Using Your Personal Health Experiences to Connect With Clients

AOTA Blogs

AOTA Blogs
Blogs published by AOTA Staff

Checking the Pulse

AOTA's Checking the Pulse blog is written by digital editor Stephanie Yamkovenko who reads hundreds of health and policy articles weekly to find the most engaging and enlightening content. Go beyond the news and learn how it affects OT.

Using Your Personal Health Experiences to Connect With Clients

  • Comments 1
  • Likes

A great way to connect with clients is with empathy. Have you thought about how your personal health issues, disabilities, or experiences as a consumer of health care can help you build rapport with your clients? Here’s how some of your colleagues have done that.

Wheelchair Experience Motivates and Informs

Eric Knox, an occupational therapist with a spinal cord injury wrote about his journey through OT school and experience as a new OT in OT Practice (AOTA member login).

Eric has been on the receiving end of transfers of all kinds, so he used that experience to verbally cue his classmates as they practiced transfers in school. He could point out easier ways based on the person’s body size and positioning.

Eric himself has been a motivation for his clients. “I’ll never forget the 13-year-old boy who came in with his grandfather pushing him in his wheelchair. After questioning and discussing with me everything I do on a daily basis, he left pushing himself in his chair. I was ecstatic to see him instantly realize his own potential after our visit.” –Eric Knox

Importance of Recognizing Trauma

Occupational therapist Carrie Jost realized she had post-traumatic stress from unrecognized trauma in her early childhood while working as an OT in a charter school. 

She learned that she was being retraumatized as she watched frustrated teachers yelling at students who came from impoverished homes and were probably dealing with their own trauma.

She now shares her story to help others understand trauma-informed care in schools, which recognize that trauma impedes learning and affects behavior.

Read a news article about Carrrie’s experience here.

Chronic Condition Leads to Better Self-Management Strategies

Carol Seibert is an occupational therapist with Crohn’s Disease. She wrote about her experience in a 2009 OT Practice article (AOTA member login, pdf, page 7).

After having to learn and follow her own self-management strategies, Carol changed her approach with clients.

“If I am truly supporting self-management, what matters most is that what I do makes a difference for the client after discharge.”
“I ask myself, ‘what difference will this intervention make for this person a month or 6 months or a year from now?’”
“That means my job is to discover what ‘having a life’ means for each client and what is associated with managing his or her condition.”

Stroke Changed Perspective of Asking for Help

Karly Brown, an OT student had a stroke shortly after learning she had been accepted to OT school, shares her story here (AOTA member login). Find a few lessons she learned below.

“IT IS OKAY to have challenges; it is okay for me to admit that I am not perfect, and [gulp] I sometimes need help! I not only feel more humble now, but also more appreciative of the goals I have tackled…I can only hope that these life circumstances will further enhance my ability to relate to patients on a deeper level.”

Karly was terrified during her own rehab, so she will use that experience to spearhead a client-centered career. She will look at individuals as who they are underneath their diagnosis and look past deficits.

OT With Autism Wants to Support Others

Bill Wong was an OT student when he received an autism diagnosis. In a TEDx Talk, Bill shares strategies he’s developed to help others with autism.

It took Bill a year to find another occupational therapy practitioner with autism. Because of that, he’s decided to be very open about his diagnosis and very active on social media so that OT practitioners and students with autism can find him and he can help support them. 

How have you used your personal experience to improve your client care? Tell us about it in the comments.

To comment, please log in to OT Connections (it's free to join!).

  • Sure is a bit surprising to see my name make the list. Thanks for the mention!