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Polio Network News (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 2002

Pursuing Therapeutic Resources to Improve Your Health

Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, La Grange, Illinois, and
Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW, Toronto, Canada

Leaders in the post-polio community point to critical factors that can empower polio survivors to manage the effects of their polio and optimize their health. They recommend obtaining reliable information; cultivating strong support systems, including partnerships with health professionals; and developing positive attitudes, new skills and an ability to enjoy the present (Maynard, Headley, 2002).

Even when following these recommendations, people sometimes continue making choices that are harmful to their health and relationships (Thoren-Jonsson, & Grimby, 2001). Why? Research has revealed that unresolved polio memories can interfere with the ability to make changes - physical, emotional, cognitive and even spiritual - that contribute to health and well-being (Westbrook, 1996). Survivors have reported improvements in their health and relationships following successful experiences in therapy.

This is the last in a series of articles in Polio Network News exploring this phenomenon and the value of psychotherapy as an option for resolving the impact of polio memories. This article is designed to assist in the following ways:

Bieniek has created a "Treatment Approach Options" chart that describes various styles of treatment, the benefits and methods of each, characteristics of people who may find a particular approach appealing, and available resources. The chart offers useful suggestions on ways to reduce the stress of physical symptoms and present-day problems.

Understanding the Role of a Psychotherapist

Individuals who choose to explore psychotherapy as a treatment option need to understand the role of the psychotherapist and the importance of the psychotherapist's training, knowledge, experience and personality in contributing to productive results.

Individuals previously in therapy may have had a disappointing or unproductive experience. As in any profession, the skill level and integrity of therapists varies. Also, a client's own readiness and willingness to deal with uncomfortable issues can affect the results of the process.

However, when a therapist's expertise and personality match a client's needs, the therapy process and relationship can produce extremely beneficial insights and behavior changes for the client (Roberts, 1998).

Therapy is a blend of art and science. The therapist's job is to help the client make healthy changes to achieve his/her goals. A therapist is a guide and mentor, responsible for interacting with a client in ways that provide a healthy, safe, professional relationship. For people who have had traumatic experiences, this is especially critical. The understanding insights of the therapist's responses can help transform the client's limiting beliefs about self, others, and the world that may have been formed in response to traumatic events in the past (Napier, 1993).

A therapist's role also includes matching the client's needs and ways of learning with appropriate responses, interventions and available resources. For clients who have had hurtful and harmful life experiences, research offers a number of effective approaches that therapists can use.

Clients are not responsible for trying to make their therapists feel good. Reading about professional boundaries is especially advisable for those who have a tendency to feel responsible for another person's feelings (See "Boundary Issues," Polio Network News, Summer 2001, Vol. 17, No. 3).

Continued ...

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