Let’s face it – we use our hands for pretty much everything, so when we injure our hands it can feel debilitating. Hand therapy, a specialty practice within the field of occupational therapy, can help restore normal function following an accident, injury, or stroke. However, it’s imperative that you find the right hand therapist for your needs.
Occupational therapy’s main focus is on the client, i.e. you. So, finding a hand therapist that will work to get you back to your activities of daily living, or ADLs, is the most important factor. So how do you do that?
STEP 1: CHECK OUT YOUR INSURANCE
The first thing you should do is make sure that you understand the financial component of getting therapy. Does your insurance plan cover occupational therapy visits and, if so, are there applicable deductibles, co-pays, or coinsurance? Most major insurance companies cover occupational therapy, but they may also require it to be considered “medical necessity” – so you may need a referral from your physician. You should also contact your insurance company to see if your plan only covers specific forms of occupational therapy or has a limitation on the number of visits that they will cover.
If you are not insured or your insurance does not cover occupational therapy, talk to OT’s about out-of-pocket rates. Hand function is vital, and most therapists will have reasonable out-of-pocket rates and possibly even payment plan options to help you in the event that you cannot go through insurance.
STEP 2: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Hand therapists are trained to take their clients’ physical and mental capabilities, as well as any barriers or environmental factors into consideration when they put together an individual treatment plan. Because every injury is different, a good therapist takes an individualistic approach to treatment – because an exercise that works for one person may not work for you and vice-versa. In addition, a hand therapist should have compassionate care in mind when treating a patient. A client may become frustrated easily or will be visibly upset over their lost or diminished function.
Therefore, reviews can be a helpful tool to help you find the right therapist for you. Look for therapists that have positive reviews from relieved or thankful clients. Another great way to choose a hand therapist is by simply asking the trusted people around you. Word-of-mouth can be a great referral source for a good therapist. Hand injuries are relatively common, so chances are that you know someone who has a good recommendation.
STEP 3: MEET THE THERAPIST
This may seem obvious but what I mean is really meet the therapist; assess their personality and observe how they interact with other clients. A good hand therapist should be an active listener and motivator. Ask yourself:
Are they observing and coming up with a treatment plan based on the needs of the client?
Laying out reasonable goals?
Demonstrating the activities included in the treatment plan?
By having an active and engaging hand therapist, clients will be able to recover quicker than one that’s passive. However, what’s most important is to understand that rehabilitation takes time and effort. So, while it’s natural to get discouraged and frustrated, try to stay optimistic and focus on the small victories. Patience and a positive attitude can make a world of difference.