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License No. PSY25131

Adaptation to Chronic Illness

After being diagnosed with a chronic illness, people are faced with many new responsibilities. The healthcare community labels these new responsibilities as the “self-management of disease.” Self-management includes using medication correctly, making lifestyle changes, and learning new behaviors to prevent long-term complications.  Interventions that encourage people to learn self-management skills are essential in chronic illness care. Many studies show that patients who successfully manage their illness experience fewer symptoms, are better able to function, and have fewer complications.a  However, research also confirms that only about 15–25% of patients improve their health practices after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, suggesting that people find disease management difficult.b Psychotherapy targeted at helping individuals adjust to a chronic illness can help people overcome major obstacles to recovery.

Dr. Gretchen-Doorly believes it is important to help patients find wellness in the midst of illness. Although she treats patients diagnosed with a variety of illnesses, she has particular expertise in women’s health, including urology, urogynecology, infertility, and pelvic pain disorders. She is also skilled at helping people manage chronic pain and endocrine disorders, especially metabolic syndrome. Her straightforward, evidence-based treatment approach is designed to help people confront the common barriers that discourage successful disease self-management. She has many years of experience working with the chronically ill. She spent a decade at UCLA researching the physical effects of severe mental illness and developed several healthy lifestyle interventions to improve patients’ physical and mental health. These interventions stemmed from her holistic view of health and incorporated physical exercise, nutrition education, and stress management techniques. In addition, Dr. Gretchen-Doorly was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition over 10 years ago. Through her own journey with chronic pain, she gained a new appreciation for life, an enhanced sense of purpose, and changes in life priorities. This personal experience, combined with her professional expertise as a top-notch psychologist, make her uniquely qualified to meet the needs of chronically ill individuals.

Dr. Gretchen-Doorly believes every patient has a right to treatment that discovers and builds on personal strengths in the face of major life challenges. Her treatment uses a variety of techniques designed to help people express and understand the feelings they have about their illness as well as change their behavior so they can minimize the impact of their disease, get the most from their medical treatment, and manage potential disruptions to their personal and professional lives. She helps patients develop goal-setting and problem-solving skills, communicate more effectively with their treatment providers, and take a proactive approach to their health.


a de Ridder, D., Geenen, R., Kuijer, R., van Middendorp, H. (2008). Psychological adjustment to chronic disease. Lancet, 372, 246–255.

b Dunbar-Jacob J., Mortimer-Stephens M. K. (2001). Treatment adherence in chronic disease. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 54, S57–S60.

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