Outcomes Offered

■ Pain management strategies

■ Self-initiated management skills

■ Ability to shift attention

Do you follow basketball (here you could choose any sport or pursuit in which your client is interested)? Which is your favorite team? Who is your favorite player?

Larry was a keen basketball fan. His bedroom was lined with posters of his team and favorite player. He went to every game he could and, when he couldn't, he'd watch them on TV. He got excited when they were winning, angry at times when they were losing, and sad when they did lose. Something Larry didn't realize was how helpful it was going to be for him that he was such a strong supporter of his team.

Unfortunately, there was a time when Larry got quite sick and had to go to the hospital. Things can be pretty scary when your body isn't working quite right and you don't know what to do about it. Things can be pretty scary when you don't have control over what is going on and your mom and dad can't always be by your bedside. Some of the treatment the doctors and nurses give can be painful and uncomfortable. I guess that's why being such a good fan of his team helped Larry.

Larry was a pretty smart kid. He imagined his illness was like a game of basketball. He had an opponent he needed to beat. He imagined himself being his favorite player—fit and strong, ready to play out the whole game until he won. He thought how he needed to go the distance, even though he might feel pushed to the limit of his abilities. The best of players, he thought, don't give in, they persevere and play through the whole game. He thought how even the best of players get hurt and feel pain at times. They manage pain and injury better than most people, his dad told him, by keeping their mind focused on what they needed to do.

He'd read a lot about what makes a sportsperson good because he wanted to be one himself. He'd read how top athletes were in touch with what they called the "winning feeling." They thought about success more than failure. They learned from their mistakes but didn't worry about them. They focused more on what they did well . . . and on doing it better.

Larry had also read about something called "tunnel vision." It's something a player has when he is so focused he can switch off things that aren't important—the weather, the booing or cheering of the crowd . . . and pain. If you want to shoot a three-pointer you have to be relaxed and focused. There is no room for distraction. You have to apply all your strength, effortlessly. Larry had tried practicing it when he played basketball. Now he practiced it in the hospital. He focused on being well. He imagined what it would feel like to slam dunk the last, winning basket of the game, to know you had won, to know you had overcome your opponent.

Larry kept a poster of his favorite player by his bed. It was a reminder of some of the things that it takes to win. Do you have a poster of your favorite player? How could you get one to serve as a reminder for you?

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