So you’ve decided to take the plunge and seek out treatment for that injury that’s been niggling away at you for too long? Choosing a therapist can be a difficult process. You may be able to do a little bit of research before you book in, just by checking out their website or talking to them, but ultimately you may just have to act on faith. After your first session however you should be able to honestly assess how it went and decide whether to continue your treatment with them and recommend them to friends. I’ve compiled this short list to give you some pointers as to what to look for in your therapist.
1: They treat you as a person, not just another appointment
This is the most basic concern you should have. Were you treated like just one in a long line of 1-hour blocks? Did you feel like you were seen as simply a knee or a shoulder, or as an entire human being? The best therapists will be great listeners, and take an interest in you. They will ask about your life, your work, hobbies, sports and your goals for the therapy you are seeking. All this is highly relevant for providing treatment. This treatment should then be tailored to you and your circumstances. For example a professional athlete with a good knowledge of exercise and fitness would be given a much more complex and demanding rehab treatment than somebody who has only recently started going to the gym or running.
2: They provide aftercare
Aftercare is just as important as the sessions themselves. Rather than forget about you the moment you are through the door, the best therapists will provide follow-ups. Every sports therapy appointment I have will be followed up with a document to provide you with easy to follow instructions for any at-home rehab routines and give a concise summary of any findings and recommendations from the session.
3: They educate you
It is common with any knowledge-based service for the provider to overload the client with complex information that they have no way of comprehending. The thought process being that if you can make the client believe that they would be completely lost without you, then they will come back for more.
My belief is that this is not just unethical, but is also counter-productive for the client. If a client understands their issues, they will understand the rehabilitation process more – why they are doing certain exercises, how the principles involved apply through to other exercises, sport and their lifestyle. This will ultimately lead to higher compliance with their rehab routines and therefore a better success rate in recovery.
If a client ever came out of a session with me thinking “I have no idea what he just said to me, but I have a problem with the thingy-muscle in my hip and I have to go back next week” then I would feel like I have failed.
4: They are honest, with no ego
Honesty is an important trait in all walks of life. When working with people that are putting their trust in you and your knowledge, it is paramount. There are very few “miracle” cures in the world of physical therapy. Beware of the therapist that constantly posts on their social media of how their client “walked out of here good as new”. Yes, there are times when issues can be instantly resolved, but the vast majority of pain issues take time and effort on the behalf of the client. I am always open about this with my clients and will make sure that they know things aren’t going to change overnight, especially with long standing injuries. I will however be with them every step of the way along the rehab process.
It’s also important to know that no therapist knows everything. The human body is an extremely complex machine with many mysteries. Sometimes we come across issues that are not easily dealt with. In my opinion it is better to be honest with clients about this and work with them to come to a solution. The alternative is to quote some complex pseudoscience to the client, perform some unnecessary manual therapy then send them away with an inappropriate exercise routine and a recommendation to come back next week.
5: They are passionate about their subject
The best therapists are the ones that love their career. Those that do are constantly looking for ways to learn and improve. A therapist that does not participate in sports and exercise themselves will have no way of relating to the mindset of the athletes they are treating. A good therapist will have an affinity with their clients and always be concerned with their outcomes as this is the reason we signed up for this job – because we want to help you get better, to live a pain-free life and to compete in the sports you love.