Having a chronic illness can be a major obstacle in day-to-day life, but counselling and therapy can help make it easier. A chronic illness is broadly considered to be a condition lasting at least a year, which can impede one’s daily living and/or necessitate medical attention (“About Chronic Diseases | CDC”, 2019). Examples of this include multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and kidney disease, among others (“Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression”). Even mental illness can be considered a chronic illness, though not all are, and its actual status as a chronic illness is still being debated (“Coping with Chronic Illness and Disability”, 2018).
While it can be difficult to cope with these conditions, therapy and counselling can help those people with a chronic illness handle the challenges they face with their circumstances. Here is what a counselling therapist needs to know about counselling people with chronic illnesses.
A Myriad of Issues with Chronic Ailments Can Be Worked On With Therapy
Therapy can be helpful with many types of chronic conditions. If chronic pain and/or disability is the primary concern for the client, therapy can be beneficial in helping them with many aspects of their circumstances. For example, it can help them with better understanding neurodiversity and developing feelings of acceptance for their condition; help tackle any relationship problems pertaining to their disability; and better understand the connection between their body and mind (“Coping with Chronic Illness and Disability”, 2018). Furthermore, methods such as cognitive behavioural stress management is considered to be helpful for those with a chronic illness to deal with the stress of the anticipated stigma from their loved ones about their condition (Earnshaw, Quinn, & Park, 2011).
A Counselling Therapist Can Help With the Psychological Effects of Chronic Illness
Not only do chronic illnesses affect someone physically, but they can have a range of effects on their mental health as well—which is where the skills learned in counselling therapist school can be especially important. A major factor is depression—in fact, those with a chronic illness have a high risk of experiencing it, at approximately 25 to 33 per cent (“Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression”).
Depression can arise when someone has a chronic illness because of the change in lifestyle their condition has now forced upon them. They also often have to undergo rigorous treatments, as well as process feelings of uncertainty in their life (White, 2001). It’s also not unexpected for the person with the chronic condition to experience emotional stages not unlike those of grief (“Chronic Illness”). A therapist can try addressing this with tools from cognitive therapy, as a means of helping reframe the person’s views, attitude, and behaviour given their circumstances, as well as improving their capacity for problem-solving (White, 2001).
Offering Counselling Services to People with a Chronic Illness
Services offering counselling therapy aren’t simply limited to visiting a counselling therapist in an office. In fact, therapy for those with chronic illnesses can be accessible in various ways. One example is online therapy, which can be particularly helpful for those who are not able to drive, or who have chronic mobility issues that may make it difficult for them to physically visit a therapist (“What you need to know before choosing online therapy”). It can also be a good option for the purposes of flexibility, streamlining communication, and removing the anxieties of being late due to weather or traffic (Bocci, 2019).
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About Chronic Diseases | CDC. (2019, July 30). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm
Chronic Illness and Disability. (2019, August 26). Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/disabilities
Coping with Chronic Illness and Disability. (2018, November 14). Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/disabilities/coping
Rubin, R. (2012, January 12). Exercise, Talk Therapy by Phone May Help Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/news/20120112/exercise-talk-therapy-by-phone-may-help-relieve-fibromyalgia-pain#1
Earnshaw, V. A., Quinn, D. M., & Park, C. L. (2011). Anticipated stigma and quality of life among people living with chronic illnesses. Chronic Illness, 8(2), 79–88. doi: 10.1177/1742395311429393
White, C. A. (2001). Cognitive behavioral principles in managing chronic disease. Western Journal of Medicine, 175(5), 338–342. doi: 10.1136/ewjm.175.5.338
Chronic Illness. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://counsellingbc.com/counsellors/practice/chronic-illness-110
Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/chronic-illnesses-depression#1
What you need to know before choosing online therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/online-therapy
Bocci, G. S. (2019, January 28). 14 Benefits of Teletherapy for Clients. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/millennial-media/201901/14-benefits-teletherapy-clients