Interview with Dr. Claudia Yvonne Finocchiaro, a Clinical Health Psychology Service Consultant at IRCCS San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.
People often ask me how useful it can be to be accompanied by a specialist in the various stages of an organic disease. I think a psychologist’s task is to work with people to guarantee them the best possible quality of life in that present moment.
In 1977, in a Roman seminar, psychoanalyst W. Bion replied to the question saying:
“As far as I am concerned, since I can’t do anything about it, neither birth nor death interests me particularly; people are born and die, I myself was born and I die, they are events that do not have the slightest importance […] but that small bit between birth and death, that yes interests me.”
Psychological support has the function of making life “tolerable and usable” in such a way that it is worth living.
Compared to this, there are many things we can help with.
Give support regarding communication with family members. Especially when children or adolescents within a family are involved, it is important to reflect on the communication styles to be used to explain the situation and make them aware without frightening them.
Manage the emotional aspects that accompany the diagnostic and therapeutic process. In particular, to face the moments of sadness, anger, ambivalence and anxiety that naturally accompany the phases of the disease and which can, if well managed, be used as propulsive elements of transformation and change, without becoming explosive and destructive.
Tackle the traumatic aspects of the disease and of the therapeutic-diagnostic procedure that tests the individual and family’s resources.
Helping to keep the social and relational part functional, working on the styles of reaction to the disease and on the integration of bodily and psychological changes.
Improve the sense of self-efficacy using relaxation techniques of western and eastern traditions that can alleviate symptoms and provide support by helping patients cope with therapies and recover a sense of well-being and relaxation.
These are just a few examples of what can be done to encourage reflection and take on meaning with respect to what happens and which can help to help you live the most difficult moments more serenely. Above all, our task is to give strength and value to the resources that a person possesses and put it in a position to find new perspectives to make room for new ideas, strategies and paths that can offer the patient more chances to overcome the moment.
Taking up the words of W. Bion
“Discard your memory, discard the future tense of our desire: forget them both, to leave space for a new idea”.
“Is there any spark on which you could blow until it becomes a flame so that the person can live that life that he still has?”