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Why My “PT Skills” Don’t Matter!

Feb 8, 2019

Not too long ago, I published a blog that was a tribute to my Dad, who recently retired from his full-time work at the clinic. If you had a chance to read about the 4 biggest things I’ve learned while working with my Dad, you may have noticed that I never mentioned anything about his “therapy skills”. Instead, I talked about how he taught me the importance of treating patients like family, going the extra mile, and showing people how much you care (before showing them how much you know…).

*Skip to the bottom if you prefer the video version of this blog*

Does this mean that my Dad wasn’t a skilled therapist, or that he didn’t pass on some valuable treatment techniques? Not at all. It just means that, in my opinion, the other things he taught me have been more valuable to my growth as a PT than any of the PT skills he taught me. Does that make sense?

Now let’s get to the title of today’s post, because it may sound a been strange (and maybe even self-degrading): Why My “PT Skills” Don’t Matter! Another way to look at this topic is via this question question: does your PT have enough skills to help you achieve your goals? Here’s the quick answer: Yes, your PT has enough skills. But no, it doesn’t matter! Let me say that again so that it can sink in: your PT likely has all the skills in the world that they need to help you, and these skills don’t matter one bit! As you can imagine, I’m about to explain myself in the next few paragraphs, so just bear with me for a bit while I make a few points…

A few points about “PT skills”

  • Point #1: there are a lot of skilled PTs in Spokane and Spokane Valley. Being a PT these days is a 7-year process, and the programs are very competitive. This means that very intelligent therapists come out of school, and the majority of them are highly motivated to learn as many skills as they can. Throw in a good mentor or two, some additional coursework, and you’re left with a lot of “skilled” PTs. So, there’s no shortage of “skilled PTs”.
  • Point #2: there’s more than one way to reach a desired outcome. In a few weeks, the family and I will be traveling to Disneyland (one of my favorite places on the planet!). We’re going to take a plane to reach our desired destination. But, we could just as easily drive. Or we could take a train. Or a boat, etc. The same idea applies when it comes to achieving your goals (like eliminating pain so you can remain active and independent, or like improving your balance): there’s more than one way to reach your goals.
  • Point #3: the approach matters more than the skills. Building off that last point, there are multiple ways a PT can help you achieve your goals. And if you’ve read a few of my articles, you know that I’m adamant that “hands-on” therapy is essential for pain relief, and that exercising through pain rarely works. So while I’m not willing to budge on the necessity for hands-on therapy, I will budge on the type of hands-on therapy. If you stick with this approach of hands-on therapy for pain relief, the actual technique doesn’t matter nearly as much as the approach.
  • Point #4: no amount of skills will save you without proper communication. Last week, I mentioned a favorite quote of mine: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Our therapists have no chance of helping our clients reach their goals unless they can adhere to this idea. This means that before we can help our clients, we have to really understand them. We have to LISTEN closely to them, understand their stories, appreciate and empathize with their fears, and then communicate back to them that we understand them. And what’s more, we need to communicate that we help people with similar issues and fears on a daily basis. If we can do all that, now we have a chance to utilize our “PT skills” to help them. And if we don’t communicate effectively, the skills don’t matter one little bit.

I hope today’s ideas resonate with you and help you appreciate what makes our approach at Gordon PT unique. We absolutely have an amazing group of skilled therapists at the clinic. And our therapists continue to advance their skills every year, because they want to do everything they can to help our clients succeed. But, if you ever happen to walk in on one of our staff meetings, you won’t find us talking about our skills. Instead, you’ll hear us talking about ways to improve our listening and communication skills. And at the end of the day, it’s these skills that allow us to provide such an amazing service to our clients!

Here’s the video version of today’s blog, with a bit of expanded content (you know how I can get going!). Stay well! – Luke

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