20 Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal Communication Skills

A Person-Centered Approach to The Clinical Encounter

Adopting a person-centered model of care gives therapists a better understanding of an individual’s symptoms by capturing the patient’s narrative. It can also help identify meaningful goals and direct the most appropriate intervention based on pain presentation, functional limitations, and psychosocial factors. The added value of a person-centered model is that even when underlying mechanisms are unclear, by understanding the patient’s functional limitations and how pain is affecting their activities of daily life we can still formulate a meaningful treatment plan.  

5 Practices to Help Establish a Meaningful Connection with Patients in The Clinical Encounter

  1. Prepare with intention (take a moment to prepare and focus before greeting a patient);
  2. Listen intently and completely (sit down, lean forward, avoid interruptions);
  3. Agree on what matters most (find out what the patient cares about and incorporate these priorities into the visit agenda);
  4. Connect with the patient’s story (consider life circumstances that influence the patient’s health; acknowledge positive efforts; celebrate successes);
  5. Explore emotional cues (notice, name, and validate the patient’s emotions)

(Zulman et al., 2020)

Practical Application: How I Interview New Massage Clients – From Massage Sloth

Key Takeaways

A person-centered clinical examination is one that seeks to better understand the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology and lifestyle. If adopted widely a person-centered model of care helps to reconceptualize pain leading to improved patient-clinician relationships, improved self-efficacy, and better health outcomes for patients with pain.

References and Sources

Colloca, L., & Barsky, A. J. (2020). Placebo and Nocebo Effects. The New England journal of medicine, 382(6), 554–561. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1907805

Hoffmann, T. C., Légaré, F., Simmons, M. B., McNamara, K., McCaffery, K., Trevena, L. J., Hudson, B., Glasziou, P. P., & Del Mar, C. B. (2014). Shared decision making: what do clinicians need to know and why should they bother?. The Medical journal of Australia, 201(1), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja14.00002

Hoffmann, T. C., Lewis, J., & Maher, C. G. (2020). Shared decision making should be an integral part of physiotherapy practice. Physiotherapy, 107, 43–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2019.08.012

Jensen, K., Gollub, R. L., Kong, J., Lamm, C., Kaptchuk, T. J., & Petrovic, P. (2020). Reward and empathy in the treating clinician: the neural correlates of successful doctor-patient interactions. Translational psychiatry, 10(1), 17. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-0712-2

Louw, A., Goldrick, S., Bernstetter, A., Van Gelder, L. H., Parr, A., Zimney, K., & Cox, T. (2020). Evaluation is treatment for low back pain. The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 1–10. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10669817.2020.1730056 

Muscat, D. M., Shepherd, H. L., Nutbeam, D., Trevena, L., & McCaffery, K. J. (2020). Health Literacy and Shared Decision-making: Exploring the Relationship to Enable Meaningful Patient Engagement in Healthcare. Journal of general internal medicine, 10.1007/s11606-020-05912-0. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-05912-0

Rabi, D. M., Kunneman, M., & Montori, V. M. (2020). When Guidelines Recommend Shared Decision-making. JAMA, 10.1001/jama.2020.1525. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.1525

Søndenå, P., Dalusio-King, G., & Hebron, C. (2020). Conceptualisation of the therapeutic alliance in physiotherapy: is it adequate?. Musculoskeletal science & practice, 46, 102131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msksp.2020.102131

Stewart, M., & Loftus, S. (2018). Sticks and Stones: The Impact of Language in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation. The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy, 48(7), 519–522. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2018.0610

Wittink, H., & Oosterhaven, J. (2018). Patient education and health literacy. Musculoskeletal science & practice, 38, 120–127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msksp.2018.06.004


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Evidence-Based Massage Therapy by Richard Lebert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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