The outcome of physical therapy varies from client to client. There are dozens of variables that go into a client’s experience, results, and achievements. In a perfect world, every client with the same condition would receive the same PT treatment and reach the same successful outcome. The differing variables that surround a client’s condition and treatment play a huge role in their results.
One example of this is a client’s attitude and expectations toward their care. Recent studies have shown that clients that expect a positive outcome from their physical therapy are more likely to achieve one than those that don’t.
What Does it Mean to Have “Therapeutic Alliance” in PT?
Therapeutic alliance refers to the interaction between a physical therapist and their client where there is a focus on client-centered care, shared decision-making, and a collaborative bond between a client and their PT.
With the presence of therapeutic alliance and positivity woven throughout the fabric of their care, clients can achieve better results.
How Can a Positive Mindset Help Clients Achieve Their PT Goals?
There are several scientific tracks that support the idea that a positive mindset can help improve client outcomes in physical therapy. Two of the most prevalent include:
Increased Positivity = Increased Engagement
One idea for why a positive mindset improves outcomes is that it increases how engaged an individual is in their care. When a client starts their treatment with the optimistic belief that it will work, they are usually more engaged from the start. Increased levels of client engagement have been proven to lead to positive client outcomes. This is usually because when a client plays a more active role in their care, they are more likely to follow the instructions of their provider.
In the PT setting, this translates to clients practicing their after-visit exercises, stretches, and more that have a lasting impact on their outcomes. This is compared to clients who may not be as invested in their physical therapy, do not spend as much time on it outside of visits, and do not achieve the same type of result.
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A Positive Attitude Protects Against Inflammatory Damage Caused by Stress
Research conducted by Johns Hopkins has shown us that an individual’s mindset toward their recovery can have a positive impact on their outcomes. Other studies show that some of the scientific reasoning behind this is that a positive mindset can protect against inflammatory damage inflicted by stress where a negative mindset can weaken the immune response.
Stress can have a lasting impact on our bodies. The production of the hormone cortisol can make it challenging to regulate inflammation in the body. In the PT setting, this can slow down the healing of an injury.
When clients have a positive mindset, the idea is that they can slow down the production of cortisol, improve the regulation of inflammation in their body, and speed up the healing process.
How Providers Can Start the Conversation:
While some clients enter their first appointment with a positive attitude, ready to tackle everything you throw their way, that is not the case for everyone. It is often up to the provider to initiate the therapeutic alliance and motivate their clients to carry the right mindset with them throughout their care. How can you do this?
- Start With Yourself – You yourself need to have a positive attitude if you expect your clients to. You need to believe in the treatment and care you are providing them and be a model for what it looks like to have a positive mindset in physical therapy.
- Encourage Every Step of the Way – If your client is feeling discouraged, or like they aren’t going to achieve the best outcome, provide encouragement at every opportunity. Remind them that their attitude has an impact and that they need to believe in everything they’re doing to help it work.
- Provide Resources – While your client may be active and involved during visits, that doesn’t mean they will be once they walk out the door. You need to make sure you’re giving them the educational tools and resources they need to succeed in and out of your office. Offer them educational sheets with instructions on how to work on their care at home, a Home Exercise Program that can help them succeed and learn more independently, and digital tools that give them leverage to succeed. Digital tools should include a client portal that allows individuals to view upcoming appointments and message you with questions. They should also include telehealth access to increase client engagement across the board. The more resources you can offer your client, the more likely they are to stay involved in their care and achieve their goals.
To learn more about the digital tools that can help your clients stay positive and engaged in their care, schedule a demo today.