The talk subject: "Perspectives on Fibromyalgia"
On 20 September, the Taunton Association for Psychotherapy opened it’s doors after the summer break and welcomed members and guests to another of it’s legendary Talks. In a change of speakers due to ill health, TAP Council member Caroline Barrett introduced Beth Livingston and Maddy Newson who presented Perspectives on Fibromyalgia : a fascinating and informative talk on a debilitating and often misunderstood condition. Both speakers revealed their own struggle with Fibromyalgia while living busy and demanding lives: Beth is a psychotherapy trainee, currently in her fifth year of a six year training at the Bath Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling, while Maddy runs a private practice in Wiltshire and is in her fifth year of training also at the Bath Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling.
The Guest Speakers: Beth Livingston (Left) & Maddy Newson (Right)
Beth and Maddy freely admitted that they don’t have the answers to this mysterious condition; instead they work with their own experience. Labelling themselves as `Research Queens`, they spoke of amassing a huge amount of knowledge and information in the journey to teach themselves about Fibromyalgia. It was explained that Fibromyalgia is a long-term, chronic, widespread pain condition which causes no tissue damage, can’t be seen, cannot be tested for and is not fatal, which makes diagnosis very difficult. Sufferers sometimes find medical professionals quite dismissive of their condition, which adds to an often lengthy period of diagnosis, which can run into years. It was recommended that sufferers should keep returning to their GP and restate the fact that they didn’t feel like this before. If a Fibromyalgia sufferer is referred, the first port of call will be Rheumatology and then after that Neurology. If these avenues fail then the patient’s mental health can be looked into.
The link between trauma and Fibromyalgia was examined and the audience heard that people who are depressed or have suffered physical, verbal or sexual abuse are very much more likely to develop the condition than others of the population. The range of symptoms of Fibromyalgia are enormous and include insomnia, nausea, joint and muscle pain, numbness, pins and needles, muscle knots and spasms, restless legs, sensitivity to light and noise, confusion, anxiety and depression among countless others. These symptoms vary from day to day and from person to person. Medication used to help with these symptoms include: painkillers, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics. Other approaches include diet control, exercise, acupuncture, massage, CBT, Psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, CPD oil and supplements.
The NHS estimates that 2-4.5% of the UK’s population, which equates to almost 3 million people; suffer from Fibromyalgia, of which 75%-90% are women. The speakers suggested that with this significant figure it is highly likely that therapists will encounter a client with the condition at some point and so it’s useful to have a basic knowledge of it. This would enable the therapist to make the necessary adjustments to the therapy room, such as lighting, chairs etc.
Finishing on an alternative view of the causes of Fibromyalgia, Beth and Maddy explored the possibility that sufferers might find that the symptoms actually serve them in some way. Do they protect them? Do they form a barrier? Has the body found a way of putting something in place to help them keep a distance from people and help them hide? Not wanting to imply that it’s something that the sufferer has made up, it was offered that counselling might uncover some unconscious aspect to the condition.
At the meeting TAP Council member Robin Pfaff gave the vote of thanks and discussion around this intriguing and enlightening presentation continued over hot beverages and the now celebrated biscuits.
The next TAP Talk takes place on 18th October 2019 when Dr Jane Woodend presents The Long Goodbye (A psycho-social investigation of endings in life and therapy).
All are most welcome - to book your place complete the form here: (www.taplimited.org.uk/talks.html)
Talk notes by David Trott - Council member