A Psychologist and CBT

Sara Halevi, MA, MFCC, has been a practicing therapist for 20 years. Her specialty is in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which she finds effective for a variety of disorders, including fibromyalgia. As a fibromyalgia sufferer herself, Sara has personal experience and empathy on which she can draw when treating patients with the disease.

They Become Mentally Trapped By The Pain

"I find that most people have certain thought patterns that lead them to specific behaviors. With people who suffer from chronic pain the negative thought associations with their disease lead them to cognitive dead ends. They create a loop in their minds which prevents them from pulling from their minds a way out of their current problems. I'm lucky if I can interrupt this pattern of thought.

For example, when a typical person with a high degree of pain and suffering is presented with a new opportunity he will think, 'I can't.' The thought of tackling this new thing along with a fibromyalgia attack will be overwhelming. 'I can't' as a
response to the immediate situation tends to cancel out the possibility of achieving the task.

I help the patient break down the task and find one manageable piece enabling him to say, 'I can do that.' Even if the manageable piece is something tiny compared to the larger task, the ability to say, 'I can do that,' will lead to a willingness to take on a second piece. One by one the pieces fall into place and lead the person to, at the least, a willingness to try.

People get stuck in a trap of their own making: 'I can't get a job because I can't get off the couch.' I try to get them to at least ask the question: 'Can I get off the couch?' 

Boosting Self-Esteem Helps Pain

Twenty years ago, when I was just out of grad school I had a patient who was in bed 70% of the time. She was very limited in her thinking. By the end of the year she had a job, and she only took a little longer than most with my usual course of treatment. She got a job reading to blind people; reading their mail, helping them with bills and the like. We had spent a year cracking this fortress. After we were able to sift through all the negativity we were able to find the perfect job for her. Also, the boost to her self-esteem from helping someone else who was needy cannot be overstated."

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