IBD and Mental Health

September 28th, 2018

Championing IBD

Hand washing is not exactly the activity you'd picture indulging in if you wanted to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Yet, that's exactly what the British Cycling Team did at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

They hired a surgeon to teach the athletes to properly wash their hands, avoiding illnesses during competition. The team staff were utterly fastidious about food preparation. They even brought their own mattresses and pillows, so that the athletes could sleep in a familiar posture every night. 

What does all of this have to do with coaching? 
It might seem totally weird, even slightly crazy, but these were just some of the methods Sir Dave Brailsford, head of British Cycling used to turn his scrappy little bunch into world champions.

British Cycling went from a terrible 76-year record of just one gold medal, to 7 out of 10 gold at the Beijing Olympics and then 7 out of 10 yet again at the London Olympics. They've even won three Tour de France competitions, with only Italy interrupting their successful run. 

Surely Britain didn't suddenly sprout champions . . .
Something else was in play, and that something else is simply the teacher, or the coach. And there's a remarkable difference between being just someone who coaches others, and one that coaches to get precise results.

The coach who works with a specific goal in mind takes great performers and transforms them into unbeatable. If you look at almost any great artist, performer, athlete or professional, it's easy to seduce yourself into believing in the myth of inborn talent. In almost every instance, you will find it's the coach and their methods that take the client from a seemingly ordinary level to something quite stupendous.

Without a coach, a person must go through the gruelling method of having to figure out all the mistakes and then find successful solutions, all by trial and error, and without assistance.  A well trained and knowledgeable coach will not only reduce the learning curve, but can make learning fun and perhaps even addictive. 


  What is Counselling for IBD?  

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, is a grouping of autoimmune diseases with no known origin or cure. With modern medicine alone, the best that can be done for IBD is to manage it effectively, while preserving the best lifestyle possible.

Having an IBD counsellor as your coach, will help reduce your learning curve, teach you strategies to make you unbeatable, and help you find the best lifestyle possible.

Counselling for IBD includes focusing on IBD-specific issues such as:


  • Mental health;
  • Communication;
  • Understanding IBD;
  • The effects of lifestyle on IBD;
  • And especially the impact of diet and nutrition.


Treating IBD is different than other chronic illnesses. It is not just about chronic pain or discomfort, and it is all about a holistic lifestyle adjustment.


  Is IBD counselling a particular method of counselling?


Specific methods of therapy such at CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), existential therapy, and hypnotherapy have been scientifically demonstrated to be useful for improving the quality of life for those living with IBD. Traditional counselling therapy, and Neurofeedback are also commonly used in conjunction with coaching and education.


CBT re-directs mental focus, helping to lower anxiety and symptoms of depression. CBT has been also been demonstrated to improve overall quality of life and help manage harmful activities.


Neurofeedback is useful for calming anxiety, improving sleep patterns and reducing impulsive cravings.


Existential techniques are useful as a strategy for the management of chronic pain.


Hypnotherapy has been shown to result in reduced inflammation, improved health-related quality of life, and reduction of pain.


Psychoeducation and lifestyle coaching create a more in depth understanding of the disease so that you can make informed choices. Knowing why using each tool is useful, will help you in using the tools, and organizing will better meet your needs as well as improve your overall enjoyment of life.


  Can every counsellor provide IBD counselling?


Those with IBD symptoms are best served by a healthcare professional who has researched and practiced therapeutic methods that are beneficial to IBD and who is educated in the specifics of what it is like to live with IBD.


As a professional with IBD I have a unique perspective in helping you navigate life and come to terms with your chronic illness.


  What does an IBD counselling program include? 


IBD counselling addresses the following areas:


1. Mental Health: Rates of anxiety and depression are higher and more common in IBD patients than in the general population.


Challenges with anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health issues, are included in a personalized IBD treatment program.


Self-esteem tends to be lower in IBD patients and can often be the cause of many unwanted mental health symptoms, including anxiety, and depression. Treating symptoms of IBD places emphasis on increasing self-esteem through steps of success, strategic goal setting, and empowerment for independence.


2. Diet: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”- Hippocrates.


There are a lot of options and opinions when it comes to diet, nutrition, and management of IBD. IBD counselling includes a personalized diet and nutrition plan, along with education, and resources that will work with your situation.


3. Lifestyle: Stress is a well-known trigger for inflammation that can lead to IBD flare-ups. Stress management tools such as breathing, meditation, and self-hypnosis are an important part of the IBD counselling program.


Understanding how stress impacts your system is an important part of helping you make the best choices. Together we will create a stress-management plan tailored to your specific lifestyle and needs. Included in a stress-management plan is a work-life balance program that supports success.


1. Education: As a counselling professional with a science degree and experience as an educator, I can help you understand IBD to greater depth. I will explain what is happening to you and your system in understandable terms, and assist your family, friends, parents, and children to better understand as well.


2. Social and Relationship Communication: Relationships with loved ones can be very difficult for those with IBD.


IBD is often described as an “invisible illness.” Learning how to communicate about your symptoms and how you feel with those around you is a critical skill. Advocating for yourself and communicating your needs is important when making doctor appointments, choosing treatments options, and speaking with healthcare professionals.


  How is IBD counselling different from typical counselling?


Symptoms of IBD effect every aspect of life. IBD counselling involves a great deal more lifestyle and strategic skills that are not found in a typical counselling program.


IBD counselling focuses on the whole person, including the emotional, social, mental, and physical aspects of living with a chronic illness. IBD counselling can often involve the healing of trauma and coming to terms with your diagnosis.

Gerry Bock
Specialized Therapeutic Solutions
8487 Wildwood Place, Surrey, V4N 5C5

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