Managing Chronic Pain and Illness

Managing Chronic Pain and Illness

An interview with Daniela Paolone, LMFT about how she treats clients with chronic pain and illnesses while navigating her own diagnosis. Curt and Katie talked with Daniela about how typical therapy doesn’t work for these clients, providing practical strategies for treatment and therapist self-care.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Daniela Paolone, LMFT

Daniela Paolone is a Marriage and Family Therapist who is licensed in California and Wyoming and offers support to those impacted by anxiety, depression, life transitions, chronic pain, chronic illness, and medical trauma.  She provides online and in-person counseling to California residents and offers online counseling to Wyoming residents.

As a therapist with chronic health conditions, she utilizes her personal experiences and professional training in her counseling work.  Daniela’s integrative approach helps her clients learn new ways of coping so that they can live more fulfilling lives and feel empowered as they move through life challenges, such as medical illness and chronic pain.

Daniela also offers workshops and consultation support for mental health professionals.  She also provides community presentations focused on pain management, stress management, sleep solutions and more.  If you want to learn about where she is presenting next, you can sign up for her newsletter here.  When you sign up, you will also receive a free guided meditation as thank you gift.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Why Daniela decided that she wanted to go into working with chronic pain and illness as her area of specialty
  • What was missing in the treatment she had seen for chronic pain and illness sufferers
  • The need for structure and for understanding
  • How she has decided how to disclose about her own diagnosis, medical procedures, etc. based on relevance and relatability
  • The specific challenges of being a younger person who has chronic illness
  • Modeling needs and self-care to clients
  • Themes of isolation and not being understood
  • Being a Spoon-y
  • What therapists often get wrong when working with chronic pain sufferers
  • The need to do a good job of assessing functioning, what they can do in a typical day
  • Understanding the neuroscience of pain and how it impacts their ability to do deeper, insight-oriented work
  • The conversation about attendance, options when someone (client or therapist) are having a flare-up (like online services)
  • The need for a more flexible cancellation policy
  • Understanding their schedule of doctor’s appointments
  • The idea of consulting with the other medical professionals on their team
  • The work in session around navigating doctors, their illness
  • The need for a case management hat at times
  • Putting a focus on building skills and support
  • Looking at scope of practice when you have had your own medical journey and have knowledge.
  • How to share information through a psychoeducational lens
  • Sharing the types of questions or concerns to take to doctors, without crossing the line
  • Looking at rule outs that could be presented to clients to take back to their doctor
  • Letting go of the guilt and resting when needed as a therapist with chronic illness
  • Trusting intuition for when to slow down and increase self-care
  • The impacts of poor self-care on the people around you
  • How hope can be a scary concept when facing a chronic pain and illness
  • The importance of managing expectation and being realistic
  • Developing better quality of life through incremental goals
  • Resilience, resourcefulness, and self-advocacy
  • Grounding in purpose, finding motivation to keep going
  • The connection of grief to chronic pain and illness

Relevant Resources:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links:

Daniela’s website:

Spoon Theory:

7 Psychological Stages of Chronic Pain (and it also applies to chronic illness)  

Functional Medicine defined:

Dr. Datis Kharrazian:

The Modern Therapists Group on Facebook

Therapy Reimagined 2019

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more about Curt at

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more about Katie at

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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