What Does Patient-Therapist Collaboration Really Look Like?

patient therapist collaboration

From a patient’s point of view, the right fit for physical therapy can be challenging. Since this will be an ongoing relationship, lasting at least the duration of the physical therapy program, the first thing to look for is an atmosphere of communication, trust, and collaboration.

What, though, does patient-therapist collaboration actually look like? Here are four common attributes of strong patient-therapist relationships that can help both patients and therapists evaluate clinical environments.

Honest Communication Is Encouraged (Even When It’s Uncomfortable)

Patients want to know not only that they will be heard, but that they will be treated with respect and equanimity no matter the information they are communicating. Therapists can engender more effective collaboration by encouraging patients to communicate early and often about whatever they feel is important to share.

This can be as simple as providing an opportunity at the outset of each visit to share updates, concerns, or questions a patient might have. Over time, patients will feel more comfortable communicating valuable information that can help shape the pace and direction of the therapy program.

Trust is Established Early and Honored Throughout

Open patient-therapist communication goes hand in hand with trust. Physical therapists can establish trust by listening to a patient and, where appropriate, taking action on the information provided.

When patients recognize that their therapist is making clinical decisions in the patient’s best interest—based in part on the information the patient is providing—they will be more likely to stay engaged with the program.

Goal Setting is Collaborative and Patient-Focused

When expectations around trust and communication are in place, patients will feel more comfortable communicating about their comfort levels and pain, functional ability, insecurities and worries. With that information, the therapist and patient can work together to set realistic, mutually agreed upon goals, then design and adjust therapy programs based on this mutual understanding.

It Gets Results

When trust, communication, and goal setting are collaborative in nature, both patients and therapists will be more engaged, thus increasing the likelihood of more positive outcomes. It should come as no surprise, then that where strong patient-therapist collaboration is found, so, too, are consistently good results.