Psychological therapy and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

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JIA can affect your body. It can also affect your emotions or how you feel. You may experience a wide range of emotions during your teen years. This can happen whether or not you have JIA.

​JIA and your emotions

Have you ever felt any of the following emotions because of JIA?

  • Isolated, lonely, withdrawn or excluded?
  • Angry, frustrated or annoyed?
  • Discouraged?
  • Helpless or hopeless?
  • Sad or depressed?
  • Overwhelmed?
  • Pain and suffering?
  • Low self-esteem?
  • Worry or anxiety?

What other feelings or emotions that you have experienced because of JIA?

It is important to recognize these feelings. They can affect you physically and emotionally. Stress and bad feelings can make you feel down. They can also make JIA flares harder to manage.

Counselling and psychological therapy

There are a number of reasons why you might need counselling or psychological therapy. Therapy can help with issues that may or may not be related to JIA including:

  • feeling depressed or having thoughts of harming yourself
  • feeling anxious and worried a lot
  • having a hard time dealing with your family or friends
  • worrying about your future
  • having difficulties at school because of JIA, such as teasing or having to sit out of gym class
  • being dependent on alcohol, tobacco, or other substances
  • feeling social pressure to drink alcohol
  • having a hard time making the transition from being treated at a children’s hospital to being a young adult cared for in an adult hospital.

Who can help

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and adolescent health specialists can help you with emotional issues. Your nurse or doctor will be able to help figure out who can help you with your problem. If your nurse or doctor thinks that you might need medication for a mental health problem, you may be referred to a psychiatrist.

If you are having drug or alcohol abuse issues, a psychologist or social worker with expertise in substance abuse can help you.

A psychologist, social worker or nurse can also help you with issues related to moving on to an adult JIA centre.

Social workers, psychologists, and nurses are a good resource for helping with school-related issues, such as:

  • coping with workload
  • helping teachers understand your specific school needs
  • issues with friends
  • problems with bullying.

These health-care professionals can also help you figure out how to talk to friends or other people about JIA. They can help you cope with the need to take medication and to do exercises. Social workers and counsellors can sometimes help you work out financial issues.

Types of psychological therapies


Psychotherapy is a broad term that includes group, family and individual meetings with one of the people described above. It usually involves talking about your issues and how you deal with life events. Psychotherapy may also include expressing your feelings through art, dancing or singing.

There are lots of different kinds of psychotherapy. You can ask what kind your therapist uses. Don’t be surprised if they tell you that the psychotherapy they provide is a mixture of different kinds of therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

The idea behind cognitive behavioural therapy is that how you think influences how you feel and how you deal with the world. With cognitive behavioural therapy, you examine your thoughts and get help figuring out how to change those thoughts. Cognitive behavioural therapy tends to be a short therapy, with many issues addressed in eight to 12 sessions. CBT is very helpful for people with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.


You may feel embarrassed to ask for help. Remember that doctors and nurses recommend psychological treatments all the time. They won’t think that you’re weird for bringing it up.

Give a therapist a chance to gain your trust. However, if you really don’t feel a connection after you have seen your therapist a few times, ask if there is someone else you can see.

Last updated: January 31st 2017