Philadelphia Chronic Pain & Illness Support Group Registration: 215-922-5683 x100 x 111 or Dan 267 535 2424
If you have a chronic illness—like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, chronic Lyme, or hypermobility, to name just a few—chances are you’ve probably felt overwhelmed at times by the impact of this condition on your life. This group is meant to provide a supportive community to help:
Navigate the medical system.
Manage pain, depression, and other symptoms.
Cope with losses to your health, relationships, finances, and sense of self.
Drawing on concepts from Eastern wisdom and Western psychology, group members will support each other to explore the mind-body connection, self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors, acceptance, and self-compassion. Chronic pain support group members will share their stories and provide each other with the deep empathy that is too often missing from well-meaning medical professionals, family, and friends who sometimes don’t know the right things to say.
The chronic pain support group is ongoing, and participants are asked to attend 8 or more consecutive sessions once they begin. This group is designed for participants living with chronic pain in Pennsylvania and / or New Jersey.
Chronic Pain & Illness Support Group: Support Group Calendar
Open to people living with chronic pain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Chronic Pain Support Group Registration Fee: $25
Weekly Chronic Pain Support Group Fee: $20
(or 10$ for existing clients of The Center for Growth living with chronic pain who attend sessions with their individual, couples or family therapist at least twice a month)
Why People Living with Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness Can Benefit from a Chronic Pain Support Group
Chronic pain and chronic illness affect us at the deepest levels of our humanity, forcing us to confront the limited control we have over our bodies and our health. In some cases, chronic pain and illness may even be a reminder of our mortality. Even if one’s disease—like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, chronic Lyme, or hypermobility—isn’t likely to be fatal, it can feel as if chronic pain or chronic illness is robbing us of our vitality and taking away what it once meant for us to be alive.
This can be a tremendously isolating experience, as the medical system often falls short in recognizing and providing support for the total impact of illness on someone’s life. Sometimes, medical professionals can’t even identify and validate the symptoms you’re experiencing with a name. Or worse yet, it may even feel like people view you and your symptoms with skepticism or judgment—a wholly invalidating experience.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain or other illness symptoms, like fatigue or gastrointestinal issues, you may also feel like you don’t want to burden those you know by sharing the distressing reality of your situation. It can be hard to know when it’s safe to disclose your illness and your experience with it. You may also understandably want to protect yourself from being vulnerable with your family and friends, who may default to advice-giving or otherwise not know what to say when faced with the sometimes less-than-pretty reality of your condition.
Too often, people with chronic pain and illness find themselves feeling judged or misunderstood by professionals, family, and friends, leaving them without a safe place to authentically express themselves. This is exactly why we created our virtual Chronic Pain Support Group, serving people who live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
With a warm community of people who just get it, our online Chronic Pain Support Group is here to help you on your journey with chronic illness. Together, we learn to ride the waves of setbacks and breakthroughs with an increased capacity for inner balance. Inner balance becomes easier when you have a group of people who simply allow you to feel your feelings as they arrive, without needing to hide or contract them for anyone’s comfort. As isolating as chronic pain and illness can be, you may find that, with a supportive community, illness can actually be an experience that connects us.
While no one will be rushed, the aim of this group is to gently help you to shift your thinking from—If I only didn’t have this pain or illness, then I could live my life normally—to—How do I create “a new normal” in order to live my life as fully as I can?
In order to support you on your journey, the therapists facilitating the virtual Chronic Pain Support Group (serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey) will encourage exploration of the balance between striving for change as you seek medical treatment for your symptoms and accepting yourself as you are, today, symptoms and all. This dialectic, acceptance and change, is at the heart of learning to cope with chronic pain and illness. There is not one right balance between the two for everyone, and this group will not tell you what is right for you. Rather, we will provide you with tools to explore both acceptance and change so you can find the balance that aligns best with your life.
