What is Ego States therapy?

Ego state therapists frequently refer to a “family of selves.” They don't literally mean that a person has multiple personalities. Instead, each of us must navigate several discrete identities and roles. For example, a woman might adopt the role of protector toward her children but feel like a fearful or neglected child around her mother. 

Ego state therapy aims to identify these different roles and then integrate them into a coherent self.

Ego states are an adaptation to various life circumstances, rather than innate states of being. Sometimes a person becomes stuck in an ego state, or finds that an ego state is no longer beneficial. A child abuse victim, for example, might get stuck in the role of frightened child. This could lead to anxiety, unhealthy relationships, and other behavioral patterns based on an ego state that's no longer functional.

Ego state therapists identify four distinct ego states:
•    A “vaded” ego state is an ego that has experienced a traumatic
Event it has not yet processed. Vaded ego states cause emotional reactivity and require resolution of trauma.
•    Conflicted ego states are those that are in conflict with one another.
They lead to a sense of internal conflict, and ego state therapy aims to resolve the conflict.
•    Retro states are ego states that once worked but that are not
harmful. Ego state therapy endeavors to help these states learn to come out only when they are useful.

Normal ego states are healthy states that are openly acknowledged, not in conflict, and not maladaptive. The goal of ego state therapy is to achieve normal ego states.


Emerson, G. (2016). What is ego states therapy and what are ego states? www.meisa.biz.