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One of the most basic truths of successful rehabilitation is that it involves a partnership between the patient and therapists/doctors. It is important to understand what this partnership entails, namely that without both parties’ investments in the process the patient will only see limited improvements. This also means that each side has a responsibility to the other side to ensure success. The job of rehabilitation is a shared job between the patient and rehabilitation professionals.
There are a number of implications to this basic truth of the rehabilitation partnership. A therapist/doctor cannot make a patient improve. A therapist/doctor can only work with a patient to help the patient improve. Keeping this in mind should dissuade rehabilitation professionals from imagining themselves to be like Superman, swooping in to save the patient from the patient’s brain injury. Brain injury rehabilitation simply does not function like a comic book story. This realization should also empower the patient with the knowledge that his or her thoughts, feedback and effort are a vital part of rehabilitation (without which success cannot be fully achieved). Professionals need the patient’s thoughts and feedback to best plan and implement therapy. Every patient is different, so a method that helps one patient may hinder or even harm another. There is no way for a professional to know this without feedback. This should also dissuade patients from being too passive when engaging the therapy process. Rehabilitation professionals cannot help a patient improve if the patient will not try to help him or herself. They cannot do the work for the patient.
When this partnership between patient, therapists and doctors truly comes together, everyone becomes a vital member of the rehabilitation team. However, it is important to remember who needs be recognized as “team captain.” The patient is the “team captain” in the sense that the process is ultimately focused on the patient. The patient needs to share with the team any and all goals, expectations and dreams. When the entire team has this information (which has to be updated on a regular basis), the team can best determine the direction therapy needs to take. For instance, if a patient was formerly a chef and dreams of returning to that former occupation, a great deal of therapy will be focused on activities in the kitchen. If the patient never went in the kitchen outside of opening the refrigerator door, then therapy will clearly be focused on other activities.
A successful partnership will generally allow the patient and rehabilitation professionals to have a mutual understanding and appreciation of one another. It will also foster openness, honesty and trust between the patient and the rehabilitation professionals.
Remember, teamwork makes the dream work!
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