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Polio Network News (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 2002

Pursuing Therapeutic Resources to Improve Your Health (continued, pg 3)

Look for a therapist who empowers the client.

Therapists can empower clients by affirming their strengths. For example, many survivors have deep reservoirs of spiritual strength that their therapists can highlight and nurture. Therapists can encourage clients to apply their own strengths to the therapeutic process.

Other ways that therapists can empower their clients include:

Therapists can promote self-care by helping clients develop the skills to:

People with disabilities need to pay attention to how a therapist talks about their physical and medical conditions. It is important for a therapist to use empowering language that shows respect for the whole person and recognizes that one's physical condition is not the sole basis for one's identity. Disability organizations have identified empowering, respectful words and also those considered demeaning.

Individuals need to understand that statements that glorify them as heroic or refer to them with pity are potentially harmful. The polio survivor who needs to accept physical limitations yet is glorified for excessive performance, may strive to overachieve in order to gain recognition from the therapist. On the other hand, an attitude of pity can easily contribute to promoting a victimized rather than resilient self-image.

In addition, when a client talks about his/her disability in negative terms, the therapist has the opportunity, and responsibility, to make the client aware of the potential effect of using such references and to offer alternative words that promote a positive self-image.

Look for a therapist who demonstrates integrity and ethical boundaries.

An ethical therapist will:

Identifying Qualified Therapists

Qualified professionals may include psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, psychiatric nurses, clinical mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. However, their level of training, roles, experience and fees vary widely (Sherman, 2001).

For this reason, individuals seeking psychotherapists are encouraged to approach the selection process as consumers searching for a professional who is accessible, affordable and well-suited to help them achieve their goals. Survivors can identify potentially qualified professionals by obtaining recommendations from trustworthy sources. They can ask, "What therapist would you go to or refer a family member to if they had similar issues?" when they contact the following resources for referrals (Finney, 1995):

Personal contacts/resources

Professional organizations

Health/medical, social services resources

When calling for referrals, it is important to keep organized notes that identify the person who offers the referral and their feedback.

Choosing a Therapist

Since most referral services do not rate the competency of their members, it is important to research and interview several potential therapists. If an introductory session cannot take place in person, interviews can take place on the phone. Potential clients can learn a lot from the way a therapist responds to questions. "Each interview will provide valuable information and give you more experience about therapists so you will become more confident about your ability to make a wise choice. Do not hire a therapist you do not like (Finney, 1995)."

In selecting a therapist, individuals are encouraged to analyze their options and trust their intuition. Consumers may gain insight about each therapist they interview from:

The questions below can be used as guidelines for interviewing therapists (Bruckner-Gordon, et al, 1988). However, what is most important is for a person to ask questions that will help in making a satisfying decision (Striano, 1987).


Policies and practices

In Conclusion

Each survivor needs to decide whether exploring past memories fits with his/her priorities, life choices and capabilities. Some people cannot afford to work in depth, and others may choose not to. Still, others may opt to explore psychotherapy or the alternative approaches outlined in Suggestions for People with Limited Resources. Whatever a person's choice, individuals who are interested in resolving the impact of their polio memories are encouraged to:

Whatever avenues individuals choose, this information provides useful guidelines for obtaining support as they consider ways to understand and manage the impact of polio memories on their present-day lives.

About the Authors

Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional who has assessed, counseled, and referred clients to therapists. As a former manager of an internal Employee Assistance Program, she has interviewed and screened a significant number of therapists to ensure that her referrals match client needs. She has over 15 years of professional training in trauma issues, including participation in Masters and Johnson Trauma Programs.

Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW, is a registered medical social worker who, for the past ten years, has worked in the Post-Polio Clinic at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto, Ontario. West Park Healthcare Centre is a regional rehabilitation centre and offers rehabilitation, complex continuing care and long-term care services.

As a member of the Post-Polio Clinic team, Kennedy provides assessment, counseling, education, management recommendations, and referral for individuals and families of those who have previously contracted poliomyelitis. Kennedy holds a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto.


Amada, G. (1995). A guide to psychotherapy. New York: Ballantine Books.

Bruckner-Gordon, F., et al. (1988). Making therapy work: Your guide to choosing, using, and ending therapy. NY: Harper & Rowe, Publishers.

Finney, L. (1995). Reach for joy: How to find the right therapist and therapy for you. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press.

Headley, J. (2002). "Keys to In(ter)dependent Living." Presented at Post-Polio Resource Group of Southeastern Wisconsin Conference.

Maynard, F. (2002). "Keys to Empowerment for Polio Survivors." Presented at Southeastern Post-Polio Resource Group Conference.

Napier, N. (1993). Getting through the day: Strategies for adults hurt as children. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Olkin, R. (1999). What psychotherapists should know about disability. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Roberts, F. (2001). The therapy sourcebook. Los Angeles: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group.

Sherman, C. (2001). How to go to therapy. NY:

Striano, J. (1987). How to find a good psychotherapist: A consumer guide. Santa Barbara, CA: Professional Press.

Thoren-Jonsson, A. & Grimby, G. (January, 2001). Ability and perceived difficulty in daily activities in people with poliomyelitis sequelae. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine.

van der Kolk, B., et al. (Eds.). (1996). Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Westbrook, M. (1996). Disability as a life course: Implications of early experiences for later coping. Polio Network News, 12(3), 3-6.

Williams, M. (1994). Interventions with child victims of trauma in the school setting. In Williams, M., & Sommer, J., (Eds.), Handbook of Post-Traumatic Therapy. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Whitfield, C. (1993). Boundaries and relationships: Knowing, protecting and enjoying the self. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

This is the final article in a series in Polio Network News (now Post-Polio Health) that explores emotional issues that can co-exist with physical problems in the survivors of polio. The articles are:

Emotional Bridges to Wellness by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP (Polio Network News, Vol. 17, No. 4, Fall 2001)

Improving Quality of Life: Healing Polio Memories by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, and Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW
(Polio Network News, Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter 2002)

A Guide for Exploring Polio Memories by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, and Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW
(Polio Network News, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 2002)

Pursuing Therapeutic Resources to Improve Your Health by Linda L. Bieniek, CEAP, and Karen Kennedy, MSW, RSW (Polio Network News, Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 2002)

Treatment Approach Options chart

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