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Addressing Symptoms: Functional Impairments

Addressing Symptoms: Functional Impairments

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We all have our limitations. Some of them more visible to the naked eye, others, more covert, and hidden away from the public but regardless still an internal struggle we battle everyday. As a therapist, I have the opportunity to listen to other practitioners talk about their patients and in turn, there ideas on how to help them in their treatment. Sometimes my head spins from the ideas circulated around the table and hopefully now it will be more clear to practitioners what treatment fit means in the context of supporting people in their healing with functional impairments.

Depending on the functional impairment, or limitation in completing self-directed tasks to maintain a standard or living and quality of life, these practitioners put together plans to address the interfering symptoms. I am suggesting that depending on the goals of the individual, the interfering symptoms should not be the focus of treatment of people carrying a diagnosis but instead we need to be focusing on strengthening the weak points in functioning regardless of the particular symptoms blocking the persons ability to maintain their desired quality of living.

Interfering or unresolved symptoms can be treated, but it certainly should not be the focus of treatment. Some people never experience relief from their symptoms due to extreme chronicity & impairments which are untreatable. Not every symptom is rooted in a diagnosis. Sometimes, flaws in our personalities govern the expression of our limitations. We need to refocus treatment to target and identify the weak points in a persons functioning regardless of the symptom blocking and creating impairments. I have seen first hand clinicians and peers dwelling on unresolved & chronic symptoms as if strengthening a persons weaknesses in functioning wouldn’t help them move in their healing.

Let’s be completely honest about healing. We can address our impairments but sometimes the wounds or scars don’t close. They need daily ongoing care. Like the emphysema patient on oxygen sometimes daily maintenance and care is the only way to keep moving on in your healing and recovery. Being honest with yourself about your mental & physical status will go a lot further than waiting for the miracle cure or even worse ignoring the problem because it’s unmanageable.

Well, if good health means healing than feeling better will require us to have better self management skills moving forward. It isn’t the problem that is the important thing to always focus on resolving, it’s the solution. Accepting the solution for what it’s worth will require you to always sharpen your self management skills to live the quality of life you want & choose for yourself.

About the Author

J. Peters

Bold 10 Under 10 award recipient Jacques Peters ’08, MSW ’12 . Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), therapist and disability rights advocate, Mr. Peters fights for those without a voice in various systems of care, such as the New York City Department of Social Services, the New York State Office of Mental Health or the city’s Department of Corrections. Jacques is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019, and First Diagnosis, published in 2020. Jacques refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Jacques let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing.
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