When I was a student therapist during one of my internships at a hospital outpatient therapy clinic, I came across Mary. She was an older client who was, let’s say – not a big fan of the therapists or therapy in general. She would shout at anyone who worked with her and she was very unhappy. Mary had chronic back pain and fibromyalgia. She was also overweight.
I was eventually assigned to work with Mary and I have to admit that I was nervous. Being a student, I expected her to dislike the idea of having a student performing her therapy. Needless to say, I was right. She immediately said she only wanted to have a back massage because she didn’t trust my therapy skills and did not want to do any exercises.
As I began the massage, I started asking her questions about family, etc. Just small talk but then I realized that she was crying. I asked what I did to upset her and she began to explain that her husband had passed away 2 years ago and her only son died this year. She had no other relatives.
Over a span of just one year she lost her whole family and had nobody for support. I realized in our conversation, as I continued to do soft tissue work, that nobody had asked her about her family or took the time to listen.
After that brief session, she never mentioned it again but I found that her attitude had changed. She seemed a bit happier and had the motivation that was never there before. She even started to exercise because she realized she would feel better if she lost some weight.
I realized that just taking the time to listen and ask the deep questions that we are often afraid to ask as we think it is not our business – it is these questions that are important to find the root causes of lack of motivation. If we can help clients or friends to address their emotions or just be there to listen to them, we would find that they felt better and were able to react more positively. And this also has a positive effect on pain, stress, and anxiety. If you can listen to somebody today, with understanding and compassion please do, it will surely help them.
The name of the patient has been changed for privacy reasons.