Animals and Aquatics

Therapy for the therapist

March 13, 2023 gina taylor
Microphone (Logitech USB Headset):

Welcome to animals and aquatics I'm Gina, your host an occupational therapist, a sleep deprived, mom of three, and a lover of all things nature based. Welcome. If this is your first time listening in, I'm so happy to share the special episode with you. If you've listened to a few of our episodes so far, thanks for hanging with me as I figure out all the techie stuff and get our audio really dialed in. I'm still trying to figure out how all of the podcasting stuff works and get all of the information together. Today's going to be a little bit of a short episode, but I wanted to share something special to me with you. I've had a really busy week with spring break and taking three kiddos over the hills and through the woods to see grandma. I'm feeling a little slow and drained this week. So this is going to be a shorter discussion, but one that I think is really important. How to incorporate some personal therapy or self care into your therapy sessions. If you've ever had the feeling of being drained at the end of a long day of working with clients. You know, that feeling of needing a little bit of restoration for yourself and I've prioritized trying to put in some personal self care into each of my therapy sessions. Why I think this is so important. It's because when we work in the aquatic environment or when we partner with animals, it requires something different from us. This work can take a lot of brain power. Remember what Janet said that working with horses can bring up a lot of emotional processing. It can also take a lot of physical stamina. I walk around one mile per treatment session when I'm using hippotherapy and I burn a lot of calories when I'm treating in the pool. So I've created ways to incorporate some self-care into my treatment sessions. And I think you should too. Some of the techniques that I want to share with you include being present in the moment. Planning for comfort. And moving in ways that feel good. So the first one being present in the moment, whether that's with the horse, the goat, the sunshine that's around you or being in the water being present can really give you a moment to yourself. It can give you a moment to focus on why you're there and doing the work that you're doing. And I find that when I am treating, just taking a moment to get out of clinical processing mode. I think a lot of us spend a lot of time in that clinical processing and problem solving. And indeed we do need that. We need that a lot when we're incorporating hippotherapy or when we're incorporating other animals or nature based services, but if we can pause that, not stop, just pause just for a moment to appreciate where we're at and what we've been able to bring or draw into our career. That we are blessed to be working at the environment that we are in to take that moment and think, wow, here I am. I'm outside. It's a beautiful sunny day. Um, I see the sun shining on me. I feel the breeze on my face. I can see the moon coming up. So sometimes towards the end of our treatment sessions, we see the moon starting to come up or I can reflect to a client, something about the seasons, look at how all of the trees are starting to turn, red and orange and yellow. If I can take that moment to be present and to reflect. Just for a moment. I find that that can really help me feel better throughout the day. I can find that it helps me appreciate the treatment session that I'm providing and it gives me just a little bit of restoration in the middle of what I'm doing. Another thing that I found that has been really helpful to me when I am treating is to move in ways that feel good. And a lot of times I find that when we're treating again, as we're very focused on the client, we may not be paying attention a lot to our body. We may not be tuned in to signals from our body. So I always try to take a moment and to think about how can I move in a way that feels good to my body. So if I'm walking beside the horse while I'm incorporating hippotherapy, I think about what do I need to loosen and relax on my body so I can really move in a way that feels good. If I have a horse handler that is in front of me, do I need to change directions or have them change sides? So that way I can move in a way that feels more comfortable. Do I need to change my positioning or handhold. If I'm working with a client that is more involved and I have to provide more physical support to them, or I'm doing an arm lock and my arm is getting fatigued, do I need to stop or switch sides? So that way I can be comfortable. I do find that at the end of the day, if I haven't taken care of myself in this way, I really feel, both the physical fatigue, but I also feel a lot of strain on my body. And as somebody who wants to work in this environment for a long period of time, I know that I need to take care of myself and I need to take care of my body. So taking those moments to check in, find ways to move that feel good. If we're walking over very terrain and I'm doing more of a nature based session, you know, what are ways that I can move in that environment