Scapegoat to Partnership

I work with children and fairness is a big thing that comes
up in play. When there is a sense of unfairness, soon after follows blame. What
I have noticed is that the children need support with responsibility, empathy,
and communication. When these skills are not developed, the children stay in
this vicious cycle of, “I want to play with you, but if the relationship is
unbalanced, leading to my needs not being met, then I want to blame you.”

I find this same cycle occurs in adult relationships
including patient-healthcare practitioner partnerships. We are living in a time
where patients or clients have more access to information and therefore want
more choices and more explanation. Western medicine has operated for many years
under the “we know best” model, where patients mainly give their power away and
it is expected they follow the doctors’ recommendations. There is also this
theme of Western and Eastern medical professionals working in divide, which
further complicates the healthcare practitioner-patient relationship since many
patients are now wanting to explore what both fields have to offer. This
imbalance in the relationship leads to further dis-ease, making patients sicker
and healthcare practitioners working in defense versus in openness and

What’s troubling about these scenarios is that they are vicious
cycles that show a lack of responsibility, empathy, and communication. We would
all benefit from stopping this cycle and creating a more productive and
integrative approach.

Lets start with responsibility. As a therapist, I’m upfront
with my clients about my responsibilities and their responsibilities. Some are
written in policies and some are discussed in person. My job, as the therapist,
is first and foremost to think, “How many I serve you? What knowledge has been
gifted to me that I can share with you to better your life? What are the
possibilities available to help you?”

What I feel is not productive is, “You are 100% responsible
for yourself and if something is hard and goes wrong, that’s not my problem.”
Would you want to play or be friends with someone that is going to bail on you
during times of difficulty? Would you want to keep playing with someone that
manipulates the rules so they can ensure a win every time for themselves? To
me, that sounds like a misuse of power and attempting to get out of

Of course, the client has to make all final decisions. Of
course, the client needs to get to know themselves and develop a better sense
of their needs. Of course, they need to make some attempt at recommendations. It
is a two-way street. However, maybe they don’t have interest in studying health
like you. Maybe they don’t know how to clinically think about their situation.
That is why they came to you! We are all gifted in different skills and thank
goodness or it would be pretty hard to survive here on Earth. So, it is
important that the patient is not left feeling blamed or shamed for a
compromised immune system, a genetic make-up, a neurological difference or simply
not being able to figure out how to solve a problem. Healthcare practitioners

Empathy is another piece and it important in a partnership.
Being the helper or the patient, both have there challenges. As the
practitioner, maybe they don’t have the answer yet, but they are willing to
keep trying different methods and researching alternative options. Maybe they
have something going on in their own personal lives. Perhaps they are working
in a system where they don’t feel allowed to expand their thinking outside a
set of choices. As a patient, maybe they don’t have a support system
encouraging them to change. Maybe they don’t have the means to follow through
with recommendations. Maybe their illness is robbing them of energy resources
to go the extra mile. None of us want to be dealing with tribulations, but they
are indeed part of life. So, whether big or small, we need to have patience and
understanding with one another.

Lastly, partnership requires good communication. It’s
amazing how learning new phrases and building up your word bank can improve
your relationships. For instance, you may hear from the doctor, “Wow, this is
the worst test I have ever seen!” They may say, “You’ll have this the rest of
your life and there is nothing you can do about that.” How is that helpful? How
about, “These test results have me curious about looking into this avenue. I’m
thinking we should try x,y, and z.” The doctor can say, “I don’t  know the outcome for you. With this condition
we haven’t found permanent, reversible solutions yet. However, we are learning
more every day and we are going explore all that is imaginable to get you well.
We are going to face this together.”

A partnership is an investment. It is an exchange of effort
and belief in one another. It’s searching beyond what you know and looking for
solutions in the places that you don’t even know exist. It’s reconfiguring the
situations into something fruitful. It is about the patient returning back to
their wholeness, leaving the practitioner in a better place before your journey
together, preparing them to take the journey with the next patient. We get well
when we get brave, when we have faith, and when we move beyond the discord and
into possibility.

So, let’s get away from fear and move towards doing what is right. Let’s act with discernment and love. Be that person that is going to walk alongside others in good faith. Be that patient, that believes in themselves and knows that healing is there for the receiving. Be that walking miracle in all you do and then spread it to those around you.

Michaela E. Gordon, OTR/L

For more information about Michaela please visit her website:


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