Chronic illness and pain often cause challenging and difficult life adjustments, decisions, and demands. We may experience:
- Grief and sadness over the loss of function and quality of life,
- Anger and frustration about our new situation,
- Loss of control,
- Worry and fear about our future,
- Guilt about being a burden to others, and
- Hopelessness and helplessness if one expects to get worse, and changes in socio-economic status or in relationships.
Depression and anxiety may surface, as well as attitudes or limiting self-defeating beliefs, and unrealistic expectations that can exacerbate pain and distress. A person may think – “I can’t invest in my work because I don’t know if my illness will get worse,” “I am useless if I can’t do as much as I used to,” “Why is this happening to me,” and so on.
Coping with chronic illness and pain effectively requires adopting skills and coping styles that help us live with our changing quality of life.
In my individual counseling work with patients coping with chronic illness or pain, I apply cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and other complementary medicine methods. The goal of my work is to help patients adopt effective ways of coping and responding, and to change the relationship to how we experience ourselves, and our symptoms and illnesses. My therapy may include some of the following:
- Transforming self-defeating thoughts and attitudes,
- Coping with difficult emotions and changes in mood: anger, grief, hopelessness, helplessness, depression, and anxiety,
- Adjusting to the particular demands of the illness or pain,
- Addressing existential issues such as the purpose of life, and mortality,
- Connecting with the values, virtues, and strengths that can give you meaning, motivation, and connection to others,
- Addressing issues of self-image and/or body image,
- Learning de-stressing and skills to restore our energy; and learning to listen to our body and its signals and wisdom, and
- Improving well-being, quality of life and relationships
In my therapy and coaching practices in Bethesda, Reston, and Washington DC, I derive great satisfaction from helping people develop resilience, and adapt and live well with illnesses and/or pain.