Physical and occupational therapy is all about helping patients regain mobility, cognition, and function. They are about helping patients learn to live life to the fullest. As such, just about every therapist genuinely wants patients to make the most of each and every therapy session. There are things therapists can do to encourage that.
Obviously, every patient has a free will. Therapists cannot force their patients to do anything. But by being positive and encouraging, they can help move them in a positive direction. This suggests that physical and occupational therapy are as much about personal interaction as they are physical exercise.
Here are five things therapists can do on an interpersonal level to help patients make the best of their sessions:
1. Help Them Understand Their Diagnosis
A leading source of frustration among therapy patients is a lack of understanding about what is actually going on with them. For example, consider a patient suffering from bilateral vestibular loss. This condition often goes misdiagnosed by doctors because it is difficult to understand. Physical therapists, on the other hand, are more likely to grasp it.
A physical therapist capable of explaining bilateral vestibular loss to a patient can help the patient truly understand what is going on inside his or her head. A better understanding of the diagnosis gives the patient a better understanding of what needs to be done to get back to normal. Such understanding mitigates a lot of frustration.
2. Encourage Them to Keep a Journal
Physical and occupational therapists keep records for obvious reasons. But guess what? Patients should be doing the same thing. Encouraging patients to keep a journal puts a tool in their hands by which they can measure their own progress. A journal can be a powerful motivator when a patient flips back through the pages to see how far he or she has come.
3. Strive for Session Continuity
Continuity is an important part of recovery in both physical and occupational therapy. If a therapist works in a busy practice where multiple patients are being seen every hour, there’s no guarantee an individual patient will see the same therapist for every session. If that practice employs locum tenens therapists, any lack of continuity can be exacerbated.
Therapists can make big strides toward improving sessions by finding ways to improve continuity. If they can find a way to make sure they are seeing the same patients session-to-session, it will pay off in the long run.
4. Encourage Frankness and Honesty
Therapists rely on information relayed to them by patients to formulate strategies for recovery. If patients are not being honest and frank, therapists have a more challenging time. So one way to help patients maximize their sessions is to encourage them be open about their thoughts and feelings. When patients do that, therapists need to take any negative feedback in stride. None of it is personal.
5. You Session Time to Educate
Both physical and occupational therapy can be tremendously tedious. Some therapists have found it helpful to break the tedium by using sessions as opportunities to educate rather than merely exercise. For example, an accident victim may be in physical therapy to regain strength in the legs. While the patient is exercising, the therapist can take just a couple of minutes to explain what’s actually happing physiologically.
Patients are a lot more interested in the biology and physiology of their therapy than therapists give them credit for. Many truly want to know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the results they can hope to achieve.