As humans we are experts in making associations. We cannot help it, it is subconscious, intuitive thinking and comes to the forefront of our brains faster than we think it does.
As has been studied (elsewhere) and discussed here by PTBT, and here by Joe Brence PT DPT, and here by Harrison Vaughan PT DPT, experiences shape our current thought patterns. A wonderfully awesome example of this association power is the concept of ‘Priming.” Priming demonstrates how an initial thought pattern, through environmental context or communications, effects the outcomes of subsequent thought patterns. Here’s the example:
Read the following word: Eat.
Now fill in the gap: SO_P
It has been shown(1) that priming you with a word like ‘eat’ will almost certainly lead you to the answer of soup and not soap. Likewise, if the primer had been ‘wash’ or ‘dirty’ it is likely that you would have answered soap.
The question does not change. It’s still Now fill in the gap: SO_P. So it is you that changed, your thoughts, your beliefs/intuitions, etc.
Now, let’s think about this in the context of physical therapy. Well, first off, do you think about this? In my opinion you should. Not just with yourself, but what are you priming your clients and patients with? And I don’t just mean words.
I mean, are your patients primed to automatically associate you with healing, with pain relief, with functional improvement? Are they primed to answer correctly when asked “why are you doing that HEP?” They should have an answer associated with this question and thought process.
Your words have meaning and so does your appearance, the clinic’s set-up… the vibe, if you will. It should prime a patient to expect to get better, to associate all the environmental cues around them with healing.
This contextual priming is key to moving all participants in this thing we call therapy along in the same direction.
So, Read the following word: Physical Therapist.
Now fill in the gap:
Reference: 1.) Kahneman, D. Thinking, Fast and Slow. FSG, New York NY. 2011 (Ch 4)