Five Important Tips for New Grad Therapists


Let's be honest. You didn't get into this field to be average. You didn't endure the rigorous curriculum of school to be "good enough." You want to be a great therapist. To have a positive impact on your patients and change lives. With that ambition in mind, I'm hoping the following advice can help you become the therapist you want to be. So without further ado, five important tips to get you there:

Learn to critically appraise research yourself

There is a lot of research out there. Some articles are great but most are just terrible. You have a responsibility to yourself, the profession, and your patients to be able to weed through the clutter in order to come up with your own informed conclusions. And we're talking research design, subject characteristics/sample sizes, etc.

Can't I just read the abstract?

This is a good start but it is often not enough. The conclusion you read is the interpretation of the results by the authors of the paper. And I’ve got unfortunate news – sometimes the conclusion in the abstract do not match the actual results of the study. At all. I’m not sure why this happens and how these papers get through review but they are out there. So be careful.

But I can’t possibly get through all this research. I don’t have time!

Don’t feel discouraged. Read 1 article per week or every few weeks. The key to your success will be to first recognize that this whole process is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Gain your experience

This point could not be truer. Especially if you’re a new grad. Or even a seasoned therapist. Appraising all the research in the world will not make a difference if you don’t actively attempt to apply it to your patients. Following my graduation, I took some time off away from direct patient care for personal reasons. During which I made a point to stay on top of research. I read a lot and often.

The result? I learned a lot of information which made me sound smart on the internet and overly judgmental of others that opined differently. It didn’t make me a better therapist. Yes, my example is an extreme example. No clinical work and a lot of free time to flip through pages of research. But the point stands. Get your reps in, develop critical thinking skills, and find what works based on the patient presentation.

Take a continuing education/certification course... but maintain suspicion

Courses are fantastic and can really offer a person a ton of novel and useful information. But much like the research, courses out there are riddled with biases and unsubstantiated claims. Beware of rehab gurus. My God, beware of gurus. Any single person or entity claiming to have hold all the answers is either lying or trying to sell you something.

My advice. Take a course if it resonates with you, if it sounds interesting. But don’t take a course with the expectation that it will be the ONE way to approach your practice. Slowly attempt to integrate it into your current clinical practice. Make it a tool in your toolbox, don’t make it the entire toolbox. Pain, for example, is a multidimensional experience for an individual. Why should you then attempt to maintain a unidimensional approach to their rehab? (Click to Tweet)

Find yourself a mentor

This can be someone you reach out to through social media, one of your clinical instructors, a professor, or even a friend. Conventional thinking will tell you that you should find someone with tons of experiences in order to augment your approach to rehab. And while that can be invaluable, it isn't always necessary. Finding another person to bounce treatment ideas off of and discuss cases is a great way to challenge your current level of thinking and visualize clinical work from a different perspective. Whether we like it or not, we do develop biases and habits that makes what we do narrow-minded and potentially ineffective. 

Just remember to help your patients and the rest will come

My brother and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Hady Masri, helped me a lot when I was starting my first job as a therapist. He listened to my panicked exclamations the night before my first day and responded simply with: “Just remember why you’re there. Help these people and the rest will come."

Many therapists enter the workforce after school with the feeling that they’re not good enough. That they don’t know enough to be an impactful and effective professional. That they can’t truly help people. Heck, I know a ton of seasoned 20+ year therapists that still struggle with this. And truth be told, I don’t know why this happens – maybe it’s a failure of their program’s curriculum, maybe it’s the internet, or maybe it’s Imposter Syndrome.

But for what it’s worth, I’m here to say it’s not true. You know more than you think. You have the ability to really make a difference in a person’s life. Sometimes by just taking the time to LISTEN to a patient and their problem, you have already successfully set into motion a positive outcome. (Click to Tweet)

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share this with anyone that you think needs it.