Chronic Medical Conditions
CHRONIC ILLNESS AND DISABILITY
Suffering a serious injury or being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease can feel overwhelming and debilitating. These are often considered normal reactions to abnormal situations. Many of these illnesses do not have a “cure,” and individuals suffering from them are often faced with the task of trying to cope with a life-altering diagnosis. It may be difficult to discuss the impact of the illness or disability with others for fear of being misunderstood or judged. When there is a change in medical status, many people struggle to reconcile their identity in light of new limitations. For these reasons, those suffering from serious medical conditions can benefit from extra support to cope with these added stressors.
In my treatment, I utilize a combination of cognitive-behavioral and other empirically supported techniques to help patients to cope with the burden associated with medical ailments and manage any associated pain. I also offer individual and couples’ therapy to caregivers of those with chronic medical conditions to help manage stress and caregiver burnout. These skills include relaxation techniques, mindfulness, stress management, communication, ways to reframe thinking, value-based exercises, and methods to re-engage in desired activities.
CHRONIC INSOMNIA AND OTHER SLEEP PROBLEMS
Insomnia and sleep disorders can be incredibly frustrating and physically taxing conditions; leaving those who suffer from them feeling exhausted, unfocused, and at times irritable. Insomnia symptoms typically begin during a stressful period, but often the symptoms can persist even after the stressor has resolved.
Symptoms of insomnia can include: difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up too early, not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep, daytime fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and trouble staying awake during the day. Insomnia can contribute to distress, increased rates of accidents or errors, and ongoing mood symptoms.
For those who suffer with insomnia and other sleep disorders, I am excited to offer Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i). CBT-i has been named the front-line treatment for insomnia and sleep problems by the American College of Physicians. This treatment involves working with the body’s natural processes to increase the amount of uninterrupted nighttime sleep. Sleep patterns are regularly evaluated and tracked on sleep logs. Based on this data, I help clients to structure their sleep to capitalize on their natural sleep rhythms to create a more consistent, restful sleep pattern. Research has shown that this treatment is over 80% effective in treating insomnia patients. In clinical studies, CBT-i has been shown to be more effective compared with over the counter and prescription sleep medications.
Chronic pain is defined as pain that is ongoing and persists for six months or longer. Chronic pain can take a serious toll on one’s physical functioning, quality of life, and mood. Chronic pain can be a debilitating condition that gets in the way of enjoyable and meaningful activities. Those with chronic pain often feel misunderstood by their friends, loved ones, and at times their medical providers. Often individuals struggling with chronic pain feel as if their pain dictates many aspects of their life. For these reasons, a number of patients with chronic pain conditions go on to develop mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.
THERAPY FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT
The goal of treatment is to teach the client skills to feel more empowered in managing their chronic pain effectively. Skills include relaxation and mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, communication, values, stress management, improving sleep, and activity engagement. These skills have research support in reducing pain levels, enhancing quality of life, and improving mood among chronic pain patients.
Among the chronic pain conditions I treat are neuropathic pain, chronic back pain, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, headaches and migraines, arthritis, cancer pain, etc. After the initial evaluation, I create a tailored treatment plan based on the client’s symptoms, goals, and primary concerns. Feedback and client collaboration is integral to the treatment process.
Adjustment to Major Life Changes
LOSS, PHYSICAL CHANGES, RELATIONSHIP CHANGE, CHANGE IN LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES
When people experience major changes in their life circumstances such as loss, change in employment, divorce, or death; it is common for them to experience a great deal of stress, worry, grief and sadness. Unexpected negative events can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. Most people require additional support during these stressful periods of time.
Though emotionally challenging, these experiences can also provide opportunities for personal growth and building strength. I utilize a variety of coping skills taken from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help clients to effectively navigate adverse situations. My goal is to provide clients with the tools they need to cope with difficult situations. After mastering these skills, clients will often report feeling more confident in being able to tackle whatever challenges may come their way in the future.
Trauma is an emotional response to a horrifying event such as a natural disaster, an accident, death, physical or sexual assault, abuse or any other event that elicits fear and horror. Responses to traumatic events can vary. It is normal to feel strong emotions after experiencing a trauma such as shock and denial. For some people, the traumatic response can last months or years after the traumatic event itself. The wounds from the traumatic experience can bleed into the present and interfere with normal life. When this happens, it may be time to seek help to work through past trauma or traumas.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
For those who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their traumatic experience, they carry the additional burden of distressing and disabling symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, trying to avoid talking about or thinking about the trauma, worrying about the traumatic event happening again, being hyperaware of their surroundings, feeling jumpy or on edge, irritability, anger, or emotional detachment.
Individuals with PTSD often feel as if the traumatic event is still haunting them. Even though the trauma occurred in the past, reminders of the trauma continue to cause distress. They have a strong desire to free themselves from the memory of the trauma and move forward with their lives.
How Can Treatment Help?
There are two treatments for PTSD that have consistently outperformed other types of treatments in the research and are considered the “gold standard” treatments for PTSD.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) – Trauma survivors often develop a number of beliefs about themselves, others and the world as a result of the trauma. These beliefs are called stuck points and they hinder people from moving forward after a traumatic event. In CPT, the therapist helps the client to reconcile and reframe these beliefs into thoughts that are more helpful. Clients report that after undergoing CPT they are able to once again have an optimistic view of their situation and their future. They feel free from the trauma and negative thoughts that accompanied the trauma.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE) – PE is a a form of therapy specifically designed to treat PTSD. The goal of therapy is to decrease the amount of distress and anxiety associated with the memory of the trauma through re-telling of the traumatic event and gradually confronting situations that are reminders of the trauma. The pace of treatment is determined collaboratively with the client and clinician. Prolonged exposure helps clients to feel empowered to take their life back again by letting go of the traumatic memory.
If you or a loved one suffer from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I have personally seen amazing results through these treatments and want to offer the help you need to enjoy life again.