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The following stories are meant to illustrate how clients become aware of beliefs that are limiting their life experiences, allowing them to move beyond this position to a much healthier life.

litesspiralsDoris is a 67-year-old woman who was referred by her physician for treatment of depression and abuse of pain medication. Doris lived in a condo and had been caring for her husband, Bob, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2001. She had little support from family and was exhausted and overwhelmed by her husband’s disorientation, impulsivity, and argumentativeness. Initially, Doris appeared depressed and talked about feeling trapped and burdened by her caregiver role. She used pain pills to help herself relax, had withdrawn from friends, and often became frustrated in trying to reason with Bob. Treatment focused on providing a safe place for Doris to work through her underlying feelings of anger, grief, and loss that she had been avoiding through overuse of prescription medication. We explored ways for Doris to gain a greater sense of meaning to her life in her role as a caregiver. I also worked with Doris in letting go of feeling guilty for taking care of herself. Through education regarding the effects of a stroke and coaching, Doris began to understand, accept, and effectively cope with her husband’s cognitive deficits. At the end of treatment, she reported an improved sense of well being and ability to manage Bob’s challenging behavior. She appeared more animated and had begun to socialize with friends. In addition, Doris made the decision to stop abusing her pain medication due to its negative impact on her mood.

litesspirals1Joe and Mary came to therapy to address communication problems. At the initial session Joe appeared distant and withdrawn and Mary was angry and tearful. They had been married for 10 years and had two teenage children. As Mary talked about feeling not heard and unimportant, Joe became defensive and stated that he had no idea why she believes that. Treatment entailed helping Joe and Mary understand differences in communication styles between men and women. When Mary was upset, Joe believed he was being thoughtful by offering a solution. In response, Mary felt not heard. Through education about gender differences in communication, Mary realized that Joe was trying to shield her from feeling pain by providing a solution. Her belief about being unimportant was false; Joe indeed cared. Joe came to the understanding that Mary needed her feelings to be acknowledged. The remainder of treatment focused on teaching communication skills, which helped to decrease arguments and bring Joe and Mary greater intimacy.

litesspirals2Jill came to therapy feeling depressed. She talked about suffering from chronic low back pain that prevented her from doing what she loved, running. An MRI she had taken was normal and she found little relief from a combination of physical therapy, acupuncture, nerve pain medication, and epidural injections. Our work soon revealed Jill’s unhappiness stemming from her needs not being met in her six-year relationship. Treatment focused on providing education about the mind-body connection, in particular the relationship between unacknowledged anger and low back pain. Jill had grown up in a family believing that children are to be seen not heard. This led to Jill internalizing her anger about her relationship which developed into depression and chronic back pain. Our work involved Jill connecting to her anger and underlying feelings of hurt and disappointment. She was able to embrace her anger by seeing it as a legitimate response to being invalidated and criticized by her partner. Her inability to run was seen as a metaphor for not being able to leave the relationship. With supportive counseling, Jill used her anger to motivate herself to take action. Within two weeks of ending her relationship, Jill’s back pain disappeared, leaving her free to run once again.