Experts in helping people cope with the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that accompany chronic pain, anxiety, stress or illness. When working with a psychologist or counsellor, you can expect to discuss your physical and emotional health.
Having a comprehensive understanding of your concerns will help them begin to develop a treatment plan. It sometimes can mean unlocking powerful emotions that may cause upset but often the release of emotions can provide a release especially in situations where words and thoughts have been held back for years.
Treatment plans are designed for you as the patient and not simply an “off the shelf” package. The plan often involves teaching relaxation techniques, changing old beliefs, building new coping skills and addressing any anxiety or depression that may accompany your pain or illness.
One way to do this is by helping you learn to challenge any unhelpful thoughts you have. A psychologist can help you develop new ways to think about problems and to find solutions. In some cases, distracting yourself is helpful.
Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy or CBT is one such approach. This is a range of talking therapies based on the theory that thoughts, feelings, what we do and how our body feels are all connected. If we change one of these, we can alter the others.
When people feel worried or distressed we often fall into patterns of thinking and responding which can worsen how we feel. CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better. CBT has lots of strategies that can help you in the here and now.
In other cases, a psychologist can help you develop new ways to think about your infection. Studies have found that some psychotherapy can be as effective as surgery for relieving chronic pain because psychological treatments for pain can alter how your brain processes pain sensations.
A psychologist can and should also help you make lifestyle changes that will allow you to continue participating in work and recreational activities. And because stress and anxiety often contributes to insomnia, a psychologist may also help you learn new ways to sleep better.
If you want to find a psychologist or counsellor in your home country, the associations below have online search options.