What makes a good therapist?

“Who should I go and see about my sore back/shoulder/knee?”

“Should I see a physiotherapist, an osteopath or a chiropractor?”

“How do I know if they are any good?”

These can be tricky questions to answer as there is a huge variety of therapist out there and it’s a lightly regulated industry. There’s also rarely a ‘right’ way to treat someone so different approaches may work equally well.

That said I think there are some consistencies in the things good therapists do.

They will…

  • …listen to you
    • A good therapist will want to hear your story. They will want to understand your thoughts / beliefs and all the factors that may be contributing to your pain.
  • …act as a coach
    • They bring their expertise in pain, movement and healthcare to combine with your expertise in yourself. They should work with you to help you help yourself. They cannot ‘fix’ you because you do not need fixing!
  • …provide solutions not problems
    • If you go to see a therapist because you have pain and walk out with more problems than you went in with then find another therapist. Telling people they have ‘weak cores’ or ‘misaligned pelvises’  may be good for business, as it keeps people coming back, but giving people these sort of labels is not something I’ve ever heard a good clinician do.
  • …be able to explain things in ways that make sense
    • They should be able to help you understand what they think the issue is and what to do about it. They should be open to your questions and check you’ve understood their explanations.
  • …be unafraid to say they when they don’t know
    • Healthcare is rarely black and white. Good therapists will acknowledge this and be honest with you about it. They should be comfortable with uncertainty.
  • …will make you self-reliant rather than try to sell you a course of treatment
    • A good therapist should aim to make themselves redundant as quickly as possible. They should not encourage you to keep coming back but provide you with the confidence and knowledge manage yourself with support only as you feel you need.
  • …build your hope and confidence
    • They should be able to provide hope and a way forward whilst remaining realistic and pragmatic. They should build your confidence in your body and self.
  • …be able to point to under-pining scientific evidence to support their diagnosis and proposed plan of action
    • Regardless of whether they are a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor the scientific literature on which we base our practice is the same for everyone. Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence (and there is very little of that out there!).

So next time you go to see someone about a painful problem ask yourself if they tick these boxes?