herapists are people who work with individuals with physical, mental and emotional problems that are beyond the scope of medical treatment but can be minimised through special activities, exercises and adaptations which the therapist is trained to design and implement. Unlike physicians, whose actual contact with persons is usually limited, therapists spend large amounts of time working directly with their persons. Because of this, they often develop close relationships with persons and are able to explain aspects of their treatment which the doctor may be too busy to do.
Therapy is no magic wand, however. It’s a slow, interactive process between the therapist and the person, and calls for the active participation of both. The therapist’s role is to guide and supervise the process of change. This process is often both demanding and painful for the person. Change is not always easy, even when it is positive, and a good therapist provides moral support to the person (and sometimes to his family) as he adjusts to new ways of coping in the world.
Therapists, like medical doctors, maintain strict confidentiality about their persons. Because progress in therapy depends so much on the person’s trust in the therapist, she must be absolutely confident that their relationship remains private.
A therapist’s primary commitment is to his person. In the case of a child, or a person with a mental handicap, he must obviously discuss the treatment plan with the parents or caregivers. This should be done with tact and sensitivity, however, and usually not in front of the person. Many people believe that such persons do not understand what is being said. The fact is that they often do.
Although there is a great difference in the various forms of therapy, certain elements are common to all the disciplines. All therapists assess their persons’ needs, plan individual programmes, evaluate persons’ progress, and work as a team with the persons’ families and other professionals involved.
Since the concept of therapy is a relatively new phenomenon in India, awareness of professions in the field is still relatively low. However, therapy plays such a vital role in rehabilitation that the demand for therapists is growing steadily, particularly in the cities.
Therapists have enormous career flexibility. Depending on their own preferences, they can work directly with children or adults in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, NGOs, charities, residential institutions, private homes, and clinics. They have the additional option of setting up their own practices and working as consultants, teachers and trainers in other organisations. Many combine the soul-satisfying work in an NGO with a more lucrative practice with a private physician.
For a young child with cerebral palsy or an accident victim struggling to regain the use of his body, a therapist may be the most important professional in their lives. To be with them as they work to overcome their limitations, sharing both their triumphs and defeats, is to participate in their lives in the most intense and personal way. Therapy is not just about exercises and clever adaptations: it is about freeing the captured spirit that lives in the person with special needs.