“The fact is that people are good. Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behavior.” ~ Abraham Maslow
This afternoon, one of my clients said he wanted to cook during his session. As we stood in his kitchen, he shared his goals for the remainder of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. We talked about his mental health and how occupational therapy (OT) can potentially help him with his goals. While he discussed his future he said, “You’re an asset to me.” His expression of gratitude caught me off guard and I thanked him for his comment. I also reflected on it as I drove home from San Francisco. Perhaps most of the time people have expressed gratitude or appreciation in the form of a ‘good-bye.’ For example, when people are discharged from the hospital, or have resigned from a job, or attended a funeral. These are typical situations of when individuals have reflected on what the recognized or honored person meant to them.
By the time I drove home I recalled several people who said things to me that had an impact. When I was a green OT on an admission unit in San Francisco, I met a homeless woman with a history of psychosis. She isolated herself in her bedroom. Whenever I entered her room she was in bed with her back to the door and she never acknowledged I was in the room. On the day of her discharge she approached me. She apologized for not attending any OT groups; she said she always appreciated the fact that I invited her and didn’t ignore her. That was the first time we had a conversation during her hospitalization. There was a family in Birmingham, UK, that attended a care plan meeting with their son. During the meeting, the family said they always liked to hear my reports because they could ‘see’ how well their son improved in the hospital and what were his strengths.
Sometimes, it’s not easy being an OT because the clients or patients may not like you when you’ve helped them with something they need or want to do. Today’s client was no exception. We’ve had many frank discussions while we worked together to achieve his goals. Perhaps that is why when he complimented me it was a surprise. His behavior was a reminder of the importance of telling others in a positive manner how they make you feel or the impact they have on you. Ideally, expressions of gratitude or appreciation should be regularly cultivated, not just during moments of a ‘good-bye.’