By Elizabeth Cantrell, Physician Liaison - FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers

Google has over 175,000,000 separate pieces of advice for “How to Make the Best of a Bad Situation”.  Even Shakespeare, in Act III of “Romeo and Juliet” has the well-intentioned Friar Laurence pleading with a broken-hearted and newly banished Romeo to see the good, “…there art thou happy.  A pack of blessings light upon thy back.” 

When living with a bad situation, sometimes sappy sayings and Shakespeare just don’t cut it.  Physical therapists see patients living through unpleasant situations every day.  So, how important is it that therapists encourage patients?

Jennifer Johnson, PTA at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers in Camilla, Georgia, says she believes it is part of her job to point out the positive.  “Rehab is as much psychological as it is physical.  It’s important our patients be encouraged.”

“Motivating the patient is important,” agreed Bret Snow, PTA.  “Many of our patients need our encouragement to keep going even when it hurts or they don’t feel like it.” 

Encouragement.  It seems simple, but how? 


Be honest.    People know the difference between someone who is really interested in them and someone making polite conversation.  Empathizing with someone who is hurting, frustrated or feels like they will never improve from their current limitation is important.  Acknowledge the patient’s feelings and then offer practical solutions for improvement.    

Find a connection.   What do you do?  What are your hobbies?  How do you cook your okra? Have you seen the movie…?  As a general rule, people like to talk about themselves.  Finding something in common with your patient creates a personal connection that increases believability and makes you more relatable.  

Touch somebody.  An encouraging pat on the back, or touch of the hand seems simple, but can make the difference in the way a patient responds.  Sometimes, a pat on the back goes a long way in encouraging five more reps or in getting that patient to be consistent in home therapy.   

Find the positive.  There is always something to like:  a new haircut, the way the patient is performing a particular exercise, a good attitude.  A genuine complement helps create a positive atmosphere.  Everyone likes being liked!

It’s surprising how quickly a negative patient can change with a little genuine encouragement.  Once you start intentionally encouraging patients, I bet the “pack of blessings” upon your own back will become more obvious, too.