Continuing Your Treatment Planning Education

[Image courtesy of Ryan Hoyme.]

How did you learn treatment planning?

Last week’s session in our SMA Teacher Webinar Series was a discussion on How to Teach Treatment Planning, with veteran educator and practitioner Julie Goodwin. As she shared the elements of treatment planning and how to fully integrate them into a curriculum designed to educate professional practitioners, I wondered just how many active practitioners were actually trained in this way.

The Elements of Treatment Planning (from Julie Goodwin’s webinar mentioned above)

  • Cautions/Contraindications
  • Therapeutic Intentions
  • Assessments
  • Modalities/Techniques
  • Client Negotiation
  • Informed Consent

While I’m sure that most of you were taught the elements of treatment planning to some extent, I wonder if these elements were presented on purpose, uniformly, and consistently throughout your program and faculty? Were they fully integrated into each and every hands-on and lecture course, including but not limited to: kinesiology, pathology, ethics, communication, business, technique courses, and student clinic? Or did you learn treatment planning in one “treatment planning” course?

Or, maybe you were just lucky to have had a fantastic teacher or two who brought it all home for you in the courses that they happen to have taught?

Or, maybe you had to put these elements together on your own, once you started your own practice?

I have taught in and administered several massage therapy programs and I’ve written curriculum on a team of 13 programs across the United States, and I can tell you that it is tremendously difficult to implement and execute a well-written, integrated curriculum. But I can also tell you that there is no greater institutional goal than to graduate practitioners who are prepared to create individual treatment plans for each client, for each and every session.

So, here’s what I mean when I say “integrated curriculum”…

If you ever wondered, in any of your classes as a student, “why do I need to know xyz?” an integrated curriculum offers the answer. And the answer can almost always fit this format: “You need to know xyz, because you will use it in your treatment planning in this way [fill in the blank with a relevant and realistic example].” Now that you are a practitioner, you make those connections on your own (hopefully), but as a student, you may have missed some opportunities to connect the dots. Many teachers actually help students connect those dots with relevant examples, when those “why do we need to know this?” questions are asked. But if the question is not asked, they just continue to deliver the course content and the integration opportunity is missed. In an integrated curriculum, the course is designed to answer those questions whether they are asked or not, because each subject is covered in the same way:

  1. Here’s the content you need to know.
  2. Here’s how you may use it in the treatment planning process.

Unfortunately, the folks who did not successfully learn to connect the content to the treatment plan, and who did not make those connections on their own after they graduated, are probably not reading our blog, and may not even be practitioners any longer.

But, if you are reading this, you are still in the game and planning specific, effective treatments for your clients. Hooray!

So, just in case your program’s curriculum didn’t exactly help you make those treatment-planning connections, here’s some advice on choosing continuing education courses:

Advanced Technique Courses

When you choose to learn a new modality or an advanced technique, you have the opportunity to integrate therapeutic intentions and client negotiation. Of course you want to learn the primary skills in order to apply the technique. But you should also learn the therapeutic effects of the technique, so you can match it to the therapeutic goals for an appropriate client. And, you should learn how to communicate that information to the client, once you have decided to add the technique to your treatment plan, particularly if it is a technique or modality unfamiliar to him or her.

Advanced Science Courses

When exploring subjects like anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, or pathology, you have the opportunity to integrate treatment-planning elements like cautions/contraindications, assessments, and modalities/techniques. For example, if you are studying the knee joints, you should also learn common injuries, common treatments and the appropriate cautions, evaluation methods and assessments, as well as how to choose specific treatment modalities or techniques to affect the therapeutic goals of an appropriate client.

Ethics and Business Courses

Yes, you can consider treatment planning when choosing an ethics or business CE course. Depending on the topic, you may be able to integrate elements like therapeutic intentions, client negotiation, and informed consent. Ethics courses often address effective communication skills, which you will naturally use during client interviews to determine the therapeutic intentions of the treatment, in negotiating the treatment plans with the client, and in attaining the client’s consent for the treatment. Business courses often address office policies and client forms, which you can create or update to support those effective communication efforts. Business courses may also address marketing to your ideal client. If you can anticipate particular therapeutic intentions for your target markets, you can use that information in your marketing.

What other ways can you improve your treatment planning? Do you recommend any specific CE courses? How did you learn treatment planning to begin with? Let us know in the comments section below.