What makes a great therapist?
It's a bit of a 'pandora's box' really. If you really look at what it is and what it entails, you can be arguing and advocating for days. The question begs many opinions and many interpretations! But what is it that makes you go back to a therapist? I have my own opinions and my own interpretations. I attempt to offer them here as a way to discuss what can be expected or should be expected from myself as a treatment practitioner.
I don't think I could actually see myself. As a therapist, I am asked to perform tasks and treatments on people that are not always comfortable, that are often difficult to administer because they involve inducing an amount of discomfort to a person that is not regarded as 'pleasant' or 'nice' or 'relaxing'. I don't like administering treatments that cause people to grunt and groan - but they are sometimes the way to get the release or ‘space’ that allows a muscle or joint to move again.
In this way, it's being able to work with someone as opposed to 'on them' that makes a big difference. Not everyone is the same - in fact no-one is the same. Every body is unique and every person has their own unique circumstance to come with. Sure there are correlations to similarities, but there is never a blanket approach when you are dealing with a person and their being - be it physical or otherwise.
The key to a good treatment starts with a good assessment. Being able to identify patterns of pain and trace a source of pain is the most effective way to administer a treatment that is focussed and succinct to the individual needs of the client. Identifying what is the root cause of pain is perhaps the most singularly significant tool to a therapist. Sometimes it takes some time to identify where the real cause of an issue is coming from.
It's a game of hide and seek sometimes, where certain issues reveal themselves at significant moments and sometimes larger issues hide behind smaller ones. An interested therapist is one who wants to get to the cause of the problem, to achieve real and significant change. Constantly investigating and re-assessing what is going on and never settling for a mediocre result.
Utilising whatever tools in your ‘bag of tricks’ is the best asset to a creative therapist. Sometimes going with a gut feeling is more important than following a logical progression of symptoms. A good therapist is creative. Able to adapt and work with a constant ebbing and flowing of information as it comes back from treatments, other involved persons or from the client. Being able to adapt and work with continual feedback is a quality that is most important. No single treatment should be the same. An interested therapist is one who is constantly present and working with what is 'at hand', 'in the moment' and never relying on standardised sequence or assumed knowledge to effect a satisfactory result.
A gradual moving forward is always the desired result. This does not mean that you won't feel a change in symptoms. As I say to many of my clients - a change is good. Feeling the pain shift from one area to another means there is adaption, there is a shift in what is happening and there is a 'changed perception' in the symptom. If the pain is persisting in the same area, then you are missing something. Something is not being treated as primary.
A good therapist also knows when to refer on. Being able to get more information and to ask for more information is a valuable skill to understand, and this is often a difficult moment to rely upon. It's not admitting defeat - it's about realising that you need to ascertain more precise detail in order to effect change and keep that constant 'forward movement' happening.
Questions and feedback are the most important way to ideally measure your progress. A good therapist listens, and doesn't dismiss what is being offered. As I have said before, no-one knows your body as good as you. You feel what is going on, you know what the pain is doing - it's our job to figure out what, how, when and why it is happening.