woman smiling in sunset mountains

“Your orientation to your life and your disease is the starting place. Everything else tends to work itself out.”

~ Jessica Flanigan

Chronic illness and medical conditions have this way of infiltrating nearly everything. In fact, it’s difficult to find an area of your life that is not affected by your health. In addition to disease-specific symptoms, you may be dealing with strong emotions, pain, and fatigue. When you aren’t feeling well (or you don't feel good about yourself), you may prefer to be alone so you isolate from friends and social activities. As your life changes, you may feel a loss of control, sadness, worry, and uncertainty of what lies ahead. Prolonged stress can lead to frustration, hopelessness, numbness, and sorrow. Pretty soon your stress begins to shape your feelings about life in general, not just today’s frustrations.

While all of us will experience illness, pain, and suffering at one time or another, few of us are equipped to deal with it. All too often, we respond in ways that are self-defeating or self-destructive in the long-run.

Counseling can help you learn psychological skills to manage the painful experiences of illness, in such a way that they will have much less impact and influence. Your focus will no longer be about reducing symptoms or waiting to feel better; instead you’ll focus on moving towards a rich, full, and meaningful life while letting go of the battle with pain and discomfort.


In therapy, we may address some of these common issues:

  • Navigating a new diagnosis (acute, chronic, or terminal)

  • Coping with an undiagnosed or mysterious illness

  • Managing multiple illnesses at the same time

  • Dealing with relentless physical symptoms

  • Blaming oneself for being sick

  • Communicating effectively with doctors and medical professionals

  • Advocating for your health care needs

  • The inability to visit with friends, participate in family gatherings, and take part in other social activities

  • Coping with uncertainty about the future

  • Dealing with the disappointment of failed treatments

  • Coping with depression, anxiety, anger and other feeling

  • Adjusting to changing family and societal roles

  • Feeling ignored by family or friends or having your illness minimized, misunderstood, or dismissed

  • Finding meaning and purpose in your illness

  • Adjusting to changes your body image, quality of life, and relationships

  • Medication compliance

  • Reducing health risk behaviors

  • Financial anxiety

  • Medical fears, phobias, and avoidance

  • Concerns about death

  • Creating a legacy and memories, managing survivorship, and end-of-life issues


For some people, their medical condition presents a less earthshaking but still challenging set of logistical and practical obstacles to deal with. As I hope the above list shows, there are a number of different ways that therapy can be helpful throughout a wide range of degrees of distress.