I mean, it's a pretty simple question, and usually when we ask it we get a similar answer - "to get rid of my pain." This certainly isn't the wrong answer, but it might not be the most correct one, either (you just don't know it yet).
We see a lot of people with pain, and I mean A LOT. We do see people for performance and fine tuning, but by in large people only seek us out once something hurts enough that it's a problem for them. So when we ask them what they want to accomplish, most of the time their first answer is just not to have pain anymore. That's when, as providers, we can either accept that answer, or we can choose to dig a little deeper. Whether you're a patient or a clinician I hope you'll see how valuable a little deeper can be when it comes to rehab.
What makes you tick? What do you like to do? What do you enjoy? What things in your life do you prioritize? This is really what we want to know when we ask you why you're rehabbing. What is the best possible outcome for our time spent together? What do you love to do that you can't do now, that you want to do 12 weeks from now? What is your pie in the sky?
If we're on the same page about what you want to do, some amazing things start to happen:
We have something that you love to do that we can talk about
We build your rehab program as a step-by-step process with your goal in mind
When you hate us because your exercise program is hard, you know that it's hard so that you can do the thing that YOU want to do (not what WE think will make you better in OUR minds)
You are more willing to put in the work, so things get done, so you actually improve FASTER than you would if you were working on our goals, not yours.
As clinicians, we have to dig deeper. When we do, we build a better relationship, and we build a better treatment plan WITH the client, not FOR them. People don't always come in with a goal, sometimes they have to go home and come back the next week with something they want to accomplish, but always, always, always follow up on their goal - you won't regret it.
For clinicians, new or experienced (or anyone who needs help establishing goals with clients!), here's a simple tip I picked up on how to build the treatment plan from the goal back, and it comes to down to two simple questions:
"What is the most important thing you want to accomplish through rehab?"
"What is something that has to happen one step before you accomplish that goal?"
Once you have your goal, asking the patient what comes one step before it starts setting benchmarks that they need to hit in order to accomplish that goal. If the goal is longer term, or they've set a more general goal at the beginning of treatment, I like to check in with people throughout their rehab, and that typically goes something like this:
Clinician: "Where would you say you are in your recovery, if you had score it out of 100%?"
Client: "I'm doing a lot better, maybe 85%?"
Clinician: "Fantastic! Now, if this is what 85% looks like, what does 100% look like?"
... Long pause
Clinicians, I can't stress this enough: WAIT FOR THE ANSWER! This is an incredibly abstract question and it requires some thinking, and some prompting, but it should be enough to spur a discussion about what their end goal looks like. Then, you simply go back to your two questions that you asked during your initial visit and you can goal-set the rest of your treatment plan.
Healthcare as we know it is increasingly a results-driven industry. The public is coming to expect more from their massage therapist, chiropractor, or physiotherapist. The most important thing we can do to ensure that we deliver results to our clients is to actually know what the desired result is. When we set goals we have better outcomes, hands down, and for our amazing CONNECT community: isn't it great when you get to work towards the things that actually make you happy?