that are going to feel good? Do I need to put my hands down and do more of a little bit of climbing, if we're going over some varied terrain. Do I need to sit and just take a little break and watch the kids move around me. When I'm in the water, um, That's a great way to move in ways that feel good. I often find that I can vary the way that I'm moving or swimming beside a client to provide them with the support and safety that they need while moving in a way that feels good to me, that weightlessness in the pool can feel very good at the end of a long day. As long as I remember to check in with my body and move in a way that really feels good in that environment. So the second recommendation that I have in providing therapy for the therapist is moving in a way that feels good during your session. My last one for today is planning for comfort. So when we're partnering with animals or we're in the aquatic environment, we want to think about what that's going to entail. Given the weather, or the situation, so think cold, wet dry, hungry, dirty, hot, whatever that situation is going to be. And then planning what is going to make you feel as comfortable as possible. So if that means layering up, because you're going to be cold, then I pile on the layers. If it's a way to keep dry when I'm going to be outside and the weather is questionable, making sure I have the right gear; wind resistant pants and a rain coat, something like that. So I can stay dry. If it's being wet and I'm not really sure what the pool temperature's going to be, making sure that I have my wet suit and I have something to change into when I'm done that I have, um, tea, something that's going to be warm or a blanket to wrap myself in afterwards. That I am planning ahead to take care of my own needs, after I've taken care of my client needs. If I'm going to be in a situation that is going to be really hot; that I make sure I have an opportunity to get out of the heat, to sit down and some shade that I bring enough water or drinks. And usually with that, I'll bring something that's a little special. So instead of just having, my typical water bottle with water, I might add some flavoring or an electrolyte powder to that water. To help me drink, but also to give me something a little bit to look forward to, to encourage me to stay hydrated. And hungry: I'm not a very happy hungry person. So part of my planning for comfort is to make sure that I have snacks with me or that I am going to have, like a protein smoothie before I get started. And then I have something waiting for me when I'm done seeing clients. I really need to make sure that I have all of those things available to me. So that way I am taking care of myself and I can continue to do the work that I'm doing. So a typical day for me, when I'm going to the pool is in the morning, I'm having an extra heavy breakfast. Again, I burn a lot of calories when I'm in the pool, so I'm going to front load on calories that morning. And then as I'm doing my packing, I have, you know, my swimsuit and I have my wetsuit, but then I'm bringing a change of clothes, a pair of shoes that are easy to put on without socks and making sure that if the weather outside is cold, so right now, we're still getting weather in the thirties and forties. And after having been in the pool for a couple hours, if I'm cold, I don't love coming outside to cold weather as well. So I have a blanket, I have a hot cup of tea and then when I get back to the car, I have additional snacks even just for the drive home. So thinking about these three areas, so being present and in the moment, kind of taking notice of where you are and what you're doing moving in ways that feel good to your body and planning for comfort. How could you do this in your treatment sessions? How could you provide a little self-care to yourself? I think those are important questions to ask. And I think it brings a lot of benefit to my clients as well. I think that when I'm performing at my best and when I'm giving myself both those little moments and knowing that I'm supporting myself, I'm supporting the way that I'm able to treat clients and interact that I'm going to be a better therapist overall. And that the environment of working with animals and aquatics does have some special challenges, some details that when I'm in a more clinical setting, you don't have to plan for quite as carefully, because I think there are more supports already available. So to wrap up for today, if you are thinking about your treatment sessions and you're trying to plan some of the self-care into it, thinking about these three particular techniques- so being present, moving in ways that feel good and planning for comfort. How can you incorporate those into your treatment sessions? Is there something else you do during your therapy sessions that you find is self-care. I would love to hear if there are some other things that people are doing that I could add to my self-care repertoire. If you haven't already done. So. I hope you'll subscribe to the podcast. And if you like what you hear or have heard so far, please leave us a review. So the other OT providers can find us. Thanks for listening.