Strengths for Recovery and Healing

Strengths for Recovery and Healing

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

The forces that help us to recover from a physical illness, an accident related injury, chronic pain or even an emotional disorder, are the same.

You can use the same forces to recover from a shock, trauma or a major loss. Yes, the same set of personal strengths and resources are utilized for recovery from any major setback, be that illness, injury, pain, human tragedy or a physical or mental disorder. In this article, I will refer to all such conditions as "setbacks."

People who have solid family and social support have a better chance for a faster and more complete recovery. Such support supplies a favorable wind to the sails. When it is missing, a person can't utilize his or her fullest potential and treatment can't deliver the maximum benefits it otherwise would.

When people, in spite of their illness, are able to function adequately, at least in some areas, it shows that they have a reservoir of strengths that can be utilized for recovery. But, when impairment is pervasive, that is, when a person due to an illness is unable to function in most major areas of life such as the family, work, and social life, there may not be enough strengths to draw upon. Individual psychological support alone may be inadequate and help from other social and community agencies may be needed.

How long has a person let the problem go on without doing something about it? Was the problem experienced recently or is it a life-long or a long-standing problem? Those who are emotionally flexible, seek help early. The longer a problem goes on without improvement, the harder it gets to overcome it.

How well has a person done prior to the onset of a setback? If the person has functioned healthily--physically and emotionally--he or she might cope better with a setback. People who do not belong to a close knit group or have not resolved issues related to early neglect, abuse or others forms of victimization, may not be able to summon all their energy for a speedy recovery.

What about an illness that is recurrent in nature? People who emotionally function well between episodes suffer less impairment and may get optimal results from medical or psychological interventions. People who have had problems with depression, anxiety or rage may need psychological support in order to cope with an ongoing setback.

People with chronic and multiple physical and emotional problems respond better when medication is combined with individual and family psychological support. Involvement with a support group or a therapy group may also yield better results. In case of self-destructive, suicidal or violent behavior, family intervention is critically important.

People who take an active part in their treatment, use self-management techniques, cooperate with their doctors and carry out their end of responsibility in treatment generally do better. Incidentally, people are more likely to follow treatment when they are well informed regarding the probable length and effectiveness of treatment. Understandably, actively involved patients want to know what to expect from professionals before they can commit themselves. They also want to clearly understand what activities or tasks would be required of them during the process of rehabilitation.

The quality of relationship with your doctor (and other professionals) is of vital importance. Best results are obtained when professionals and other helpers accept, acknowledge and respect their clients and the latter trust and collaborate with their helpers.

Facing problems is important not only for personal growth but also for recovery. Continued avoidance of issues or situations that are painful or stressful is likely to slow down or halt the recovery process.

In order to lead a successful life after a setback, a person must make relevant lifestyle changes, learn new skills and further develop the existing skills. They may have to change the way they relate to others. Alleviation of symptom and relief from pain and discomfort may not be enough for rehabilitation.

The approach of "medication only" for a chronic medical illness may not be adequate if people don't make lifestyle changes, improve their relationships and develop the new skills required for a successful adjustment in the post-setback life.

To get out of a "hole," one must learn how to climb out of it. To continue to drop a bucket of supplies a day into the hole may help the person to survive. However, if we teach the person how to climb up out of the hole, he or she can one day breathe the fresh air of freedom and independence.

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Copyright 2001, Mind Publications 


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