CHRONIC ILLNESS COUNSELING
William R. Gorga, Ph.D.
Counseling for dealing with chronic illness can take many forms. Counseling can be focused on the individual who has an illness or may include family members and caregivers with or without the ill person’s involvement.
Chronic illness counseling tends to be related to three general areas of concern. Counseling can help individuals deal with accepting or understanding his or her illness. Counseling can also be geared toward learning to manage or compensate for illness or loss. Finally, counseling can help individuals develop an effective support system to help them with their illness limitations.
When a person is first diagnosed with a serious or life changing illness there may be many different reactions. A chronic illness counselor will help the person understand what is happening to him or her and assist in their emotional adjustment to the challenges that accompany chronic illness. Some people under-react to an illness and may have trouble complying with necessary treatment. Others may react strongly and require structure to help them go through stages of grief and acceptance.
Persons who have had a chronic illness for a period of time, sometimes need help in dealing with change or lack of change in their lives. They may require assistance in dealing with physical pain, with finding meaning in their lives, or with managing demands of medical treatment. It is also sometimes difficult to be able to separate one’s self-worth from physical disability or financial loss. There are many coping strategies that aren’t necessarily obvious to a person stressed by illness which can be helpful or hope inducing. Many times this involves learning to pace oneself or learn to manage stress.
Since many types of chronic illness are not outwardly apparent to others, it can sometimes be difficult to engage the help or empathy of others. Having an effective support system is essential to anyone with a chronic illness. A support network can include family members, friends, coworkers, or even health care providers. Many people with a chronic illness deny their need for support or lack the skills to assert themselves with caretakers or significant others. Chronic illness counseling can help with all of these.
Caregivers and family members or friends very often can benefit from chronic illness counseling as well. It is important for family members and anyone involved with a chronically ill person to understand the nature and demands of the illness. Significant others also need to learn the limitation caused by the illness and ways that they can best communicate or be helpful. Sometimes caretakers need their own support and help with stress management. Others may be able to use relationship counseling to deal with the ill person directly and most effectively. Specialized marital or family therapy can also be a benefit to everyone involved with living with an illness.
Chronic illness counseling is very helpful to most individuals with a chronic illness. Managing one’s illness is an optimal way to not only improve the quality of life, but may stimulate greater physical health as well. It is generally a good idea for anyone with chronic health issues to be evaluated by a qualified mental health expert and to make these services available to their support system and loved ones as well
Psychological Consultants and Affiliates, Inc.
60 Messimer Drive, Newark, Ohio 43055
Phone 740-522-2230, 800-522-2457
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