Chronic physical illness and the self – using the conversational model of psychotherapy to work
with people with cystic fibrosis Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a chronic, severe, life shortening illness, usually diagnosed at birth.
Respiratory symptoms, pancreatic insufficiency, gastrointestinal complications and CF related
diabetes (CFRD) are commonly seen in this condition. There are more than 3000 individuals
with CF in Australia and the current median life expectancy is 39 years. Living with CF has
considerable impact on individuals and their families. Since the last decade, the focus of
treatment is broadening to include mental well-being and overall quality of life. I started working
in a newly created position as a psychologist embedded in the Westmead adult CF team. My
experience in CF and my training in the conversational model of therapy started simultaneously
and gave me the opportunity to explore using this model to understand what it is like to live with
CF, the impact of CF on the sense of self, the added complexity of CF and the possibility of
relational trauma and constant threats to mortality.