Switching Time: A Doctor’s Harrowing Story of Treating a Woman with 17 Personalities – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

When Karen shows up to Dr. Baer’s office in 1989, she is frightened, confused, and at a breaking point. Dr. Baer initially believes she is suffering from depression, but as their patient-doctor relationship grows, he discovers she has at least 17 distinct personalities living within her. In this documentation, Dr. Baer talks about his time treating Karen, as well as how they ultimately dealt with her trauma and distinct personalities.

A fascinating story, really, I initially discovered Switching Time after getting sucked into the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) side of TikTok. I grew fascinated with the disorder, although I am also aware of how rare it is and how some individuals on the app might not actually have it. Of course, as someone who is not a mental health professional, I cannot say if these creators on TikTok are lying or not. So, ultimately, I wanted to learn more. DID is villainized so much in media (such as in Alfred Hitcock’s Psycho) that I wanted to learn what it was and why.

Switching Time does this by delving into Karen’s story. And while the story was both fascinating and heartbreaking, like many readers, I did go in with skepticism especially upon researching Dr. Baer. How much did he make up, if anything? How much did his patient make up? We can’t be sure, if any at all. If, as Dr. Baer wants us to believe, this is a 100% true story, then it is fascinating. Even at 80% it is fascinating. But, while reading, you also have to take into account the criticisms from others in the mental health field. Some go as far as to say DID doesn’t exist. Others say it is not possible for Dr. Baer to have “cured” Karen so easily. In addition, others have also said that he had too close of a relationship with Karen and that clouded his judgment.

I am not one to say.

What I do know is that the story is fascinating, even if it is just a story. People do suffer, whether from DID, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc. Whether what happened to Karen is 100% true is hard to say. Whether it is true or not, there are some evident content warnings readers should be aware of: Dr. Baer describes in detail some of what Karen told him (with the patient’s permission), and it is dark. Karen was very much abused, her family supposedly a part of the satanic cults of the 70s. So go in expecting so very vivid descriptions of abuse. In fact, they were so vivid, I would take a month between listening to different chapters, just because it was so heavy.

As I said, I’m not one to judge the truth behind Karen’s story or Dr. Baer’s encounter. So, I’m willing to also give it some benefit of the doubt, while also listening to what others have said. It was still a fascinating journey into the mind of a lost woman…and whatever happened, I happy to see she is thriving.

What’s it about?

In 1989, Karen showed up at the author’s (a psychiatrist) practice, terribly frightened and at breaking point. The author realized that he was dealing with a severe case of Multiple Personality Disorder. He encountered 17 distinct personalities, all living inside Karen since she was a child. ‘SWITCHING TIME’ chronicles his years of work with Karen.

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