Theoretical Medicine

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 361–376 | Cite as

The trauma triangle

  • Jurrit Bergsma


Recent research supports the hypothesis that more active engagement of the patient in occurring illnesses improves quality of life and probably even life expectancy.

In this study experience and theoretical knowledge from psychotherapy is transplanted to clinical practice in order to improve the physician's engagement in the patient-disease relationship. By defining severe and long-term illnesses as a psychotrauma, the transfer of the psychotherapeutical model leads to the creation of a new triangular relationship: patient-illness-doctor. Practical examples are used as illustrations for the conceptual differences between psychotherapy and clinical medicine. Options for dialogue show the difference between adaptation (“learning to live with”) and adjustment (active coping strategies and controlling). The hypothesis is that a better dialogue will reduce illness-related stress, giving the patient better and more effective access to personal psychic and physical support systems.

Key words

clinical medicine illness immune system psychotherapy psychotrauma stress 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jurrit Bergsma
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Medical Humanities ProgramLoyola University ChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Medical and Psychosocial ConsultationsOdijkThe Netherlands

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