Shepherd Center Psychologists Offer Advice for Facing Your Fears
On this Halloween, when trick-or-treaters are seeking out frights, some people are looking for ways to deal with the fears they encounter after sustaining a brain or spinal cord injury, or getting a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or other neurological condition.
At Shepherd Center, psychologists and counselors play integral roles in the treatment teams that collaborate to help patients and their families as they undergo medical treatment and rehabilitation. These professionals often work with patients dealing with significant worries, and their experience has yielded these ideas for facing fears.
Rehabilitation psychologist Laurie Nash, Ph.D., ABPP, says:
- Everyone has fears. Everyone. Fear is an opportunity to grow stronger. Fear is natural, and for people with injuries and their families, it's part of the adjustment process to life after injury. It does not necessarily mean you can't or shouldn't do something.
- Consult with peers, family and your treatment team to ensure the choices you want to make are safe and appropriate for your injury level and stage of recovery.
- Acknowledge your fears and talk about them. Find a friend to help you work on it. Imagine the outcome you desire and how good it will feel to conquer your fears. Focus on your strengths and rely on them to overcome your challenges.
- Facing your fears helps you move forward. Let fear motivate you, not immobilize you.
- Talking with a counselor or psychologist can help you address problems that can lead to fear or symptoms of fear, including self-sabotage, anxiety, problems with self-confidence or perfectionism.
- Set small goals to overcome fears one step at a time. Waiting, or beginning, are usually the hardest parts. Start small, and then push yourself further. Keep the momentum going! Celebrate your victories!
- Sometimes direct confrontation is the best answer. Be bold! Jump in, give it your best shot and then re-evaluate to improve next time.
Jill Koval, Ph.D., director of psychological services for Shepherd Center’s inpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program, has additional insight:
- It's normal to have fears about what life will be like after you leave the "cocoon" of Shepherd Center.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with a psychologist or counselor regarding your fears while you are a patient in the hospital.
- Make a list of your fears so you can make a plan on how you will tackle them with your counselor or psychologist. Breakdown the list into smaller, more manageable pieces (e.g., starting with the thing that scares you the least).
- Talk with other patients or former patients. Chances are, they share some of your fears. It's helpful to know you're not alone and also to get some other ideas on strategies from them.
- As an inpatient, use outings and recreation therapy sessions to gain some experience and build confidence being out in the community.
- Use peer support. Peer supporters have already been out there and can make suggestions on how to tackle your fears.
- Enlist the help of your family and friends, who make you feel the safest. Let them know your fears so they can help.
- Don't try to do everything at once; pace yourself.
- Don't get discouraged; be patient with yourself.
For more information on psychological services available at Shepherd Center, you may call 404-350-7553.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.