Therapy for Medically Related Emotional Problems
It’s hard to think of a disease, major injury or chronic medical problem that does not have some degree of an emotional component. Sometimes a person has been traumatized by a medical or dental procedure or professional person that results in a wish to avoid routine or even emergent medical care. Getting diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or life-limiting injury is very emotional as suddenly one cannot do what he or she is used to doing. It affects one’s self-esteem, brings up fears of dying, and changes one’s relationships to the world and others. When chronic pain is involved, it is easy for depression and anxiety to become more intense due to the limiting effects of the pain. Some people blame themselves, others blame ‘the world,’ but in either case, it is easy to get stuck and feel hopeless. Therapy can help with the emotional impact of a medically related problem.
How I Treat Medically Related Emotional Problems
1) Collaboration with other medical professionals. I always get signed releases from my clients to consult with the various treatment professionals in their lives. This collaboration helps my clients to know that hopefully their treatment professionals are heading in the same direction – having them feel better.
2) Thorough assessment of medical history, including previous injuries, illnesses, medically induced traumas, and current medical and dental care. I always obtain a family history that includes medical issues, quality of relationships, trauma and neglect as well as strengths and positive relationships.
3) It is very important to me to know what my client’s support system is for their daily and ongoing care. I often meet with the client’s social support system whether it is a spouse or committed partner, family, or other caregivers to help educate them on the medical condition and/or to help work out relationship difficulties.
4) Treatment modalities can include concrete interventions such as setting up daily routines and self-care. I use EMDR and DBT skills training in emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Also see My Treatment Approach for more ideas.