If the pain is in my body, how will talking about it help?
The mind-body connection is important for understanding how psychotherapy can be a helpful component of treatment for chronic pain and illness. Our mind and body are communicating perpetually. Sometimes we only notice messages from one or the other, which can lead to challenges in alleviating pain and symptoms. Learning to tune into how your mind and body react to stressors and how they work together to heal can be vital to reaching your goals.
Stress Causes Symptoms
When your body is working hard to manage stressors related to chronic pain or illness, other body systems, such as those responsible for emotion, motivation, and problem solving can be impacted as well. For example, you may notice if your chronic symptoms are flaring, it’s much harder to regulate your emotions or think clearly.
Physical pain and emotional pain is stressful to our bodies. Over a long period of time, pain can cause stress on the physical systems of your body. Whether it’s related to changes to a job or relationship, grief, experiencing trauma, or adjusting to life with chronic health concerns, emotional stress can contribute and instigate physical pain symptoms.
Psychotherapy Reduces Stress
Psychotherapy can both provide an opportunity to better understand, notice, and track your symptoms, as well as be curious about the emotions you may feel towards your chronic pain or illness. It also can help with finding or growing your coping strategies, allowing you to feel more capable of managing your symptoms during a flare-up.
Individuals living with chronic pain and illness may experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, substance use, and sleep disorders within their chronic health journey. Psychotherapy can support you in exploring these mental and emotional stressors, allowing for reducing stress overall and learning new ways to respond to the physical symptoms you experience.
What would psychotherapy look like for me at Rock Creek Therapy?
At the start of therapy, we’ll begin by understanding how you are right now. This is helpful to begin creating a holistic (whole person) picture of how chronic pain and chronic illness has existed across all areas of your life as well as how your experience with your symptoms or diagnoses has evolved over time.
We’ll work together to establish clear goals for therapy, combining your insight and self-knowledge with empirically supported treatment approaches. Therapy will always be a collaborative experience, built from mutual trust, to support you in holistically caring for your whole self. Here are some ways that psychotherapy might be helpful for you:
- Understanding symptom triggers and common emotional responses to increased physical symptoms
- Exploring the relationship between your emotions and physical symptoms
- Developing mindfulness-based and mind-body strategies to decrease overall stress and for use during acute pain flares
- Exploring how you see yourself to better understand the role chronic pain/illness plays in your evolving sense of self
- Grieving losses or changes related to life adjustments from chronic pain/illness
- Processing emotions related to medical trauma, relationships with your care team, adding specialists to your care team, etc.
- Learning to identify and replace unhelpful beliefs about your physical symptoms or limitations
- Increasing understanding of strengths that help you navigate and manage chronic symptoms
- Processing the impact of chronic pain/illness on relationships, including identifying and exploring relationships with support systems
- Identifying values and how to continue aligning with values while living with chronic pain/illness