Chronic Illness Counseling and Pain Management
– From Illness and Pain to Moving Forward Again
Although pain may be a natural, and even important, function of our bodies and a normal part of everyday life, as we live longer more and more of us are experiencing chronic pain and illness and the immense physical and emotional burdens they cause that adversely affect our sense of contentment, wellbeing, and joy.
Yet, despite the growing numbers of people affected by chronic illness and pain, they are very personal experiences. And whether you're suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, HIV, the effects of a transplant or other surgical procedure, or any number of other physical ailments, the issues you're facing deserve respect and understanding for the unique experiences they are.
Ultimately, your ability to adjust to the stress and other life challenges and changes caused by chronic pain and illness will depend on your coping skills and your willingness to seek emotional support.
Fortunately, because chronic pain and illness encompass both physical and psychological components, professional counseling and psychotherapy can help you cope with chronic pain and illness and help you restore your sense of contentment, wellbeing, and joy.
Achieving wellness is an active process of becoming more aware of and making choices that allow you to lead a healthier, more rewarding, and more meaningful life.
Counseling for chronic illness and pain management can not only help you regain a sense of wellbeing, but help you move forward again in life with confidence and optimism for the future, so you can truly lead a life worth living regardless of the pain you're experiencing.
The Mind-Body Connection
Our brains and bodies react to chronic problems in a variety of ways. For example, chronic pain and illness can be accompanied by low physical energy levels, impaired mental performance, and mood disorders. People suffering from chronic illness often complain of awakening frequently at night, which, in turn, often leads to daytime fatigue, low productivity, and irritability that hampers interpersonal relationships.
Also common is the development of "new" pains that you may not have experienced previously. This is not to imply that pain is contagious. Rather, in response to coping with chronic pain, neurochemical changes in your body may increase your sensitivity to pain. Thus, pain that was previously too slight to be consciously noticed now increases your suffering.
Unfortunately, the problems get worse when normal activities – such as going to work or caring for your children or grandchildren – become affected.
No one experiencing chronic pain or illness escapes an emotional reaction. Even the most resilient individuals are eventually worn down by the constant struggle with the physical symptoms of their pain or illness.
According to the American Pain Foundation, over 32 million Americans have reported suffering from chronic pain lasting more than one year. And nearly half of these also complained of feeling depressed or struggling to cope with other associated psychological symptoms.
But the link between chronic pain and illness and the emotional distress that accompanies them often goes well beyond the psychological distress caused by the condition itself.
Many people with chronic pain and illness don't look "sick." Individuals suffering from "invisible disabilities" such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and diabetes commonly experience a lack of empathy and compassion due to their appearing "ok," which can lead to feelings of isolation.
Additionally, several recent studies have indicated that chronic pain and depression share some of the same neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as some of the same nerve pathways.
In essence, our brains may naturally intertwine the physical and psychological components of chronic illness and pain.
Coping with the daily struggles of managing illness and pain is difficult enough. Add to this a perceived loss of control over your own body, feelings of stress, depression, and despair, as well as the negative effects these feelings can have on your ability to function and your relationships, and you've got a recipe for a vicious cycle of continuous physical and psychological pain from which no escape seems possible.
Fortunately, help is available
Getting the Help You Need
The cycle of chronic illness and pain leads many sufferers to view themselves as victims.
This is all the more likely if your condition has deprived you of the lifestyle you once took for granted and remained the same or steadily worsened over time.
Unfortunately, feeling like a victim won't help you cope with the pain you're suffering or regain a sense of control over your life.
Therefore, one of the first steps required for successfully coping with chronic pain and illness is to "make a place for your pain and keep your pain in its place." The most important goal is for you to start feeling better from the very first time we meet and the professional counseling services I provide will begin by helping you do just this.
Counseling for chronic illness and pain management can also help you:
- Identify and effectively work through the losses you've suffered as a result your illness or pain
- Resolve any feelings of frustration, anger, or resentment that are complicating the problems you're facing
- Learn the coping skills required to manage and decrease your pain, depression, and stress
- Tap into your potential resilience so you can restore a sense of control to your life and move forward again with renewed optimism and confidence
Depending on the challenges you're facing, our work together may include:
- A functional, holistic, and strength-based assessment and diagnosis
- Stress and anxiety management and relaxation techniques
- Counseling for grief and loss
- Psychoeducation to help you, your family members, and friends better cope with chronic pain and illnesses such as Parkinson's, arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypertension, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), HIV, transplant and cardiac rehab, migraines, anxiety, and depression
- EMDR and hypnotherapy to reduce any emotional or psychological barriers you may have due to past traumas or to treatment strategies recommended or prescribed by your physician
- Mindfulness practices and guided imagery exercises to help you decrease anxiety and depression, develop more positive patterns of thinking and behaving, and increase your ability to believe in yourself and your ability to heal
- Coping strategies to deal with, and overcome, feelings of loneliness, boredom, and isolation
- Identifying and resolving co-occurring issues such as alcoholism or substance abuse
In addition to helping you change your thought processes so you can focus on the numerous positive aspects of your life, counseling and psychotherapy can also help you redefine who you are and develop a new sense of identity and self-worth that incorporates the daily challenges you face.
Having a chronic illness or suffering from chronic pain always involves multiple levels of experience, from physical symptoms to your emotional reactions, from thought processes to your beliefs about yourself.
Fortunately, counselors and therapists like myself are experienced at helping people cope with a wide variety of medical and health-related conditions and I am ready and able to work with you and your other health care providers to develop an effective, multi-disciplinary treatment plan that restores a sense of wellness to all areas of your life.
Remember, wellness is a process. It is not an end in and of itself and it requires your awareness and effort.
While there is always hope your pain or illness will go away, there's no need to wait.
Counseling and psychotherapy can help you regain a sense of control, restore your sense of wellbeing, and help you renew the feelings of joy in your relationships and in your life, today!
For more information, or to schedule an initial consultation, please feel free to contact me:
Haleh Rambod, M.A., MFT
2111 Geer Road, Suite 505-507
Turlock, CA 95382
4100 Moorpark Avenue, Suite 106
San Jose CA, 95117