The essence of therapy occurs in the interaction between the clinician and the patient. A significant component of this interaction, however, can and should take place before the clinician ever comes into contact with the patient. Preparing for each patient interaction by reflecting on what you bring to it greatly facilitates the quality and success of your therapeutic activities.
As described previously, you can view your patient and yourself as a dynamic system: Each of you is a person engaged in a task within a particular environment or situation. Part of the power inherent in a dynamic system comes from the reality that a change in one area creates a change in another area. Preparing yourself in any one area can therefore increase the likelihood of success in all other dimensions of therapy. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 provide specific “how-to” information for bringing your best to the patient, the task, and the environment . Chapter 1 offers guidelines for thinking about and communicating with patients. Chapter 2 describes how to use your own body as an effective biomechanical instrument in movement tasks. Chapter 3 introduces a variety of environments in which patient care takes place.
Preparing for Personal Interaction
Awareness of Values and Beliefs
The best place to begin is the area where you have the greatest control and influence—yourself. You bring to every patient task, consciously or not, a set of values and beliefs and a bank of prior experiences from which you draw moment by moment. These values, beliefs, and experiences shape your patient care by filtering the information you perceive and respond to and by directing your choices of action—in short, shaping the nature and quality of the therapy experience you offer to the patient.
Many of your beliefs and values are good. For example, the belief that it is good to be compassionate toward people who are vulnerable and hurting most likely played a part in your choice to become a healthcare professional. In the clinic, that internal conviction might cause you to take extra time with a frightened child who is being treated for burns. In such a case, valuing compassion over efficiency allows a positive, healing interaction to take place.
As long as you are interacting with people from a similar culture or background, you may be unaware of the beliefs and values you hold. However, when you encounter people whose values and cultural practices differ from your own, the cognitive dissonance may elicit a judgmental response on your part. The good news is that, at the moment your assumptions become visible to you, you have the opportunity to examine them. You can choose to validate those that serve the well-being of your patients and release those that do not.