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Massage Today
November, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 11

The First Session Following an Injury

By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Question: When a client comes to you with an injury, how do you fit in time for both an injury assessment and a treatment during the first session?

Answer: I don't. In the first session, I prefer to do an assessment only. I sometimes make an exception if a person is traveling a great distance and asks to schedule an assessment and a treatment on the same day. I'll book a second session for them with the understanding that I won't know whether a treatment is appropriate until after the assessment. I may discover that the type of treatment I offer is not the right approach for them and recommend a different approach instead.

In my mind, the initial assessment is the most important session a client will ever have with me. If I don't understand exactly what's causing the person's pain, my treatment will be largely guesswork. I spend as much time as I need in the assessment session to understand what specific tissues have been injured. Doing a thorough assessment may take as little as a half hour or as long as an hour and a half. Some cases are very straightforward, while others can be complicated or involve multiple injuries.

Many therapists have no patience for this at first - they want to get to work as soon as they can. They often believe that their clients won't feel that they're getting their money's worth unless the treatment starts right away. I don't find this to be true. In my experience, clients appreciate the thoroughness and relaxed pace of the assessment session. In addition to assessing their pain problem, you are also building a therapeutic relationship. It's the quality and strength of this relationship that will keep the client coming long enough to get better.

Another reason for separating the assessment and the treatment is that it gives the client time to carefully consider whether they want to undergo treatment. Some clients expect to feel better after a session or two, but patience is required with chronic injuries. As much as we'd like to provide a quick fix, that usually isn't possible. It's important to make sure your clients have realistic expectations before they commit to your treatment. I tell all my clients it will likely take a few weeks to determine whether my treatment is working for their body and their injury. I encourage them to take some time to think about it before making a commitment to work together. This way, each person can make a free and fully informed decision.


Click here for more information about Ben Benjamin, PhD.

 

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