“Right Living”: An Interview with Dr. Fred Friedberg by Cort Johnson -Part I
Dr. Friedberg is not your typical psychologist; a clinician, researcher, author and now President of the IACFS/ME he’s also had chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) for over twenty years. For much of that time he did what most people with this disease do; he spent alot of time and money trying every treatment he could. About five years he stopped trying to overcome the disease and began to focus on how he could interact skillfully with it – how he could manage it – and as he did that it lessened its grip on him. His book below relays the insights he gained during that process.
First the Book Review and then Part I of the Interview
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 7 Proven Steps to Less Pain and More Energy. Fred Friedberg, Ph.D. 2006. – A Review by Cort Johnson
’7 Proven Steps to Less Pain and More Energy’ doesn’t promise what most CFS patients understandably want a cure. In fact Dr. Friedberg believes that the need for a cure (when one isn’t present) and the demand to be well (when that probably isn’t possible) only makes things worse and possibly, given the nature of this disease, much worse.
Dr. Friedberg is not talking off the top of his head; as a long-time chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patient himself, he notes he wasted a good deal of time, money and energy struggling against the confines of this disease and that substantial improvements came only when he learned how to interact more skillfully with it. Dr. Friedberg still has ME/CFS but his quality of life and his ability to function are much improved. While he is no longer the long distance runner he once was he can now play vigorous games of volleyball without relapsing.
With no new treatments looming on the horizon Dr Friedberg proposes that the most effective thing patients can do is to learn how to ‘cope’ effectively with this disease. Coping sounds like the kind of palliative term medical professionals trot out when they’ve exhausted everything else; you should learn ‘good coping skills’ as if poor coping skills got you into this mess to begin with.
But Dr. Friedberg means something very different from what’s usually associated with the word. Instead of tinkering around the edges of this disease the program he’s created has the potential to mount a real assault on it. Even if his program doesn’t get you well Dr. Friedberg asserts that the vast majority of patients who do give it a try will feel better and lead fuller and richer lives.
The Seven Steps are not new; they include relaxation strategies, sleep strategies, pacing, identifying negative emotions and getting support and involve doing breathing exercises, making activity logs, doing mindfulness exercises, etc. What’s different about this book is the attention given to each and by the fact they’re presented in a package by a medical professional who’s successfully used them on himself and his patients.