persistent memory problem: she routinely loses parts of her day, finds herself in places she doesn't remember going to, and is told about conversations she doesn’t remember having. While trying to discover the root cause of her memory loss, Baer works to gain Karen's trust, but it's years before he learns the true extent of the trauma buried in her past. What she eventually reveals is nearly beyond belief, a narrative of a childhood spent grappling with unimaginable horror.
Then Baer receives an envelope in the mail. It’s marked with Karen’s return address but contains a letter from a little girl who writes that she’s seven years old and lives inside of Karen. Soon Baer receives letters from others claiming to be parts of Karen. Under hypnosis, these alternate Karen personalities reveal themselves in shocking variety. One “alter” is a young boy filled with frightening aggression; another an adult male who considers himself Karen’s protector; a third a sassy flirt who seeks dominance over the others. It’s only by compartmentalizing her pain, guilt, and fear in this fashion that Karen has been able to function since childhood. Realizing that his patient represents an extreme case of multiple personality disorder, Baer faces the daunting task of creating a therapy that will make Karen whole again.
As powerful as Sybil or The Three Faces of Eve, Switching Time is the first complete account of such therapy to be told from the perspective of the treating physician, a stunningly devoted healer who worked selflessly for decades so that Karen could one day live as a single human being.
Psychotherapist Baer's compelling and engaging memoir traces his journey through the treatment of a patient's extraordinary case of multiple personality disorder. When Karen Overhill seeks out Baer's help for her depression, she soon divulges lost hours and past abuse. Baer soon receives a letter from seven-year-old Claire who "lives inside Karen," and discovers there are more personalities, or "alters," living within adults, teenagers, children, boys and girls. Realizing that all he knows about multiple personalities he's gleaned from journals and textbooks rather than clinical experience, Baer uses hypnosis to communicate with the alters, discovering the horrendous abuse that led to the creation of each personality. By nurturing them-especially the children-over several years and with the aid of Holdon and Katherine, the alters who function as parent/guardians to the rest, Baer guides them to accept integration. Meanwhile, Baer's marriage dissolves and budget cuts force him to release all his patients except Karen, for whom he comes to care deeply. In this moving and informative memoir, Baer gives readers fascinating insights not only into a rare disease, but also the journey of two individuals determined to understand and overcome all the odds.