Therapy for Medical Conditions
Does life with a chronic condition feel like an emotional roller-coaster?
Are you dealing with a medical illness that affects your ability to enjoy life? Does the unpredictability of your condition cause anxiety? Maybe one moment you feel fine and the next your pain flares up again, making you constantly on guard for when your symptoms will reappear. Perhaps you thought medication, surgery, or some other form of medical intervention would be enough, but your condition remains unsolved.
When you’re dealing with a chronic medical condition, the distress of your physical symptoms can send you on an emotional roller-coaster. With illnesses like asthma, IBS, or Crohn’s disease, symptoms often get better or worse at random times, leading to a constant state of confusion and anxiety.
Since you never know how are you going to feel from one day to the next, you may limit activities you schedule or plans you make. Perhaps you delay taking classes or applying for a new job until you “feel better.” Because of the cyclical nature of your issues and your inability to tell if you are truly feeling better, maybe you put things off until you are overwhelmed and forced to procrastinate.
As much as you want to experience relief, your greatest desire is probably just to lead a normal life. The tasks and activities that are straightforward for others may be a hurdle for you, leading to feelings of jealousy, isolation, and even exclusion. Deep down, it probably seems like no one understands your pain.
No matter how hopeless you feel, we are confident that we can help you. Here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, our goal is to empower you to regulate your stress so you can respond to your illness in a nurturing, life-affirming manner.
The Chronically Ill Are Chronically Misunderstood
Over 50 percent of adults in the United States wrestle with a chronic medical condition, and roughly 27 percent suffer from multiple underlying conditions. For many of these people, the hardest part of living with such conditions is not merely pain, but the inability to get answers. They often go from doctor to doctor without getting any solutions and try medication after medication without experiencing enough relief. They come to feel terminally unique, as if they defy all medical norms.
Additionally, many chronic illnesses are not recognizable to other people, which makes it deeply isolating to live with one. When you request accommodations for your condition, other people may say that you “seem fine,” dismissing or invalidating your requests. For instance, if you suffer from Celiac’s disease and cannot eat gluten, others may think you’re just on an anti-gluten diet. In this way, you may feel chronically misunderstood because of your condition.
This is why it’s so essential to seek help. Therapy for medical conditions is a chance to connect with a compassionate professional who believes your story and can help you learn new strategies for pain management and adjusting to life with your condition. Whether you struggle with asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, Fibromyalgia, or any other serious medical condition, we are confident we can assist you in making positive changes in your life.
Therapy For Medical Conditions Can Help You Change Your Relationship With Your Health
If you have a chronic medical problem, you may ask yourself: Why can’t I just see a doctor or medical expert? Why bother with therapy? The truth is that most chronic conditions are more complex than you might think. They are never strictly physical issues. There are always emotional, cognitive, and social components that are impossible to untangle on your own, no matter how intelligent you are.
Here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, we want to help you untangle the unseen components that add to your suffering. We offer you a safe space to process how your chronic condition affects your life and what kind of changes you need to make. Most importantly, we want to help you change the relationship you have with your chronic condition in order to reduce the harsh self-talk and fear associated with it and help you fully engage in the life you want to live.
In sessions together, we will explore the history of your medical condition and look at how your reactions to it have led you to where you are today. We cannot offer a cure for your physical symptoms, but we can avoid making those symptoms worse by changing how you respond to them. Instead of falling back on unhelpful automatic reactions, we will help you choose deliberate, helpful actions when your health issues are present.
After all, when you have a chronic illness, the stress-activation part of the brain does not have a way to turn itself off. This is why it’s so easy to resort to instinctive reactions to pain like anger or substance use. Your nervous system becomes dysregulated and unable to keep stress-activation from controlling you. We want to help you strengthen your nervous system’s ability to regulate stress-activation, minimizing the intensity of your pain and fear. This approach is known as biofeedback. It gives you live feedback on how your body functions when you are in pain and when you are feeling well so that you can make positive changes to your physiological and emotional responses.
Additionally, our therapists use mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy to help you accept your present experience and change how you respond to it. All too often, trying to fight a chronic condition exacerbates pain and stress. Mindfulness skills can help you determine what is and isn’t under your control and activate the thinking part of the brain, while decreasing the fear-based activation. This will enable you to direct your efforts towards what is manageable rather than trying to change the unchangeable.
Finally, we often utilize self-compassion training to help you change how you treat yourself in response to your health issues. Just as you would respond lovingly and comfortingly to a friend who was ill, you will learn to do the same for yourself. Instead of blaming yourself for your condition or viewing yourself as defined by it, therapy will empower you to see the bigger picture of who you are and help you recognize that chronic illness is not your identity.
By learning new skills for pain management and enhancing your self-compassion, counseling can help you live a fuller, more meaningful life even with your chronic illness.
You may have some concerns about therapy for medical conditions…
This is a medical issue—it is not in my head. Why do I need to see a therapist?
The condition you suffer from is very real, and we want to validate your struggles as much as possible. At the same time, a chronic illness has many dimensions—physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. Your doctor can address the physical side, but not all the others. We want to help you address the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral sides of your condition so that you can have the most comprehensive treatment available.
I already know all the strategies to help myself. What are you going to tell me that’s different?
Even if you know how to eat right, how much exercise to get, and how many hours to sleep, there is still room for growth. After all, the trouble is rarely in knowing what to do, but in being able to implement what you know into your daily life. We can help you do this in a step-by-step manner, taking small, feasible strides that end up leading to meaningful changes over time. It’s not that we’re going to tell you anything different; it’s that we’ll help you find efficient, productive ways to implement what you already know.
I’m too busy with medical treatment and appointments to fit therapy into my life.
If you’re worried about carving out more time in your busy life, we understand. That’s why we provide a skills-based solution that will stay with you even when you no longer work with your therapist. Yes, you need to invest some time and energy into learning these skills, but once you have them, they are yours to keep for the rest of your life.
Your Chronic Condition Does Not Have To Keep You From Living A Full, Meaningful Life
There’s no sugarcoating it: living with chronic pain is hard. And the effects of chronic pain can take a serious toll on your mental health. Here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, you have a chance to reduce those effects by changing how you respond to pain and embracing new opportunities for growth. To get started, you can email us or use the contact page or call 617-231-0011 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.
We are located in Post Office square, in the heart of Boston Financial District. We offer teletherapy appointments and in-person appointments, adhering strictly to COVID-19 precautions. Click here to read more about scheduling and payment options.
Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback was founded by Dr. Inna Khazan, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of biofeedback and mindfulness. Our talented and dedicated team now also includes Jenae Spencer, LMHC, an experienced therapist and trauma specialist.