For journalists, any new cultural offering that deals with a health or social issue is an opportunity to explore that issue and tell readers something about it that they don’t already know. The challenge is to laser out the chaff and offer up evidence-based reporting.
The subject comes to mind because today’s New York Times features a front-page ad for a Steven Spielberg television series set to premiere Sunday. United States of Tara stars Australian actress and Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, which we used to call multiple personality disorder or “split personality.” Discussion about the scientific accuracy of the portrayal and its potential impact on actual people with DID has already begun. At least one expert has cautioned that the vast majority of people with DID don’t behave like Tara.
Most mainstream reviews (including the NYT review today) will sidestep the question, but it’s out there. To explore it, a few resources:
Showtime is offering up an interview with Dr. Richard Kluft, an expert on dissociation, in connection with its website for the show.
Another national expert is Steven N. Gold, Ph.D., President of the Trauma Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association and editor of the professional journal, Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, found here: www.apa.org/journals/tra/. He’s also director of the Trauma Resolution & Integration Program at Nova University in South Florida, where he is a professor at the Center for Psychological Studies. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Linda Topping Streitfeld