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Ego-State Therapy (EST)

Ego-state therapy is a psychodynamic approach in which techniques of group and family therapy are employed to resolve conflicts between the various "ego states" that constitute a "family of self" within a single individual.

More about Ego-State Therapy

Ego-state therapy (EST) is a psychodynamic approach in which an individual’s psyche is considered to be an internal collection of distinct but integrated ego states, or a family of selves, that can be covert (difficult to witness or observe directly) or overt (directly observable). According to the tenets of this therapy, ego states are not innate; instead, people navigate many different roles and identities during their everyday lives and develop various ego states to adapt to different circumstances. For example, a woman might become a fierce protector of her children while also climbing the corporate ladder as a chief financial officer.

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When ego states are in harmony, an individual’s personality is considered whole and expressed normally. However, some people’s ego states may fragment, potentially due to a traumatic event or interaction with a significant person, allowing one ego state to dominate.1,2 In extreme scenarios, as in dissociative identity disorder (DID), different ego states may be overt and express themselves as separate, nonintegrated personalities. Ego states may also become problematic when people find themselves stuck in a particular state or discover that a given state is no longer beneficial. For example, a survivor of child abuse might become stuck in a victim role as an adult, resulting in unhealthy relationships, anxiety, and other issues that stem from a dysfunctional ego state.

Ego-state therapists seek to help clients integrate their various ego states to communicate with one another rather than conflict. The therapist might use various psychotherapeutic tools, including aspects of family therapy, group therapy, and hypnosis, to activate and identify an individual’s ego states and then contact and communicate with them. Therapists do not challenge individual ego states during sessions; instead, they attempt to encourage a client’s different states to communicate with each other.

Once a client’s ego states have been contacted, the therapist will assess the levels of conflict and cooperation between them. Therapists might then use behavioral, analytic, cognitive, or humanistic techniques to help resolve inner conflicts and integrate an individual’s various selves to improve their functioning as a whole.


The Human Condition,

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