I recall a patient, a middle-aged woman who developed daily nausea that went on for months. A battery of tests yielded no diagnosis. I suspected that her very stressful job might be at least partially responsible for her symptoms. Leaving the job did help — but not entirely.
Eventually, the nausea abated as mysteriously as it had started. Had I played any useful role in the patient’s recovery? I had ruled out several possible causes of her nausea, given her medication to lessen it, expressed my concern, and signed disability papers. But was there any therapeutic value simply in my spending time with the patient during her many visits?
I think so. When I was a patient, such “treatment” was therapeutic to me.
My recovery from shoulder surgery took longer than anticipated. During the second month after the operation, when I was supposed to be increasing my range of motion and strength, I was in too much pain to do more than drag myself to my physical therapist’s office for an ice-down.
Instead of rushing me, the physical therapist sat and talked with me and let me ice. Over weeks and now months, she has continued to talk with me as she has slowly coaxed my injured joint back into normal function.
She’s an excellent clinician, and an excellent companion with whom to pass the long time it has taken me to heal.
I’m not sure those are so different.
Suzanne Koven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.