Mental health and T1D: when your therapist doesn't "get it"

June 8, 2023

So you know that diabetes is just as much about your mental health as it is about your physical health, but you’re struggling to find a therapist who “gets” it.

T1D and New York state-licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Elana Dumont shared on an episode of the Reclaim Your Rise podcast her thoughts on how people with type one diabetes can get the most out of working with a therapist who doesn’t have experience with T1D.

Here are Dr. Dumont’s 3 pieces of advice:

1. Focus on the feelings and emotions that are attached to your diabetes.

Dr. Dumont says that the best way “to bring the accuracy of living with diabetes into the relationship with the therapist who maybe has never had a client like that before, and doesn't have diabetes themselves, is to really focus on the feelings and your experiences and the emotions that are attached to everything that surrounds your living with diabetes.”

She explains, “A good therapist should be able to work with those clients that are really open about what it feels like to live with this.” It’s our job to be as vulnerable as we can about the mental and emotional impact diabetes has.

2. Remember that relatability and therapy are not the same.

Finding a therapist who has type one is rare, and if that search is what’s keeping you from starting therapy in the first place, your mental health may continue to suffer.

According to Dr. Dumont, “Therapy is about learning to cope. It's about learning to identify your feelings, express your feelings, manage the feelings. And I think that if you make that the priority, I think that is the way to get the most out of [therapy].”

She explains, “And who knows if [a therapist with T1D] is even necessarily the right way to go anyways. It’s always the best to meet someone with diabetes. You see someone at the beach, who's wearing a pod and then you're wearing your pod. And… you have this instant connection with the person, but that's not necessarily what therapy should be anyways.”

3. Don’t underestimate how your blood sugars impact your mood, energy, and mindset.

A therapist should help you learn coping skills, but if you are still struggling day to day from up and down blood sugars, you need to also address the roots of that in order to feel better.

If your management isn't in a great place, your numbers are all over the place, you struggle to adapt to changes in your routine, or you don’t feel confident, that is going to directly correlate to increased stress and anxiety.  Digging into the education, learning your own body’s patterns, having a wide tool-kit of strategies to lean on will improve your blood sugars, which will in turn improve your peace of mind.

At Risely, we have every client rate their fulfillment on our eight pillars of T1D health at the start of their coaching program on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most fulfilled). For the pillar of Stress and Anxiety Management, the average rating of people entering a Risely coaching program, is a 4/10. At completion of the program, the average rating is an 8/10. This goes to show the power of education, accountability, support, and community for people living with type one diabetes.