Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Top 10 Tips For a Successful Client Interaction

Physical Therapists and Rehabilitation providers are often the first professional a client sees and who is expected to make them feel better. This level of expectation is seen in the client’s eyes each time they arrive in pain, bring in their child due to a developmental delay, or say “I just want to sleep better tonight!” That first patient interaction and the ongoing relationships built with clients, and their families, is the foundation to successful care planning and treatment. By using these opportunities for a successful interaction with clients each and every time they are seen, you are building the groundwork for success.

1. Greet your child/family/client by being friendly and smile: A smile is contagious! If the client knows you are excited to meet them and work with them, they will reflect the same! All clients, in any situation, will be able to appreciate a light attitude and will feel less stressed about the therapy visit. Feeling less stress will directly affect the ability to relax, learn and participate in the goal planning and success of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation treatment.

2. Make each child/family/client feel welcome and important: Each of us needs to feel important. Clients and therapists together have important roles and responsibilities in the rehabilitation process. If the therapist acts as the individual with all the answers and takes full responsibility of the success of treatment, power is taken away from the client. Without power, the client becomes a passive participant and an observant in their Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation process, which lessens their opportunity for success.

3. Make connections with child/family/client: Often times therapists may see clients for extended periods of time such as with long term disabling conditions or when treating children with developmental delays. This provides us with unique opportunities to participate in the events in our clients’ lives. By sharing these events, therapists are able to offer suggestions for their continued success and integration back into their community and into their lives as they rehabilitate.

4. Always provide opportunity for the child/family/client to talk and ask questions: Getting the client and/or family to openly discuss their goals and care plan provides the therapist an opportunity to assure the goals are reasonable and important to the client. This continues to reinforce the idea of the client being an active participant in their therapy and increasing their responsibility for success. By asking questions, clients are able to demonstrate they understand material that has been taught to them and further reinforce their opportunity for successful Physical Therapy intervention.

5. Listen to your child/family/client: Client’s will discuss what is important to them. It is vital they are listened to and to the clues they tell us. The Physical Therapist’s goals may indicate it is important for a 16-year-old soccer player to be able to run and play soccer again, but it may be more important to the soccer player to be able to walk in high heel shoes for her prom next month. By careful listening, chances for successful care plan implementation is achieved.

6. Discuss treatment schedule with family/client and communicate any changes: One of the simplest rules to implement! If the client can’t make it to therapy, they can’t get better! By working around the client’s availability, their percentage of attendance increases. Better attendance equals great chances for success.

7. Let child/family/client know you are looking forward to the next visit: Therapists must show our investment in and enthusiasm for a clients’ recovery. Expectations are established with our clients during each visit. They expect the Physical Therapist is knowledgeable in the therapy provided and the recommendations made. Physical Therapists expect clients to be honest, learn how to participate in their recovery, and to continue what has been taught to them at home now and in the future. By letting the client know we expect them to attend their next visit and look foreword to the client’s participation, there is an established opportunity to confirm the next appointment time as well as what the expectations are for the visit.

8. If family/client calls to cancel, communicate concern: Responsibility and accountability. If the therapist is unable to impress upon the client the extreme importance of active, regular participation in the therapy process, the expectations of the therapist and the expectations of the client are set too low. By communicating concern, the client is brought back to an increased level of responsibility and accountability for their active participation in the rehabilitation process.

9. Communicate events and new programs offered to child/family/client: As Physical Therapists, ultimate goals are to restore function, decrease pain and help the client re-integrate into their life. As educators, it is the therapist’s responsibility to communicate events and new programs available to clients, which could compliment their recovery process. By adding community supports and programs, the client and their family learn they can rely on their community and themselves to support their continued community integration.

10. Periodically ask “Is there anything else we can do for you? How can we help you?” Open-ended questions provide the Physical Therapist an opportunity to listen to clients. Many times time is spent talking and teaching, forgetting to leave time to listen. These questions again establish an opportunity to re-adjust expectations as well as re-establish an agreed upon level of accountability and participation in the therapeutic and rehabilitation process.

Establishing an ongoing successful client interaction takes effort and forethought. By engaging the client into an active role, the power and responsibility of rehabilitation is shared. By following these 10 suggestions to establish a successful client interaction, the Physical Therapist is able to engage the client in the rehabilitation process for life-long learning and success and help the client re-integrate into their community by achieving the goals important to them and their families.

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