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Are you listening to your clients...with your hands?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

There’s a lot of talk about the biopsychosocial model in therapy these days, with studies linking the outside lives of the patients as contributing factors in their pain. What is truly interesting is that this model has influenced change in how physiotherapists and doctors interact with their patients-better listening and patient centric care which in turn has increased the therapist/patient interaction time. Many of these scientists would have you believe that this new-found method for uncovering the psychosocial contributing factors of pain is what is leading to the patients ultimate improvement in well-being but some of the science behind the placebo effect explains it far more succinctly. According to the placebo model, it is not the identification of factors that matters but rather the process of the therapist actually taking time and listening to what is happening in the patient’s life. Surely at this point with a therapist who truly listens, the patient will be much more apt to follow the therapist’s guidelines for reducing the apparent contributing psychosocial factors. Clients feel taken care of and get better because of the time spent and listening ear and not necessarily the psychosocial changes that they have made. “Even a doctor’s best bedside manner is not enough to cure someone of disease, but the new science of placebo begs the powers that be to pay attention to the small nuances of care-giving that matter.” During every single RAPID class, we encourage our students to listen, ask the right questions and then treat AT the exact sight of pain their clients are complaining of. One of the most common feedbacks our students share from their patients is that “no one has ever gotten into my pain the way you do”. Another-“no one even touched me there”. “…the simple feeling of being taken seriously seems to go a long way” Brain mapping studies show us that every time the pain centers are activated in the brain the emotional center becomes activated too. This causes an emotion to be attached to every single uncomfortable experience. Precisely why when you stub your toe your mad as hell or why when you wake up with a tummy ache you're sad. Listening and literally pushing into the pain during treatment also activates this emotional center of the brain which in turn resets the negative emotion associated with the pain. It associates now positive emotions- happiness, hope, and relief with this therapeutic pain experience. As the late, great Louis Gilford once said, “reassurance is a bloody good painkiller”, indeed your client’s belief that you are listening with your ears as well as your touch is equally as effective.

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