Dr. Fliegler specializes in the treatment of TMS (Tension Myositis/Myoneural Syndrome) or psychophysiological or mind/body disorders. The concept and understanding of TMS is based on the pioneering work of John E. Sarno, M.D. These disorders are characterized by pain or illness that is caused or exacerbated by stress or the way in which one manages emotions.
Today, more and more people have a greater awareness of the mind-body connection. There is a greater understanding as to how past and current stressors can make people ill. The work of Dr. Sarno teaches us that one does not have to suffer with various pain syndromes. Instead, we have the tools within us to understand what is really the cause of TMS symptoms. Sometimes it is helpful to think of TMS pain as a “truth serum” which can allow one to think about the feelings that are underneath psychophysiological symptoms.
Psychotherapy for TMS is specifically focused to help you experience your feelings, leading to a reduction in TMS symptoms. TMS psychotherapy differs from traditional psychotherapy. Patients work to identify the ways in which they currently manage their emotions and how this affects TMS symptoms. For some patients, anger will be more difficult to identify and experience, while for others it will be sadness or envy.
Part of the goal of TMS psychotherapy is to help the patient connect conscious and unconscious feeling to physical symptoms. Because a significant genesis of TMS is suppressed emotions, it is important for the psychologist to assess which defense mechanisms are employed by the patient to avoid feeling. An aim of TMS psychotherapy is to help the patient better understand how they protect themselves from uncomfortable/intolerable feelings, thereby increasing TMS symptoms.
An important part of recovery from TMS is what a patient thinks about/feels on a daily basis and not just during the weekly psychotherapy hour. Journaling can be a very valuable part of the TMS recovery program. It can help a patient to uncover past or present feelings and to experience emotions at a more profound level. Journaling can also help patients to connect with feelings on a daily level.
It is important to note that TMS psychotherapy will focus on a patient’s psychological and emotional life, not a discussion of symptoms. Patients will often want to discuss their feelings of anger and sadness about TMS symptoms; however, this will be discouraged, because ultimately it will only perpetuate symptoms. Patients must focus on the situations from the past and present that evoke feeling. A goal of therapy is to help patients tolerate a broader range of feelings. Another primary aim of therapy is to help patients actually experience their feelings, and not just think about them intellectually.