Should Someone Caring for Someone with a Chronic Illness go for Counseling?

Short answer? Yes. At the very least to add an unbiased, non-judgemental component to your own support. While caregiving can be a uniquely rewarding experience, it is often also a very demanding role. Without proper support, caring for another person can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Burnout is a caregiver’s worst enemy and counseling can help with that along with utilizing the pyramid of support and the other tools found within the book, Team Positive: How to Build Support for Someone Coping with Chronic Illness.

In my position as a counselor, I can attest to the fact that many folks do go to counseling to help in supporting their efforts.  About a third of my practice is in helping those experiencing difficult thoughts and emotions related to their diagnosis.  This includes those in a supportive role. Sometimes they come together, other times it is just one or the other.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is the typical approach I use in working with them and seems to fit the situation best since it follows closely the serenity prayer, courage to change what you can, the serenity to accept what cannot be changed and the wisdom to notice the difference.   

There is also a growing body of research supporting this approach for this type of situation. ACT helps to increase psychological flexibility which is the ability to be able to handle the situation you might find yourself within to the best of the situation and your ability.

I also note that those who come in are typically those with the diagnosis, but for those who come in who are more in a supportive role, they also have reported back that the service was well worth their time.  Specifically, many had never considered building their own structure of support.  There is nothing wrong, when in a support role, in doing this action and in fact, it has been shown to increase the effectiveness of support for the main person with the challenging illness.

The services are out there and an ACT therapist can offer a different approach to enhance and address your situation.  So why not look for one in your area and learn how to build your own team and get the support you need?

How to Find an ACT Therapist

Places like Zencare and Psychology today tend to have a place where clinicians list whether or not they utilize ACT in their practice, but keep in mind that there is no certification for ACT and you will need to ask them whether they have worked with Steve Hayes, Russ Harris, and what other workshops they may have gone to. Also – if they are a member of the Association for Behavioral and Contextual Science (ABCS) they should have a listing on the website (ABCS lists clinicians by region as).

You can also do a simple google search for “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in my area”. Good news is that many of the hospital systems are beginning to look to ACT as a replacement or complement for CBT in that as the evidence grows, this is becoming a go to intervention supported by insurance coverage.

Also – be on the look out for the use of metaphors (little stories) in session and more emphasis on what you might be experiencing at the moment or the whats and hows of the experience versus the why.

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