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Toni Talks about PT Today

Learning from My Mistake

Published January 15, 2013 10:52 AM by Toni Patt

Because I ride horses competitively, I spend many hours taking lessons. Just like my patients, I'm trying to learn and master motor skills. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes not. This morning it hit me how similar my learning experiences are to those of my patients. I heard myself saying exactly the same thing to a frustrated patient that frustrates me when I hear it. He was doing no better at the time than I was.

Despite the fact I'm riding a large, moving animal with a mind of its own, I have the advantage over my patients. My neuro, visual and somatosensory systems are intact. Errors on my part are usually due to misunderstanding the instructions whereas even if my patients understand perfectly, they may not be able to do what I want. Either way, we both end up frustrated and no further along.

The same things that annoy me probably annoy them. I don't like being talked to as if I'm stupid. Nor do I appreciate exaggerated demonstration and pointing out obvious mistakes. I know I was wrong. The thing that annoys me most is telling me two or three different methods and acting surprised when I'm confused about what was really wanted.

Yes, I'm sad to admit I did all but one of those this morning with my patient. If I don't learn anything like that, I shouldn't expect it of my patients. Now I'm wondering how many times I wasted a session because I wasn't paying attention. Frustration means try something else, not a new explanation. After I realized what I was doing, I shut up and let him try to figure it out for himself. He did a little bit better.

I'm going to work on remembering the problem might not be lack of understanding of the task. The problem might be lack of skill to complete it.


Hi Toni! I also enjoy your posts. I love the comparison and try to remember this when I'm working with the kids with special needs in work. I used to take riding lessons when I worked in a hippo therapy program and it was so frustrating to hear the same feedback from the instructor. Of course I want to ride with nice "relaxed" upright posture, but combine fear of losing control and attempting to absorb all the comments, upper traps and pecs would run the show. My best experiences were in a more relaxed environment with only paying attention to the feedback from the horse, staying in tune with the body with minimal verbal cues. An amazing riding instructor is Wendy Murdoch ( the Murdoch Method) she's brilliant and uses Feldenkrais principles in her teaching. Have fun at CSM!

Eileen Oconnell January 26, 2013 8:43 AM

I enjoy your posts that relate to riding. So often I see similarities to sailing. We're both on something that we have limited control over (yours has a mind of its own, mine has the forces of nature). You're right about the frustration when trying to learn something new or hone one's skills. Even skills we know become frustrating when it is time to take them to the next level.

I'm reminded of learning to drive in the UK and ALL of my instincts were wrong. The instructor pointed out things I already knew and would give numerous sets of instructions leaving me confused, frustrated and (as I approached roundabouts) scared.

And yes, I've done that with my patients too. Thanks for the mirror. I needed to look into it.

Dean Metz January 15, 2013 3:25 PM

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