Navigating Depersonalization and Derealization in Therapy: Rediscovering Connection

Depersonalization and derealization are complex psychological experiences that can significantly impact an individual’s sense of self and their connection to reality. In therapy, addressing these phenomena requires a delicate and compassionate approach. This blog post aims to shed light on depersonalization and derealization, exploring their origins, potential triggers, and how therapy can provide a path towards reconnection and healing.

Understanding Depersonalization and Derealization

Depersonalization is characterized by a sense of detachment from oneself, as if observing one’s own actions and emotions from a distance. Derealization, on the other hand, involves feeling disconnected from the external world, where familiar surroundings may appear strange or unreal. Both experiences can be profoundly disorienting and distressing for those who endure them.

Origins and Triggers

Depersonalization and derealization often arise as defense mechanisms in response to overwhelming stress or trauma. They can serve as a way to distance oneself from the intensity of emotional pain or to protect against a perceived threat. These experiences may be triggered by a variety of factors, such as childhood trauma, severe stress, anxiety disorders, substance use, or even existential crises.

The Role of Therapy

Therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for individuals struggling with depersonalization and derealization to explore the underlying causes and develop coping mechanisms. Here are some ways therapy can be instrumental in the healing process:

Validation and Normalization

One of the first steps in therapy is to validate the individual’s experiences. Understanding that depersonalization and derealization are not signs of weakness or insanity, but rather common responses to overwhelming circumstances, can be immensely empowering.

Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

Therapists often introduce mindfulness and grounding exercises to help clients reconnect with their bodies and the present moment. These techniques serve as anchors, providing a sense of stability in moments of disorientation.

Exploring Trauma and Coping Mechanisms

Through gentle exploration, therapy can uncover past traumas or triggers that contribute to depersonalization and derealization. By understanding the roots of these experiences, individuals can begin to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Integration of Emotions

Depersonalization and derealization can sometimes be accompanied by a numbing of emotions. Therapy offers a space to gradually reintegrate and process these emotions, fostering a deeper sense of self-awareness.

Building a Sense of Safety

Establishing a secure therapeutic relationship is crucial for those struggling with depersonalization and derealization. This relationship becomes a foundation of trust, allowing individuals to gradually open up and explore their experiences.

Exploration of Self-Identity

Depersonalization often involves a sense of detachment from one’s own identity. Therapy can facilitate a process of self-discovery and self-acceptance, helping individuals rebuild a coherent sense of self.

Reconnection With Self & Others

Reconnection with self and others can be done through Ego State therapy. Where there is a building of compassion toward the distancing and a working together with it.


Depersonalization and derealization can be profoundly isolating experiences, but therapy offers a beacon of hope for those seeking reconnection and healing. Through validation, mindfulness techniques, exploration of trauma, and the gradual process of reintegration, individuals can embark on a journey towards reclaiming their sense of self and their connection to the world around them. With the right therapeutic support, it is possible to transcend the grip of depersonalization and derealization, and step back into a life imbued with meaning and authenticity.

Are you interested in enhancing your theoretical and practical toolkit for the conceptualization and treatment of dissociation? EMDR & Trauma Therapy Centre is hosting a 2 day In-Person Clinician Training in Toronto (11/10/23-11/11/23) for interested mental health professionals. Sign-up using the following link.

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The EMDR & Trauma Therapy Centre provides in-person therapy in Toronto and virtual therapy across Ontario. Specializing in EMDR and trauma therapy.