Relationships Are the Foundation of Successful Therapy
I became an OT in 2011 following two years of classroom instruction and 6 months of clinical fieldwork. After completing my education, I became part of the Abilities team. As a new therapist, I was excited to begin a path toward helping kids succeed. I didn’t realize then that my true purpose would be to help families adapt, grow, and thrive.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned as an OT is that in order for a child to achieve the greatest level of functional independence, his or her family members have to establish a solid relationship with their therapist. The family must trust their clinician and have faith in the therapy plan. Establishing this trust isn’t always easy, and it begins at the initial meeting of client, therapist, and family. The key to developing trust and establishing a therapeutic rapport from which to build a successful partnership is the same as any other relationship: listen. Listen to parents. Listen to clients. Try to understand their concern and their perspective. Understand that they love their child unconditionally, and this love could possibly manifest as a difficulty in accepting uncomfortable truths. Truths like “I see some behaviors that I’m very concerned about” or “your child performed well below average for this skill set” can be gut wrenching. I’ve learned that kindness, compassion, and understanding are necessary qualities to utilize from the very start in order to help clients and families accept these truths so that they may be able to move forward with a plan in order to see the greatest therapeutic gains. These values enhance the trust that is necessary for a successful therapeutic relationship.
Following the establishment of a trusting and honest relationship with both the family and the child, this relationship must be maintained via continuous communication. Our work in the therapy clinic is only a fraction of the effort that parents and children put forth every day towards achieving their highest level of independence. As a clinician, I have learned that clear and open communication about expectations, recommendations, and goals is necessary to optimize performance. Trust begets cooperation which ultimately improves compliance. Build from a foundation of love and understanding to foster limitless potential with a client.
My role as a therapist has frequently included advisor, advocate, enforcer, friend, confidante, and educator for clients, parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. These roles are everchanging secondary to the multi-faceted needs of the families to whom I provide my service. In my years of working as an OT, I have been fortunate enough to learn how to shift my roles and responsibilities when my client’s needs change. As my clients and families have adapted and grown, so have I. I’ve grown personally and professionally due to the many experiences that led me to understand the values expressed in these paragraphs. I attribute my passion for initiating and maintaining positive cooperative relationships with my Abilities’ families to the success that I have seen as a consequence of those strong bonds.
These reflections come at a time of change in my own personal life. Recently after much thought, I have decided to move to a different city to further my personal and professional goals. This change is a very positive one, and I am so looking forward to beginning my new life. However, the emotional toll that leaving all of the clients with whom I have a strong collaborative relationship is significant. I will greatly miss every child, parent, caregiver, and peer that I’ve been fortunate enough to know during my time at Abilities. Thank you to every person that has been a part of my journey. I appreciate your contribution to my continued growth.