Stanford’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) is an effective, evidence-based community workshop to improve chronic condition self-management skills. It is offered once a week for six weeks. Each session is 2.5 hours long and may be held in your local hospital or library, or in settings such as a church or community center.

CDSMP is also offered in many different countries around the world, and has been translated into 20+ languages.

Any person with any type of chronic health issue and their supporters and/or caregivers are welcome to come to this workshop and the workshops are usually FREE, though there will be a book to purchase. So far the programs I have contacted in the NW are all free and I imagine they are also free in other parts of the U.S.

Learn to manage symptoms more effectively

For the person with pain some of my favorite topics covered are: problem-solving, making treatment decisions, communication, and working with your healthcare professional. Other topics include nutrition and exercise, depression, difficult emotions, and fatigue.

Every part of the workshop is a valuable experience. The philosophy behind it is that the participants guide each other while improving skills that will help them become more effective self-managers. I felt that I was managing quite well by the time I found this program, yet I still felt that I gained tremendously from the experience. In each session I received advice and support from 8-10 other people who really did understand my experience and share some of my emotions. Their ideas were meaningful and valuable to me.

That is why workshop leaders, or facilitators, are generally also people with chronic conditions or their caregivers. They have years of real-life expertise in managing a chronic condition, and they have been instructed to guide, not to teach.

Lecturing is not encouraged because the answers to self-management are individual, and they must suit the needs of each person according to their own experiences of life with a chronic health issue. We are each ultimately responsible for developing our own coping tools and strategies. That said, an individual perspective is limited, and managing a health concern is a major life challenge. Therefore the shared perspectives within the workshop become a valuable resource for each participant.

Living with Pain? Find mutual support and compassion

I also suggest this program because it is an opportunity for you, if you are either have a condition or are a caregiver, to share your knowledge with others. Your perspective could have a great impact on the lives of your fellow participants. Its a great feeling to know that you can turn painful experiences into a positive force to help others.

I have been involved with this program as a workshop participant, as a leader-in-training, and as a co-leader/facilitator. I have also had the opportunity to learn from “master leaders,” workshop facilitators who have received specialized training at Stanford University. Based on these experiences I can tell you that Stanford goes to great lengths to ensure that the curriculum is conveyed with consistency and accuracy in its locations. They also put an extraordinary amount of thought and detail into the content, structure, and overall presentation of the workshop, and they update it regularly.

CDSMP appears under many different names and you may encounter a wide variety of titles while you are looking for a program. For example, you might find “Living Well with Chronic Conditions” or “Positive Self Worth Program.” I like the first of those two titles significantly more than the the second, but they should both be CDSMP, and they should have exactly the same curriculum. Click here to go to Stanford’s Index of Licensed Organizations offering their patient education programs. They are listed by state for the U.S., and by country also.

The leadership materials have been translated into the following languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Khmer, Norwegian, Punjabi, Somali, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, Vietnamese, and (Russian coming soon).

If you do not have a CDSMP in your area, you might want to talk to your local healthcare center about getting a license to offer it. It would be so wonderful if you could bring this program to a community where it is not yet available.

The video is a little older than I would have liked, but it is good overview. I also like it because many videos describe this program as being targeted to older adults, and I do not think this is necessarily the case. I have met participants in this program who range in age from their 20s to their late 90s, and I believe the mix of ages and conditions is beneficial.

Lastly, if you feel this program isn’t right for you at this time, please reconsider it in the future. One of the steps of problem solving involves acknowledging that a goal may be out of reach now, but may be well within our grasp the next time we pursue that goal. When you are ready for it, this workshop will help lead you to the next step on your journey.