Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My favorite therapists

I’ve been thinking about what makes for a really great therapist, because I’ve had two therapists that I thought were great: Ms. Violet Potocki and Ms. Beth Sullivan.

And as I think about it, it’s a tough job.  Most have the technical skills required for the job, i.e. what task to assign at what time in a patient’s journey given the issue they’re tackling. I found, and I think the literature agrees, that the task should be a bit challenging without being overwhelming.  I once had a therapist who gave me a homework assignment that was way above my ability – it took me five hours to complete one “find-the-words” exercise.

There’s also the coaching side of the job which is part street-smarts and part good listener and requires somebody with a pinch of empathy in their soul. They’re the type that knows that a smile and positive encouragement greases the gears. Just like in an athlete, if you think you can do it, you’re halfway there.  If you think your therapist doesn’t think you can do it, whatever “it” is, it’s a lot, lot harder.

This is another way of saying that I’ve also had the local equivalent of Nurse Ratchet proctoring me.  If you’re not familiar with Nurse Ratchet, try this link: b

I’m also partial to therapists who know how to let you make an assignment fun.  While working with Beth, she gave me an assignment of plotting a cross-country trip from our house to the west coast.  She wanted to see if I could parse it into drivable chunks and figure out a route that made sense. I took that assignment and added an overlay of stops at Drive-in, Diner and Dive restaurants from the TV show of the same name. My first stop would have been Big Mama’s in Omaha because anybody who loves sweet potatoes and ice cream is alright with me -   

Beth genuinely liked that. She didn’t fake interest or somehow feel that it was frivolous.  I now use that example in my patient presentations because it hits on so many of the high notes that a good therapist weaves into her inspiring rehab song.

Some of the videos of Representative Giffords going through rehab also show a therapist who also seems to have all the temperament and vision and technical skills you’d love to have in your therapist. Here’s one example -

I’d love to hear more from everybody on this.


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