Alarna Simmons, assistant psychologist at Renovo Care, looks at the importance of reflective exercises with her patients.
A lot of times in our day to day interactions with patients they share with us their worries and concerns.
We guide them through the rehabilitation process reassuring them and offering not just physical support but also emotional support as they come to terms with life changing experience.
But how often do we stop and really ask the patient to tell us their perspective in its entirety? I mean beyond the initial gathering of social history for context or the questions from various assessments.
I wanted to provide a patient with the opportunity to do just that. Not only does the interview below serve as a really good reflective exercise contributing to the patients’ goal, but it is also a means of their voice being heard.
I hope this encourages other staff who work with patients in rehab or another setting, and also to other patients who are at different points in their recovery journey, may it inspire you to keep going!
Can you tell me about how you were in the early stages of your diagnosis?
“I was really scared that I would be paralysed forever. I would always think ‘will I ever walk again?’.
“I was happy until I got ill. I felt really depressed and suicidal. I thought I won’t have much of a life if I am paralysed forever.
“Everyday my emotions were very up and down. Sometimes I would feel okay and other times I would be really depressed. It could change really quickly.
“At first, I was positive I would get better but then after a relapse I felt hopeless and it was hard to be positive after that. I used to be very anxious all the time, constantly in pain, and I did not trust people”.
How are things for you now?
“Most of the time I wake up feeling positive and like I have a purpose but sometimes the negative thoughts come. I tell myself its not true and it’s good that I recognise it is happening now and I can stop it.
“When I achieve things especially in physio it makes the negative thoughts go away and I feel like I am stronger that I thought. I have learnt ways to be calm and now I feel like I can trust the people around me. I don’t care how long my recovery takes it will be worth it”.
What are some of the things that have helped you mentally?
- Relaxation has helped me to be much calmer, especially now my pain is under control
- Being able to talk to staff about my feelings and not feel judged has helped me a lot
- Positive affirmations that I say everyday like “I am good enough” “I am strong” “I am not useless” “I can do it” and “I believe in myself because I can get better” have helped to remind me every day. Sometimes I will repeat over and over “do it for [my son]”
- Being able to phone my mum helps me a lot. Before I used to self-harm but now, I can talk to my mum instead
- Seeing my own progress has helped me to believe in myself and makes me feel like I can get better. It also lets me know that the negative thoughts are not true.
Based on the difference what would you say to your past self if you could?
“I would say to be patient and stop getting angry at yourself for not being able to do physio because you will be able to do it later when the pain is under control. Try to be more positive and stop thinking negative things like “I’m not going to get better” because its not true”.
What inspires you?
“I feel inspired when staff tell me about previous patient who had the same condition as me and was doing really well when they left here. It lets me know that it is possible, and I hope me sharing this will help another person”.
What do you hope for in the future?
“I hope that I can walk again. My favourite place is the beach, so I want to be able to go there with my son and nephews and play in the water.
“I want to be able to use my hands as well to feed myself. I want to be happy all the time and not get stuck on negative things. I know I might still have some negative thoughts (as everyone does) but I will be able to let them go by without them affecting me.
“I want to feel like a proper mum to my son again and do more things with my family like quality time”.
What would you say to another patient?
“Keep going, and don’t give up, I never thought I would get this far”.
What would you say to other therapists or hospital staff?
“It is important to know the patients’ condition, be understanding and patient with them. I also like staff who are motivating, encourage me and believe in me”.
My hope is that if anyone else completes a reflective exercise with a patient that they will offer praise for not just the transparency but the bravery that comes with sharing their experience.
It is an absolute joy of mine to see the progress of our patients and conversations like the one above just reinforce the fact that as a team we are truly making a difference.
At Renovo Care, we place high importance on our values of person-centred working, effective teamwork, respect, dignity, integrity, open and honest communication, and providing an environment of learning and development for staff, patients and therapists alike.
Encouraging our patients from the beginning to take one step and one day at a time and being with them for each of these steps, celebrating the highs and lows of the rehabilitation journey is an honour and the reason for waking up in the morning and going to work with a joyful heart.