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Key Questions to ask you Occupational Therapist…

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So maybe you have had an injury to your body such as a broken bone or surgery, an injury to your brain such as a stroke, or have a condition that is effecting your ability to function independently like you were before such as Parkinson’s.  If any one of these conditions effect how you live your life and how you want to function with less difficulty, you may be looking for an Occupational Therapist.  What are some key questions to ask your occupational therapist?   I am an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist.  With some 15 years of experience now, I’ve had the opportunity to see a great deal of patients in various settings and with various conditions.  I have been asked a lot of questions along the way, and there are also a lot of questions that I want my patients to make sure they ask when seeking out certain type of help.

Here are my top 4 questions:

  • It seems so simple but what is your therapist’s name and credentials? Is that therapist an occupational therapist, physical therapist,  speech therapist, or therapy assistants? Are they licensed in the state that you live in? I hope so.  They should be.  These questions ensure that they are following their states regulation regarding their professional development.  For you records, you need to know what services you are getting.   For example, I am an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist.  I welcome my patients to ask me questions about what it is about what I do, my specialty that can help them specifically.
  • Have you worked with my type of injury before? Some experience or a lot?  Experience can play a large role in who you pick as your occupational therapist, but having this type of dialog can give you some insight in their knowledge of how to work with your condition, but also to allow you to see if they are the right “fit” for you and that you are comfortable with your therapist.  Your therapist doesn’t have to have double digit years of experience, we all had to start getting our experience somehow.  But by asking, your get a sense of how professional they are, their tone of how they can help you, and it will lead to the next question.
  • What are some examples or results have you been able to achieve working with my type of condition? If they have experience working with your type of condition, they can give you some insight on what treatments options they can provide for you.  I call it my therapy tool box.  Every therapist has one.  The examples and results can open and lead into even more questions that you didn’t even know you had!  It can help you make the right decision in finding that therapist that you want to work with.  Example….I was on a call today for over 30 minutes with a referral of a friend of a friend.  She had been through several different places and different therapist and so my job was cut out for me.  I wanted her to feel comfortable asking me questions and letting her know the depth of my knowledge.  As it so happened, she has a frozen shoulder and I could give her an example of how I treated my own mother for the same problem just last year. I was also able to give her the results of how she did, the pitfalls that can generally happen.  There’s no magic pill for therapy…it can be hard work but it all plays off when you AND your therapist set the appropriate goals that are attainable.
  • How can occupational therapy help me improve my function or help me with my condition? Asking this can engage your therapist to explain what occupational therapy is and how they would use their skills to help you not only set your goals, but achieve them as well.  It can give you an idea of their knowledge of your condition.  Together, you can decide what is the most important and make sure that occupational therapy is right for you.  This question should lead your therapist to inquire about YOUR goals, what YOU are able to do.
  • How often and how long does therapy take? If you are asking how many times a week you need to come and for how long, there is no cut and dry answer for this. It is NOT just what is written in the prescription by the doctor.  Sometimes the recommended amount of therapy is just not possible nowadays with insurance and financial limitations, and time constraints.  This question can lead you both to discuss general protocols of how long therapy may be needed.  When it comes to an orthopedic problem, I can discuss protocols like at 4 weeks we will be allowed to do this, and at 8 weeks we can advance to do this.  Based on the evaluation and depending on the injury, I can lay out a general time line for best and worst.  With stroke cases, it’s not simple at all.  It all depends on how you present because everyone’s case is so different.  However, everyone’s goal is to get back everything that is lost.  It’s just not always possible.  Discussing this with your occupational therapist can help you to set realistic goals that your therapist can help you achieve.  That achievement is increased function to improve you quality of living.

Besides you asking questions, here are some key questions your occupational therapist should be asking YOU!  Now granted this part is the part of the evaluation process so in essences, you picked them at least for the evaluation.  Hopefully during the evaluation process and even during the treatment process, you both keep an open dialog about what your goals are, what you are doing to reach them, and how is your progress every week or so.  A great home exercise program that your occupational therapist develop specific to your needs is extremely important as well for you to continue your progress.  I hope this is helpful to you when looking for the right occupational therapist! Keep having fun in occupational therapy!

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Hoang Tran OT/L, CHT

Hands on Therapy Services is a leading Miami certified hand therapist, specializing in rehabilitation of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand injuries resulting from injuries, surgery, or naturally occurring conditions. Our Miami hand therapy services are provided by our certified hand therapist in Miami. We also offer occupational therapy in Miami with our on site occupational therapist. Plus – coming soon – we will be offering physical therapy in Miami.
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