How to choose the right self care exercises for your client

Self careSo you’ve worked with your client and have addressed the primary areas of concern. Before the end of the session you want to make sure that you give her something to do to continue the work that you did together. But how do you know which exercise(s) to include?

The longer I practise the more I’ve realised the importance of self care exercises for clients to utilise after and between sessions. One of the challenges for a practitioner can be determining which self care exercise to recommend, especially if a client has several different issues that he or she is confronting. Here are 5 questions that I use to help me evaluate the appropriate excersises:

1. What are the goals that I and the client want to accomplish? These exercises can be utilised for a variety of purposes. They can be used to reconnect the client’s awareness to his or her body, they can be used to release imbalances, they can re-educate posturally, or they can strengthen and tonify an area. Being clear about the goal will help you pinpoint the most effective exercise for the client.

2. What is the client’s capacity to understand or sense what is going on in his/her body? If they have a clear somatic sense of themselves I maybe able to suggest some exercises that are focused on strengthening or retraining the affected area. For those clients for whom tracking sensations in their bodies is new or difficult then I may suggest exercises for the purpose of starting to establish that sensing skill. Regardless, it’s very important that the client is able to understand how to do the exercise or what the exercises is trying to achieve. If they don’t then they are much more likely not to do it.

3. Which exercise and how much follow through are they likely to do? People are busy. They also want to know everything that they can do to get better. Each exercise has a particular function or combination of functions: releasing imbalances, strengthening an area or specific structural response and/or re-education or retraining. By identifying the function of the exercise and being realistic about how much a client will do it’s then possible to suggest or craft an exercise specifically tailored to the client’s needs. Plus I’m always aware that sometimes there are restrictions due to injury or lack of mobility that will require me to modify an exercise. The goal is for the client to be successful in achieving the desired outcome.

4. How much information will the client be able to retain? We all know what it’s like just getting off of the table after a session. We’ve just had a lot of work and we may be a bit disoriented. Sometimes our clients might not be in a position to learn or retain much new information. It’s a good idea to provide them with additional support by writing things down, using their smartphone to video the exercise for them, or have handouts that you prepared ahead of time. Help make it as easy as possible for them to remember what to do and what the exercise is good for. And only 1 or 2 exercises at the most – less is more!

5. What is the follow up plan? It’s good to think not only about the plan between now and the next session but also the plan over the course of several sessions. Is the focus a progression from releasing exercises to postural re-education exercises? Or is the focus self care maintenance? What would we like to see changed or strengthened by the next session? When we and our clients set specific goals clients are more likely to do the exercises and it will be clearer for us as practitioners to make modifications or changes to the exercises that they’re doing. After all, our clients’ goal is increased comfort and functionality.

Having these questions in mind make sure that I don’t overload my client with too much information and at the same time make sure that she/he knows what to do, what to look out for, and ultimately to be successful!