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Working with Adults with Chronic Illness & Unusual Physical Symptoms



This Approach is Unique to the Individual, rather than to the Symptom

Somatic psychology presents a comprehensive perspective on origins of chronic illness rather than focusing on different causes for different diseases. This perspective proposes common factors in the origins of disease as well as a common perspective from which to approach symptoms.

Examples of situations that might benefit from somatic psychology are listed below to help assess whether this approach might be of interest to you. See a list of specific examples of chronic illnesses and unusual symptoms.



Working with Individuals Seeking Options

  • for symptoms unresponsive to available treatments, as can occur with hypertension, migraines, chronic fatigue. . .

  • for reducing symptom unpredictability, such as with glucose levels in diabetes. . .

  • for reducing medication, such as for headaches, hypertension, hives. . .

  • when available treatment options present unacceptable risks or side effects, such as in arthritis, arrhythmias. . .

  • when cause remains unknown, as with lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Parkinson's. . .

  • when there is no diagnosis, often despite extensive workup, such as with symptoms of fatigue, atypical chest pain. . .

  • when symptoms are unusual or do not make sense from an anatomical or physiological medical perspective, such as numbness that occurs in changing locations, with unpredictable timing, or with "stocking-glove" distribution. . .


As a somatic psychotherapist, I am deeply curious about the process that leads our bodies and minds to experience the extreme situations so often associated with chronic symptoms. I see symptoms as clues, showing us patterns of nervous system activity that were once appropriate but that have lost their ability to adapt and change. These symptoms are available to guide us towards new patterns that can serve us in better ways.

The presence of another person, particularly one who holds compassion and nonjudgment towards symptoms of all kinds, is often helpful in this process of discovery. As a somatic psychotherapist I do not fix anything, for nothing is really broken. Rather, I help individuals uncover the path that exists within them, and to discover how to hold new conversations between mind and body. The process of inquiry leads to more satisfying ways of interacting with ourselves and others, with our minds and bodies, and with the world.

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