One of my therapy specialties in my individual counseling practice in Washington DC, Bethesda, and Reston is to work with individuals with physical health issues that are influenced by stress, coping mechanisms, posture, unresolved personal or relationship issues, self-defeating ways of thinking, depression, or anxiety. I teach clients practical tools for connecting and listening to their bodies and themselves that are helpful in identifying thoughts, feelings, behaviors and coping styles that are powerful indicators for connecting with wants, needs, goals and improving health concerns; this approach is also useful in developing life coping strategies.
For example, stress and anxiety can sometimes cause someone to unconsciously raise one’s shoulders and hunch, affecting posture and leading to neck, shoulder and back pain. In such cases, I work with clients to address underlying causes of anxiety and recognize limiting and distorted thoughts that create inaccurate stories about how we view ourselves, our health, and the world, which in turn influence our behaviors, posture and coping style.The end result is an improvement in the relationship to oneself, to one’s physical or health problem, to others, and to the external world. A case example may illustrate this; a man in his forties came to see me for therapy seeking help with neck and shoulder pain. He had been treated with different forms of physical and manual therapies with little success; he was aware that the problem was aggravated by work stress, particularly, during interactions with his boss. The position of his head and shoulders were quite pronounced. His shoulders were raised and his head tilted to the side. Rather than approaching his pain as his enemy, I helped him learn to attend to it in a more caring and constructive way. As he learned to attend to the protective nature of his neck and shoulder posture and listen to his body, he was able to access the sadness and feelings of shame that he had been carrying for most of his life. He gradually learned to transform negative self-defeating thoughts and feelings, and develop better coping strategies. His work relationships improved as he became more self confident and assertive, and his pain improved considerably.