The long-term outcome of any intervention for people suffering from chronic pain relies on the patient's ability for self-care. This study explores patient experiences of self-care in relation to a rehabilitation programme at an anthroposophic clinic. In a qualitative interview study with a hermeneutic approach, individual interviews were conducted, recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed. Interviews were conducted with ten women who were taking part in a year-long rehabilitation programme for chronic pain and overlapping illness. The women told stories of suffering with a focus on lives that were not functioning well. In this context, pain is like secondary. For many, the experience of loving care at the clinic became a turning point, a chance to be vulnerable, to be recognised, to reflect and to begin life anew. Signs of self-care could then be witnessed. The women described a process whereby they regained contact with their bodies and their fellow human beings; they were able to identify their needs and when to stand up for them. Everyday life at the clinic is guided by universal aspects of love, life and meanings. The care gives patients glimpses of a move towards community in contrast to past isolation, towards love in contrast to past alienation, and towards joy and inspiration in contrast to past suffering. Through receiving caritative and compassionate care, these women were able to identify their needs as a first step towards self-care. In the context of chronic pain, self-care needs to be more than advice, education and training. Health can be attained when the sufferer experiences what it is to be cared for. This study supports the potential of a caritative caring culture to help patients participate in a compassionate community both with others and with the self. This forms the basis for the reawakening of their natural self-care ability.
Keywords: anthroposophic care; caring science; chronic pain; compassion; complementary alternative medicine; health; integrative; patients; rehabilitation; self-care; suffering.
© 2015 The Authors. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic College of Caring Science.