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Section 5
Emotional Processing in HIV

Question 5 | Test | Table of Contents

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in the last section, we discussed dating and sex  related to the HIV client.  Topics included disclosure tactics, sex, and the dangers of sex. 

In this section, we will examine techniques for immune enhancement via emotional healing.  Dr. John Kaiser has had success applying this method to his HIV positive clients.  Dr. Kaiser’s studies have shown that, when combined with the other aspects of comprehensive treatment plans for HIV, emotional self healing indeed provides positive results regarding immune system enhancement. 

Dr. Kaiser encourages a combination of holistic and standard medical therapies.  Kaiser’s basis for this treatment is essentially that as long as growth on an emotional level is occurring, the client is getting stronger.  In his book, Immune Power, Kaiser writes that ‘there is no mystery as to how these techniques work to strengthen the immune system.  They provide invigorating, life affirming emotional stimulation which causes the brain to produce immune enhancing biochemicals.’ 

Therefore, Kaiser concludes that by continuing to grow on an emotional level, the client can maintain and even enhance the immune system despite being HIV positive.  Again, however, Kaiser’s approach implements the application of standard medical therapies including medication.  Hence, by combining the treatment your client’s medical doctor offers with emotional healing, you may also see positive results similar to those of Dr. Kaiser.

♦ #1  Emotional Growth
One client, Perry, successfully improved his immune system through what he felt was emotional growth.  Before attempting emotional healing, Perry believed that he was doing everything right to stay healthy, but his HIV was progressing.  Perry stated, "I have a very healthy diet, I take my vitamins and all my medications like I’m supposed to, and I’m trying to do yoga to stay stress free.  Why does my T-cell count keep dropping?" 

Since it appeared that Perry was doing everything right physically, we discussed possible emotional conflicts, since he was looking for an answer in this area.  Perry began to come to the conclusion that the reason for his continued decline in T-cells was his addiction to having anonymous sexual encounters and how he felt about them.  Perry stated, "I know it’s not a good thing, but it’s like an addiction.  I want to stop sleeping around, but I can’t."  Would you agree that Perry’s anonymous sexual encounters may have been a great source of distress?

I stated to Perry, "Identifying anonymous sexual encounters as a possible factor for emotional distress is only half the battle.  Knowing you are addicted is only the first step in healing the underlying reasons for that addiction.  Overcoming addiction can take time and effort."  Because Perry clearly wanted to begin to acknowledge and accept his feelings, I recommended he attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting.  At Perry’s first meeting, he was more of an observer than a participant.  But gradually Perry began to share his feelings with the group.  Perry also began to share his experiences, distress, and his guilt. 

After three months of this process, Perry stated, "My T-cell count has more than doubled!!  It went from 150 to over 300!  Those meetings are the only thing I’ve changed in the last three months!  Can you believe it?"  Subsequent tests showed that Perry’s T-cell count has now climbed to almost 400.  However, Perry’s situation is not unique.  A number of other HIV positive clients have experienced major improvements in T-cell counts through what they, like Perry, feel is solely through emotional growth. 

Are you treating a client like Perry?  Could he or she benefit from emotional growth?

♦ #2  Other Techniques for Emotional Healing
Have you found, like I have, that, aside from medication, some common reasons for a client’s decline are too much stress, not enough rest, substance use, poor diet, or prolonged negative emotional states?  If so, and you are treating a client who may benefit from emotional healing, consider ways in which you might help your client maintain a positive attitude.  Some tips I give HIV positive clients to promote a healing emotional environment include the following.  As you listen to these suggestions, consider your client.  Can you adapt them to benefit your HIV positive client?

--1. First, I tell clients to maintain good reasons for living.  Valerie, age 29, felt as though her life was already over when she learned that she was HIV positive.  Valerie stated, "I don’t know why I just don’t die already."  How would you have responded to Valerie?  I stated, "The more good reasons you have for being here, the greater the chance you will continue to do so."  Valerie and I discussed things she might want to live for and ways she could remind herself of her reasons for living during times of hopelessness.

--2. A second suggestion I give clients like Valerie is "Give yourself goals to achieve and remind yourself of them often."  A sixteen year old client of mine named Curt became an excellent example of how goal focused thinking can help.  When I treated Curt, he wrote down so many goals that he stated, "There’s so much to do, there isn’t any time to die!" 

--3. A third suggestion you may consider for your struggling HIV positive client is to find a purpose if there is none.  Maybe gaining insight into themselves or doing volunteer work can become a purpose.  As long as the client feels purposeful, encourage it.  Perhaps your client could find purpose in a job where he or she is rewarded with more than just a paycheck at the end of the week.

--4. Finally, clients that I treat who are HIV positive often find that improving relationships with family and friends can be a productive way of to promote a healing emotional environment.

Think of your HIV positive client.  Could he or she benefit from maintaining a positive attitude?  Could techniques for emotional healing benefit your client?  If so, feel free to play this section in your next session.

In this section, we have discussed immune enhancement via emotional healing.  The techniques provided in this section focus on healing emotions and encouraging growth as an additional way HIV positive clients can improve their immune systems.

In the next section, we will discuss understanding discrimination.  Because discrimination against clients who are HIV positive is sometimes prevalent in society, we will examine four related topics.  These will include the Louis Holiday case, five criteria for discrimination, reasonable accommodation, and assumed and direct threats. 
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Dafeeah, E. E., Eltohami, A. A., & Ghuloum, S. (2015). Emotional intelligence and attitudes toward HIV/AIDS patients among healthcare professionals in the State of Qatar. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 4(1), 19–36. 

Ironson, G., O'Cleirigh, C., Leserman, J., Stuetzle, R., Fordiani, J., Fletcher, M., & Schneiderman, N. (2013). Gender-specific effects of an augmented written emotional disclosure intervention on posttraumatic, depressive, and HIV-disease-related outcomes: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(2), 284–298. 

Lane, T. A., Moore, D. M., Batchelor, J., Brew, B. J., & Cysique, L. A. (2012). Facial emotional processing in HIV infection: Relation to neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric status. Neuropsychology, 26(6), 713–722.

Mitzel, L. D., Vanable, P. A., & Carey, M. P. (2019). HIVrelated stigmatization and medication adherence: Indirect effects of disclosure concerns and depression. Stigma and Health, 4(3), 282–292.

Overstreet, N. M., & Cheeseborough, T. (2020). Examining the effect of internalized HIV-related stigma on perceptions of research participation among HIV-positive African American women. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 6(3), 223–234.

Reif, S., Wilson, E., McAllaster, C., Pence, B., & Cooper, H. (2021). The relationship between social support and experienced and internalized HIV-related stigma among people living with HIV in the Deep South. Stigma and Health, 6(3), 363–369.

What must be combined with emotional healing to achieve productive results? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 6
Table of Contents