Topic Spotlight: Chronic Illness & Pain

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BY: GLPG Therapist Sandra Dougherty, BS LMSW

My experience in chronic illness and pain began as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. For a year during my graduate study, I worked as an intern at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Farmington Hills. The clinic offers outpatient radiation and chemotherapy, as well as a diverse psychosocial support program for patients and families.

Working alongside the social worker there, I was able to participate and learn directly the clinical skills required to conduct individual, couples and family therapy.  I also co-facilitated several support groups. Additionally, I participated in support activities such as art therapy. Lastly, I supported children whose parents were ill, as well as the patients themselves during their treatment sessions.

After graduating with my Masters of Social Work with specializations in interpersonal relations and healthcare, I moved on to working as a medical social worker for both for and not-for-profit hospice organizations in southeast Michigan.  Here, I expanded my skills to include psycho-education of hospice and palliative care services, support and resources for patients and families as well as on-call and clinical triage support.

After many years in hospice serving throughout the tri-county area, I began a private practice focusing on therapeutic support for those with chronic and terminal illnesses, including chronic pain. Many clients find it comforting to have a therapist who is familiar with medical terminology and experiences.

My clinical approach includes helping the clients and family understand their needs, which may include community resources, disease management tools, anticipatory grief and bereavement, mindfulness and self-care and counseling for anxiety or depression which may be present as a result of their disease experience.  Interpersonal changes and challenges may also be addressed.

I am passionate about working with this population, and look forward to continuing to grow and learn in this field as I support those afflicted in my community.