The Shared Experience of Illness: Stories of Patients, Families, and Their Therapists

The Shared Experience of Illness: Stories of Patients, Families, and Their Therapists

The Shared Experience of Illness: Stories of Patients, Families, and Their Therapists

The Shared Experience of Illness: Stories of Patients, Families, and Their Therapists

Synopsis

In the narrative of every human life and family, illness is a prominent character. Even if we have avoided serious illness ourselves, we cannot escape its reach into our circle of family and friends. Illness brings us closer to one another through caregiving and separates us through disability and death, yet little attention has been paid to personal and family illness in psychotherapy. Rather, therapists tend to focus on the psychosocial realm, leaving the biological realm to other physicians and nurses. This groundbreaking volume shows the powerful benefits that can emerge when therapists acknowledge illness as a vital part of everyone's psychology. Susan H. McDaniel, Jeri Hepworth, and William J. Doherty invited therapists who work with individuals and families experiencing chronic illness and disability to describe clinical cases that illustrate their approach to medical family therapy. Contributors then were asked to share a personal story about their experiences with illness, and to explain how those experiences affect the way they work with their clients. Vivid case studies dealing with a range of illnesses, including cancer infertility, schizophrenia, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and multiple sclerosis, show how the therapists' own experiences of illness are relevant to their care of others- and how these experiences can be used to form a healing bond in therapy. As we head toward a new century, therapists play a central role in the delivery of comprehensive healthcare. We now know that psychology and social factors have a direct effect on the development and exacerbation of illness and disease, and that involvement of the family with the healthcare team is vital. Poignant, honest, and illuminating, The Shared Experience of Illness allows us to understand more fully the relationship between the personal and the professional. This invaluable work provides inspiration and insight for anyone working at the cuttifng edge of our healthcare system.

Excerpt

The response to our first book together, Medical Family Therapy: a Biopsychosocial Approach to Families with Health Problems (1992), helped us to realize that many psychotherapists in various contexts around the world are working with patients with all kinds of health problems in innovative and dedicated ways. This book, a companion to the first, grew out of our desire to document and learn from that work.

For years, in addition to teaching the content of medical family therapy, we have been training physicians, nurses, and mental health professionals by focusing on the development of skills (through case consultation) in conjunction with the development of the self of the therapist (through self-awareness exercises and family-of-origin work). This book represents an effort for the first time to replicate what we teach in what we write. Rather than write the traditional case description tied to theory, we asked each author to tell the story of a case that illustrates his or her approach to medical family therapy and a story about his or her own experience with illness and how that experience affected the psychotherapy.

We found the results to be astounding--poignant, honest, and illuminating. the authors took a risk in sharing themselves. the risk paid off in allowing us to understand more fully the relationship between the personal and the professional, and in providing depth to the usual description of technique and theory when applied to the reality of a patient who is suffering. Now we have access not only to the experience of the patient and the family but also to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the therapist.

Linking the therapist's experience with that of the patient and family opens up a new dimension to the case stories, as if moving from two dimensions to three. Therapists know the impact of their personal experiences on therapy, but only rarely are those personal stories made public. We respect and are grateful to the contributors for their willingness to be personal. Their honesty humanizes the experience of therapy and allows you the reader to decide whether the approach or technique is one that you can identify with and use. We believe that, once you have read a fuller version of a case as represented in this collection, you will be unsatisfied with anything less in the future. We know we will.

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