The Role of Counselling in Chronic Illness

The entry of a chronic condition in one’s life heralds the beginning of some fundamental and profound permanent life changes. Later on, living with a chronic illness can become the main ingredient of one’s day-to-day life, taking priority over even the most regular issues, such as domestic chores and professional endeavours.
The far-reaching and understandably overwhelming emotional and psychological repercussions as a result of this severe biographical event are often underestimated and underacknowledged.

Immediate focus
The immediate focus when faced with a health condition is on medical intervention. The range of clinical options available at present, the quality of medical care and the offer of highly skilled professionals and multiple therapies all help us to attend to the medical necessities. We usually manage to educate ourselves, or be educated, we are assisted in making a choice regarding recommended procedures and treatments and we will commit to ongoing medical support as best we can within our affordability.

In this, we endeavour to do ‘all the right things’ in the attempt to keep a measure of control, to keep risks at bay and to maintain as much of our roles and functions as they were before the diagnosis.

Depending on the illness, this approach sometimes works well and has good results, and sometimes, in spite of doing all those right things, the outcomes are not what was hoped for.

Many chronic conditions do not have a cure – that is part why they are chronic to begin with. As a result, you are told that it is now, and maybe for as long as you live, a matter of ‘managing’ the condition.  But what does that mean, exactly?

Managing chronic illness – managing life
Living with a chronic condition affects all aspects of your life, such as:

  • Day-to-day routines
  • Physical energy
  • Future options
  • Roles within the family
  • Professional options
  • Social engagements
  • Relationships
  • Financial planning
  • Dependency
  • Sense of self
  • Sense of purpose
  • Life goals

Apart from the fundamental practical and logistical demands, the all-encompassing losses, the changes and the associated forced adjustments can have severe emotional and psychological effects.

Hopelessness, confusion, shame, fear, depression, anger, self-doubt, despair, anxiety, guilt, disappointment and grief are just some of the emotions that can overwhelm you with their relentless intensity.

Just as the medical realities of living with a chronic condition demand care and support, so do your emotional and psychological realities need care and support.

Emotional trauma that is the result of the losses suffered due to your chronic condition or disability, the fear of an uncertain future, the helplessness and anger in being forced to live a life that you did not choose and the stresses related to relationship changes; all these inner pains need to be shared and worked through as part of re-designing a life of quality and meaning. In fact, since your emotional condition directly affects your physical condition, and vice versa, for the sake of your vitality, function and well-being it is essential that emotional and psychological problems are addressed.

A strange land
My following metaphor describes it somewhat differently.

It is likely that, like most of us, at some point you decided on a destination in your life. You, together with whoever accompanies you, had your expectations and you made plans and kept yourself on course. But on your way to the place of your choice, the car rolled or the plane crash-landed. When you emerge from the wreckage, you find yourself in a land you never thought you would. It might even be a land you never knew existed. But you are here. And the only way to make it work, to survive and eventually to find happiness and purpose, is to adapt.

This is possible. But you cannot do that all by yourself.

For this, you will need to express your shock and your fears. You will want to be heard and understood. You will want to be guided in building a shelter and learn the available skills that enable you to cope. In the end, you will make a home in a place you never thought would be yours.

For each of us, there is a place we would rather be. Healing is found however, by making the most of where we are.

To walk alongside you, in your confusion, in your losses and in finding a new way of life is the role of HEART AND SOUL Counselling.


As a matter of your free introduction, I invite you to send me a 1 – 2 page confidential summary here, presenting your personal circumstances, your challenges and what you would want from this counselling. You will receive a response to your letter within three working days.

Alternatively, you can request the on-line brochure here.