As a therapist, I take a lot of ownership in my patients and their outcomes. I feel great responsibility in seeing they get the best care that I can give them. If they are not responding to my care, then I work just as hard to get them where they need to be even if it is a competitor. In time, the favor will be returned.
This attitude was very detrimental to me early on in my career. I would do everything I could to help the patient and would base my success on the patient's success. How much did they improve? Are they getting back to normal activities? Are they hitting the goals that we set? These were all measures that were meant to be for the patient but I would also take them on to grade myself, not realizing that there were two people involved in this equation and the outcomes did not always determine the quality or effort of care.
The patient has as much of a role in the healing as the therapist; sometimes it is just hard to determine the line. I have a friend that shared a profound story with me about her battle with MS. She was, from an outsider's point of view, blindsided by the disease. One day she is fine and the next she can barely function. She went through the standard testing and it was determined that had the disease, a disease where essentially the body is attacking it’s own communication system. For a long time, she was suffering. Suffering in acceptance of the disease, suffering knowing there is no cure, suffering, “why me?”, suffering in immense pain in the body. She was shutting down; her body did not want to function any more.
She decided to take some control, whatever that meant in this situation. She tried the special diets ending up feeling worse. Medications seemed to make life just barely livable. Current treatment was not helping. She started working on the pain by working on her thoughts about the pain and the disease. Why was this happening and why is it progressing? With a lot of work and help she was able to discover deep hurts and troubles that were setting heavily with her. She started working through them and she started to have significant changes in her life. Significant changes enough to show the lesions in her brain have actually decreased.
Negative thoughts about our own self can be detrimental. We are hard on ourselves and if we are honest, we would never treat others the way we treat ourselves. I have heard somewhere that, “self hatred is our greatest cancer.” This story is a great example of how the ability to clean up one's thought processes can actually help the body to start healing. According to the book, The Brain's Way of Healing, the brain and body can repair and heal until its last moment.
As practitioners, if we realize that we are not actually fixing the patient but rather helping them facilitate their own healing, we can start appreciating the process in a different perspective. No longer is it about you, you are there and you are helping but the main healer is within the patient.
– Rajesh Khemraj, PT, OCS, COMT, FAAOMPT
Clinical Faculty Instructor at The North American Institute of Orthopaedic Manual Therapy