Friday, January 25, 2013


The Alberta Health Services CRIS Clinic is one of the hopeful places I go these days. You can find me there on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Though I have no official role—for I am neither employee, volunteer nor patient—I think the CRIS Clinic is doing me a lot of good. It is giving me hope. The CRIS Clinic is an interdisciplinary rehabilitation centre for people plagued by neurological maladies. On a Tuesday or a Friday its services are provided to people who are impacted by strokes, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and undiagnosed conditions that play havoc with the relationship between the brain, nervous system and muscles. They get speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and recreation therapy. The therapists encourage the patients to bring supporters. That’s how I got there. The supporters do whatever they can do. I take constant notes (a lot of things are said and tried in 2 hours and 15 minutes of therapy). I report progress I have noticed. I cheer when milestones are achieved. I participate in activities to make them more fun and friendly. I join in practice sessions between therapy days. In my time as The Hope Lady I have often criticized our health system for ignoring so much of the best knowledge about how human beings achieve good mental and physical health. . I have often said that patients are poorly served because professionals work in isolation, at best reading what other professionals have written, too often making excuses for not reading it, saying they don’t have time. I have despaired at the way in which hospitals organize themselves so that a patient seldom sees a nurse two days in a row. I have railed against a system where no doctor seems to take responsibility for a whole patient and surgeons operate on people they’ll never meet. And so, as an example of how a health system can work, the CRIS Clinic is doing me a lot of good. Much of the work is done in a large open area. As I watch and listen on Tuesday and Friday mornings, I am blessed with evidence that the literature is not going unread in all places. Therapists set goals with the patients. They meet between sessions to review goals. They ask advice from others. They believe in the power of emphasizing areas of improvement. They involve supporters in every step of the process. These are exactly the things the literature says we ought to do. No wonder I get to see patients making genuine progress on tasks both ordinary and monumental, catching balls, jogging backward, speaking loud and clear sentences, manipulating screws with hands that had threatened to stiffen, rising from one knee, walking straight lines, making plans for skating. For a hope psychologist, it’s a fascinating place to study reciprocal interaction. The patients work hard because the therapists work hard. Then, the therapists work even harder when they notice that the patients are working hard between sessions. You can see how progress takes shape, how it motivates everybody. I hope the CRIS Clinic gets the positive recognition it deserves. This post is my contribution.

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