I have been working with fibromyalgia for the past fifteen years, leading a one-time group session called “Positive Coping Strategies for Fibromyalgia.” For many of the people that I have seen, this is the first time that they have had a chance to sit with other people who also have the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, and talk about its impact on their lives. Feeling misunderstood by others and having to explain their health challenges when they “look like they are fine” is a frequent topic, and being with a group of people who really understand can be very therapeutic.
So what do we talk about in the group? We talk about what they have learned “turns up the volume” of their pain and fibromyalgia symptoms, and more importantly, what they have learned “turns down the volume” of their pain and fibromyalgia symptoms. While we all agree that medications can be an important part of treatment for fibromyalgia, we also agree that medication alone is not the answer to learning to live with fibromyalgia. We talk about very practical ways to manage the pain, including the use of heat, ice, massage, stretching, Tai Chi, yoga, exercise, deep breathing, relaxation, and even aromatherapy. We talk about the importance of learning to focus on the here and now, learning how mindfulness and being “present” is a way to focus on what is important for that day.
Stress management is always an important part of our group, and includes listing stressors related to family life, work, and coping with the demands of life and the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Talking about negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are inevitable topics of group, and learning how to balance the negatives with humor, fun, positive relationships, gratitude, and discovering meaning and satisfaction in life is part of the journey toward health. Discovering negative thinking and its impact on increased stress and pain is discussed, with strategies for eliminating this pattern. Grieving and letting go, finding a “new normal,” taking risks, being assertive, building resilience and hope, and taking care of themselves are also emphasized as essential ingredients of feeling better and functioning better.
We are in the process of creating a four-session group series (the “Mind Body Fibromyalgia Wellness Group”) that will allow time to cover all the previously mentioned topics in more depth, and to add time to practice skill-building with relaxation and breathing exercises, and perhaps some basic yoga and tai chi movements. My hope is that having four meetings with the same group of patients will allow us to have “homework assignments” that will help each person begin to make concrete changes that we will discuss in group within a supportive environment. Anticipated start date for the group series is April 2012.
Call Clinical Psychologists, PC at (334) 821-3350 for more information and to register for these groups. I will continue to offer the one-session group, “Positive Coping Strategies for Fibromyalgia,” until the new series begins. Hope to see you soon!
Dr. Peggy Howland, Licensed Psychologist
Clinical Psychologist, P.C., Auburn, AL