What do you fit into your average day? Meals, school, sports, work, music, time with friends, gaming, talking on your phone? Have I left out 5 or 20 other things on your list? If you’re like many teens I have met, the idea of adding even one more thing to an already jam-packed day isn’t necessarily a happy thought. In fact, you’re probably hoping for a few less things to do, and maybe simply looking forward to getting some extra sleep this coming weekend!

So…when you go to your GI clinic for a quarterly review, labs, medication discussion and check-up, maybe the last thing you want to do is spend a long time and talk to multiple people. Of course, I could be wrong about that. Maybe you want to talk, in depth to each person who is part of your care team. Either way, if you’re lucky enough to go to a center with a multidisciplinary team you might have the opportunity to meet and talk with a nurse, medical provider and dietician, and sometimes also a psychosocial professional (usually a psychologist or a clinical social worker, like me!) We are the people who want to talk about everything ELSE.

We might ask you about your sleep, your energy level, school attendance and academic performance, how your 504 Plan is going, or how you remember when to take your medicine every day. If you’re older than 14 or 15 we might (like I do) quiz you about your diagnosis, what’s important in self-management, maybe even what symptoms you should be on the lookout for, so the team can intervene early if a flare happens. We might ask how your mood has been since we saw you last; whether you’re dealing with any anxiety or sadness, any big difficult changes or exciting upcoming events, maybe whether you’re noticing yourself backing away from things you used to like to do, because of concern about what might happen if a bathroom isn’t close by.

Do you know why we do all this? Because we care that IBD occupies not one more square inch of space in your life than it has to. We care that you enjoy school, and activities, and social time, because we know how important they might be in your overall sense of enjoyment in life and your well-being.  We know that talking about these things intentionally, thinking through activities planfully and discussing your quality of life can help you get more of what you want. And if obstacles and struggles do come up, we know how to help. We want to be a friendly connection and helpful resource when you need it and we want you to make time to talk with us.

Our job is, in my mind, its own balance of being a comfortable and safe person for you to talk to, being open and engaged, and covering the “everything else” so you can keep moving forward, feeling good in your life. Although IBD doesn’t go away, life doesn’t go away either, and it has MANY, MANY great moments in store for you. So, we hope, if you’re in clinic and a psychosocial professional pops by, you have time to talk. We’d love to get to know you.

If you’re looking for more information about what to expect, and how to find and make a connection with a psychologist or social worker in your area, our Mental Health Provider Guide can help.

If you have a question you want to ask right now, leave a comment below or use the contact form to let us know. There’s a team of psychosocial professionals working and collaborating together through ImproveCareNow and we’d like to answer some community questions here on LOOP.


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