How To Set Patient Expectations And Competently Explain Their Path To A Pain-Free Life

Throughout the mentorship I drive home just how important it is to set expectations from the start.

For the most part, whoever walks through the clinic door won’t understand our processes so they can’t be blamed for thinking it’s all hands-on treatment and massage… It’s your job as a therapist to clearly explain their journey out of pain.

Today I’ll lay out how to handle tricky patients who expect hands-on treatment every session.

Understand Patient Problems

You need to understand what the problems are. They may be coming in with back pain but ultimately they have a problem, that back pain is having a knock-on affect in their  life. What you have to be clear on immediately is, what is the pain affecting? Where do they really want to get back to? What does the future look like?

When you are clear on this from your subjective assessment it will guide you through your objective assessment and help you tailor treatment to their goals.

Draw Out A Plan

Be very clear with your patient. Ask them, this is what you can’t do this is what you can, is this correct? Once you have these goals and objectives you can draw out their plan in front of them. 

Drawing out a plan together is incredibly effective but there are still some patients that will be expecting hands-on treatment for a half hour every session. If they are pushing in this direction you should address this immediately…

Addressing The Elephant In The Room

If the patient is just expecting a half hour massage every session you need to show them that hands-on treatment will only do a certain amount for them. 

Ask them directly, are they happy to lie on the bed and get a massage? Or do they genuinely want to reach the goals that have been discussed? If they do want to achieve their goals then they need to understand that they will have to go through a lot more than just hands-on treatment and massage.

If they do just want hands-on treatment then that’s fine. When the pain comes back and you know it’s because they are only getting massage then responsibility lies with you as a therapist. It is your job to explain and stress to them what really needs to happen.

Final Thoughts

Set expectations from initial assessment, if you pass this point without setting concrete expectations then the issue will become trickier to resolve.

Go through the problem logically so they can see why massage isn’t going to be the answer. If they are still demanding massage then address the elephant in the room. If you don’t address this then it is on you.

In the clinic, our hands on treatment wont last long. The patient should be up and down, testing and retesting, using exercise to drive toward results.

It is important to address injections head on. Explain to them that hands-on treatment is only a small part of rehabilitation.

Head over to the Go-To Therapist for more help with setting patient expectations.

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