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  • Dr. Piotr Solowiej PT, DPT

ABCs of PT: Always Build Confidence

One of the major purposes of being a physical therapist, in my mind, is to enable people - despite any injury or other constraint, I need to find a way to get the person in front of me back to doing what they love.

Too often I hear of the opposite happening. Many times I've had patients tell me of past experiences where their healthcare provider essentially created a fear of movement, or a general lack of confidence.

They don’t exactly say it in those words, but it's essentially what is happening.

Just last week in one of my sessions with a college athlete, we talked about how she felt (after working with me) that her previous therapist had essentially been holding her back. And not intentionally.

In this particular case, I don't think there was any nocebic language being used. It was more about the level of difficulty, and lack of challenge experienced during her therapy that had a negative effect on her self efficacy.

Sometimes it's what we don't say or do that can be disabling.

After listening to her story it was clear that there was a fear of moving due to not knowing what to expect if she were to try a movement task related to her sport. With this information, I made it a point to build the confidence she had in her ability to move.


The human body is incredibly adaptable and resilient.

As healthcare providers, most of the time we see people at their worst, so I think we can sometimes forget that.

There is something to be said about managing expectations and not giving false hope. But I don't see anything wrong with being optimistic, trying, and challenging people, no matter the circumstance. This is one area of practice where I think personal trainers do a much better job than Physical Therapists, as a profession - is building confidence and self efficacy in people.

To be honest, I'm not sure if these negative attitudes and types of situations are a very prevalent phenomenon. I may biased by the demographic that gets sent to me in the clinic. A lot of my clients get to me after not having success elsewhere. So it's possible that it's just a sampling bias. It's hard to say.

But maybe by writing this, I can bring awareness to the issue and change how some practitioners interact with their clients.


Also, over the past year I have been volunteering with Synergy Adaptive Athletics. Specifically with their rock climbing group. The goal of the group is to develop better climbers. Anyone with any neurological, congenital, or orthopedic constraint can come and participate. The people at Synergy and its volunteers will work with them to make sure they are able to participate and become better climbers.

I bring this up because adaptive athletes and people with disabilities are a population that is constantly underestimated.

So when I came across the video below this morning, it really sucked to hear the opening statement be along the lines of, "My doctors told me I would never be an athlete again." Where's the optimism? Yeah major injuries will change your life, but that doesn't mean your life is over.

Again, the human body is adaptable. If it wasn't, things like the Paralympics wouldn't even be possible (I believe Greg Lehman says something similar in a video of his. I've never met him, but I love the quote). If something doesn't look conventional, that doesn't mean it's wrong. Or even dangerous.

Individuals are unique. Finding solutions to their movement challenges can sometimes require unconventional methods.

If you're scared to do something, there's got to be a valid reason for that concern. But that doesn't mean a solution can't be found. If you don't know how to start, or if others have written you off, reach out to me and we'll work together to figure it out. I think one of the first major steps is building up the confidence to try.

For any therapist's reading - keep building that confidence in your clients. That may be what they need to succeed, more than anything else.

Check out this Vice Sports video to hear the story of an individual that discovered new abilities, in powerlifting, after a major injury.

Life is going to keep coming at you with challenges. Whatever they are, keep trying. Keep moving. Be anti-fragile.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Piotr

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