Mindfulness Therapy for Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness in Philadelphia
Mindfulness is one of the tools that we’ll use to navigate acceptance and change in our Philadelphia Chronic Pain Support Group (also serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey). Mindfulness is a concept from Buddhism that has been used in Western medicine to treat chronic pain since the 1970s. While mindfulness has become trendy, don’t let that fool you. A tremendous body of academic research demonstrates the benefits of mindfulness for reducing physical pain and helping people to cope with the psychological impact of illness.
One of the most difficult parts of having a chronic illness, like irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, or migraines—is ruminating over difficult things that happened in the past and fear of what’s to come in the future. When we are angry about the past or fearful about the future, we tend to activate the body’s sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response). When that happens, hormones flood the bloodstream that cause us to tense up and prepare to escape danger or perhaps even fight it. When we tense up, we end up exacerbating preexisting chronic pain, including gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal injuries, fatigue, neurological pain, or other chronic illness symptoms.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment on purpose. In our online Chronic Pain Support Group (serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), we use our sensory experience (touch/feeling, sound, smell, sight, taste) to ground us in the present and prevent us from getting triggered by unhelpful ruminations about the past and future. When we bring our full attention to one of our senses, we are essentially dropping down from the thinking mind into the feeling body. After all, our senses are our primary doorways to experiencing the body. While the body can be a site of trauma when you have chronic pain or illness, it also holds immense wisdom.
When we become less identified with our thinking minds and instead learn how to find safety in our bodies, we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system – the body’s rest and digest state. With practice, mindfulness allows those with chronic pain and illness to become more aware of the mind-body connection, how certain thoughts and feelings trigger the body and vice versa. With more awareness and compassion, it becomes easier to find a balance between accepting yourself as you are and striving for improvement as you learn to manage your chronic gastrointestinal, neurological, or musculoskeletal pain from illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, arthritis, and hypermobility, just to name a few.
In our Chronic Pain Support Group, mindfulness practice isn’t just focusing on the breath. We will use gentle, authentic movement to connect with and befriend our bodies, mindful writing exercises to connect with our minds, and art therapy to provide an expressive outlet when words aren’t enough.
Grief Therapy for Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness in Philadelphia
While mindfulness is an important part of our online Chronic Pain Support Group (serving Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), it is no silver bullet. And even though it is essential to managing our thoughts about the future and the past, our chronic pain support group also makes space for people to authentically express their grief for the various losses that have resulted from their illness. You may feel some grief for the person you once were or even the person you imagined yourself to be. You may feel grief over a relationship that’s been impacted by your chronic illness, or perhaps you’re encountering grief over a career or educational path that has taken a detour. Over time, these losses may have accumulated in a way that feels overwhelming, your grief insurmountable.
One particular focus of our virtual Chronic Pain Support Group (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey) will be on the impact of pain and illness on relationships and intimacy. Illness—like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, arthritis, Lyme, and hypermobility—can knock even the sturdiest relationship off balance, with one partner falling into a care-giving role and the other into a receiver. The partner experiencing illness may struggle with guilt and shame, and the other partner may feel burnt out. The person who has chronic symptoms from gastrointestinal, neurological, or musculoskeletal pain may also have low sexual desire, negatively impacting intimacy in the relationship. These are normal side effects of illness, but not ones that are often talked about. Without a supportive community of people going through similar challenges, these relationship difficulties can feel like the result of personal deficits and flaws. Our group will provide support for depersonalizing some of these common dynamics and navigating relationships for those struggling with chronic pain and illness.
No matter the type of grief, our Chronic Pain Support group is here to hold the space for you as you process your losses. Little by little, group members will encourage each other to find new ways to be in your body and your life, letting go of what we can’t control and motivating one another to have an open stance to new invitations in our lives: new hobbies, interests, relationships, and career paths.
Remember, illness and pain are ultimately experiences that connect us, if we let them. to join our online Chronic Pain Support Group serving people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, we have physical offices in Philadelphia, PA, Ocean City, NJ, Mechanicsville, VA, Providence RI and Santa Fe, NM, and work virtually with clients living in Florida and Georgia.
If you’re looking for a chronic pain individual therapist located outside Pennsylvania, call (215) 922-5683x100 or Dan 267 535 2424