The Illness Beliefs Model: A Map For Healing
We believe the following:
Beliefs are the heart of healing. Constraining beliefs increase illness suffering and facilitating beliefs decrease illness suffering.
Illness suffering can be physical, emotional relational, and/or spiritual. Likewise, healing in individuals and families can be physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, or all four.
Softening suffering is the heart, the center, and the essence of caring in our relationships with individuals and families in health care. One of the most useful ways to soften suffering is to invite more facilitating beliefs.
Illness is a family affair. Everyone in a family experiences the illness; no one family member “has” cancer, depression, chronic pain, or renal failure. From the onset of symptoms, through diagnosis and treatment, other family members are impacted by and reciprocally influence the illness.
Serious illness invites a wake-up call about life, which usually leads one into the spiritual domain as the meaning of life is queried or reviewed.
There is a distinction between disease and illness and between medical narratives and illness narratives. We believe illness narratives include stories of sickness and suffering as well as stories of survival and strength that need to be told.
Cellular and “soulular” changes occur through conversations. Our network of conversations and our relationships can contribute to illness or wellness.
A clinician’s worldview can open or close opportunities for family members to diminish their illness suffering. We believe a worldview that facilitates healing is one that acknowledges another person as a legitimate other, even though one may not embrace or agree with the other’s beliefs. This also implies that the clinician is willing to challenge his or her own beliefs.
One key to therapeutic change is a respectful, curious, and compassionate relationship between a clinician and family members that facilitates discussion of even the most difficult topics and invites the consideration of alternative or modified beliefs.
Therapeutic change is facilitated when the core belief—the belief at the heart of illness suffering—is distinguished and challenged.
Changes in beliefs involve changes in the bio-psychosocial-spiritual structures of both family members and clinicians. The direction and pace of change cannot be predicted.
Therapeutic change involves invitations to reflection by family members and the clinician.
Distinguishing therapeutic change sustains and maintains change by strengthening facilitating beliefs.
The privilege of participating in therapeutic conversations about individuals/ families’ illness experiences provides opportunities for learning and changes the biology of the clinician.
The more a clinician is able to embrace a reality of objectivity-in-parentheses, the more he or she becomes a particular kind of person who brings forth healing conversations in a context of compassion and love.
- Dr. Lorraine Wright and Dr. Janice M. Bell