Grab a pen and sit with me for a few minutes. We’re going to do something together that’s going to affect how you do your therapy every day.
Most companies determine what their values are and splatter them on their websites, employee manuals, and marketing materials. These companies include the places we work, such as schools, private practices, and hospitals.
Values are shared beliefs about what’s most important when conducting business. Companies create these values to set the direction and guide the culture of their businesses.
Each person also has a set of their own core values - beliefs about what is most important to them in their lives, whether it’s service, adventure, love, or honesty. However, most of us have probably never put our core values in writing.
But what about our therapy values? We spend most hours in our day working. In fact, these days we spend more time with our co-workers than our family or friends. Shouldn’t we know who we are as a therapist and what is most important to us in our work?
When I sat down to write out my core values as a therapist, my therapy changed. All of a sudden I could put these few beliefs at the forefront of my mind, and it affected how I conducted my sessions.
Here are a few considerations when determining your core values as a therapist:
Try to come up with 3-5 maximum. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or muddy your thoughts.
Try to come up with values that are unique and specific to you and your way of doing therapy.
To give you some ideas, I want to share mine.
1. Seemingly unprofessional flexibility
If you know me, you know how much I value teaching kids on the spectrum to be flexible. In order to do that, I have to be flexible. Often times this means not planning therapy sessions, but instead knowing the child’s goals so well that we can work on them no matter what activity the child chooses. If you look at a therapist from the outside who isn’t lesson planning, this might come off as unprofessional, but this is a huge part of my therapy.
2. Shameless embarrassment
I will do anything to get a child to engage with me. For autistic children who have difficulty with sensory processing and joint attention, I’m often making a complete fool out of myself just to get them to interact with me. But that’s ok - because I don’t have any shame in my game and I will do whatever it takes to connect with a child.
3. Out-of-the-box thinking
When I’m treating kids with autism, I never know what’s going to work to engage them. And most of the time, it’s not a matter of playing with toys the way they are meant to be played with - it’s about finding unique, out-of-the-box ways to use therapy materials and sensory equipment to engage the child.
4. Exhaustively hands-on play
I put so much energy into my sessions, that I don’t have to go to the gym after work! In my sessions, I am seeing a lot of kids with sensory needs, and for them, the best way to engage them is to move, move, move!
5. Melt-your-heart connection
You know how there are certain clients you have, and when you look at them you just want to squeeze their faces because you love them so much? Well guess what, parents can feel it when you have that strong of a connection with a child, and the child can feel it too. I strive to get that melt-your-heart connection with every one of my clients.
Take a few minutes to think... What are your core values as a therapist?
And once you’ve done that, compare them to the values of the company/school/practice for whom you work. Are their values in alignment with yours?
“The greater the divide between an individual’s values and those of the organization, the harder it will become for the person to make good choices.” This means, that if you value play-based therapy, but your clinic values structure, it’s going to be hard for you to make decisions to support the values of the clinic because your values are not in alignment with theirs.
Ultimately, we are our choices. Think about the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can know our values, and believe that those are our values, but if our actions don’t reflect those values, then we’re not living our lives in a way that is authentic to who we are.
So after you determine what your core values are as a therapist, make sure that you can conduct your therapy in a way that aligns with your values and who you are as a therapist.
Great Mondays by Josh Levine
Jessie Ginsburg, M.S., CCC-SLP is the founder and CEO of Pediatric Therapy Playhouse in Los Angeles, and the creator of ASD from the Inside Out, an online course for SLPs working with young autistic children.