Emotional Connection in Physical Therapy

Early on in my career, I took on the teaching, “You do not have to be a friend of your patients. You are there to fix them”. That seemed to be the biggest regret that I have but it may have been one of the greatest teachings. I worked hard at trying to hone in my skills and getting my patients figured out at lightning speed. It started to be more about me rather than truly helping out the patient. I would see if I could predict the diagnosis with minimal information and would test my hypothesis. The results would then let me know if I was right or wrong. This approach forced me to work on ideas based on minimal input and would lead me astray more than I would like to admit but it would force me to be quick with going on Plan B, C …..

This practice actually helped me hone in my skills and I do feel that I am able to get to the problem faster and better than if I would not have adopted this method. The interesting point about this route was the lack of satisfaction or gratification. At first, I would time myself and I was getting fast. That would be fun for a while but then the buzz started to wear off. My boss did not find this ability to be of much interest, actually, he found it to be a hindrance. I was getting patients better and quicker than anyone in the clinic but I was also having the most complaints. My initial thoughts were, “I am doing a great job, why don’t they see it?”

Learning moment. It took me over 10 years to figure this out but hopefully, you are able to prevent it from ever happening.

  1. The patient wants to be heard. They want to know that you understand them before they have trust in you.

  2. It takes a certain amount of time before most people are willing to let you touch them. As a therapist, putting your hands on the patient is a normal aspect of the profession but to the patient, you may be the first person to actually touch them in those areas.

  3. People respond to empathy. You do not have to do much other than show appreciation to their situation no matter how crazy it may seem. By just letting a patient talk, I have seen their pain rating decrease by allowing them to share what they feel no one else has been willing to listen to.

  4. Enjoy what you do. I think most can tell when you are just there because you have to be. Being engaged with the patient does not have to take every little bit of energy from you. There is an art to dealing with heavy issues without taking them on.

About the author,

Rajesh is a Physical Therapist, who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.

If this article is helpful to you or you would like to get more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at

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