Words Mean Things
ANAHEIM, CA -- Language, both verbal and non-verbal, are important tools in the therapist-client relationship. In a lecture called "Words Mean Things: How Communication Impacts Clinical Results" given by Kevin Lulofs-MacPherson, PT, DPT, OCS, Larry Benz, PT, DPT, OCS, MBA, and Tim Flynn, PT, PhD, we learned the value of language and how it can affect the outcomes of a therapist's client.
The speakers went through things like verbal and non-verbal layers of communication. We learned that patient satisfacion is tied to social talk, direct eye contact, body language, physical contact, close interpersonal distance, less time on a chart, and not frowning. They said that distancing behaviors in the therapist leads to poor functional outcomes for the patient.
An interesting take was that of anxiety in the patient. If a patient is given an angry expression, it results in an avoidance tendency; however, studies show that if the patient is given an overly happy expression, the outcome is often the same as when they're given an angry expression. The speakers questioned whether PTs need to start "toning down" their approach to communicating with patients.
One of the speakers went over "thinking traps," one being the use of abstract words. The more abstract a word, the heavier the load on your brain. Another "trap" was the idea that PTs are empathetic by nature. They said that PTs actually need to learn and condition their empathy -- "it's like a muscle." It was suggested that if you do not like the word "empathy" then to think of it as curiosity.
In this session, PTs were challenged to reconsider their role in the "therapeutic alliance," which is the relationship between the healthcare professional and the client. Should they continue looking at an iPad while their client looks around, not really paying attention to the session? Or should the therapist offer the patient a look at the iPad as well, so that there is a "shared object of attention"? I think after today, most PTs would consider the latter to result in the best patient outcomes.