Where Healing Begins
Dr. Colleen Gest, PT, DPT, WCS
Have you ever gone to a doctor’s office or physical therapy clinic when in pain or scared about a health issue, and the music was blaring loudly, or the receptionist was curt, or maybe it was hard to get comfortable in the waiting room? Or maybe you were called back to an exam room and had to sit for a long time waiting for your provider, while in pain, filled with worry and unanswered questions? Have you ever felt like your doctor or clinician was pressed for time, not letting you get your questions out, or asking questions that had nothing to do with why you were there? Or maybe you were simply told what was going to happen during your appointment, such as a physical exam, without feeling like you had a choice whether or not this was going to happen?
Unfortunately these experiences occur far too often in medical practices due to limited time providers can spend with patients and because providers aren’t often considering trauma-informed care when treating patients. These experiences at best might lead to a negative review on Google, and at worst can result in poor care or a traumatic experience in the doctors’ office.
So just what is trauma-informed care and why is it a central part of care at Foundations Physical Therapy? To understand the answer to this question you have to first understand that trauma is a very common human experience, and due to this, I expect that many of my patients have experienced some sort of trauma. This trauma can be either directly or indirectly related to the reason I’m seeing a patient for physical therapy.
Trauma can be any event or experience that is distressing or disturbing to an extent where our psychological and emotional response continues in a way that can impact our behaviors and beliefs in the future. Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. Trauma can be physical, such as an injury to the body, sexual assault or rape. It can occur from being in war, being involved in an accident, being stuck outside in a thunderstorm, having an illness or injury, losing a loved one, or going through a divorce. Trauma can also be related to repeated daily insults such as when people are repeatedly mis-gendered or when a person is treated differently or discriminated against based on their sex, gender, age, beliefs, and ability.
So when you think of all the different ways people can experience and have trauma, it’s hard to believe that a patient walking into a doctor’s office doesn’t have some sort of history of trauma. Which brings me to the second part of the original question. When people experience trauma, it affects how well we can access health care, our ability to interact with healthcare providers and our ability to participate actively in our health care plan.
Knowing that most people I treat (and most people in general) have some sort of history of trauma, providing trauma-informed care is essential in my practice. I would argue that it is a duty of all health care providers to provide trauma-informed care. Providing trauma-informed care in healthcare settings means:
Foundations Physical Therapy is a quiet, calm, and relaxing space where appointment times are long enough for you to really tell your story. The intake forms are inclusive and allow you to answer questions in your own words. My goal is to create a healing environment where you can have success with physical therapy, not despite any past traumas, but working alongside them.
The sign pictured here is hanging on my wall just opposite of the chair patients usually sit in during the beginning of our first appointment. I sincerely hope that each and every one of my patients feels safe and cared for in this office, just like that sign says.
For more information on how Foundations Physical Therapy strives to provide trauma-informed care, check out the Statements page on the website and scroll down to the Trauma-Informed Care Statement. If you have questions about trauma-informed care or suggestions on how to improve trauma-informed care at Foundations Physical Therapy, please comment below, call (928) 350-8270 or email me at email@example.com.
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Meet Dr. Colleen Gest
Dr. Colleen Gest is a Board-Certified Women’s Health Physical Therapist who graduated from Northern Arizona’s Doctoral Physical Therapy program in 2009. She has been treating people of all ages and genders with pelvic floor conditions and during and after pregnancies since then. She became board certified in women’s health physical therapy in 2019, which requires additional training and demonstrates her extensive practice and study in treating pelvic floor dysfunction and women’s health issues. Dr. Colleen Gest believes treatment of pelvic floor issues and perinatal musculoskeletal health conditions is a valuable and under-served area of healthcare. She recognizes the importance of the intersection of pelvic and perinatal health with race, financial health, gender and many other factors and strives to provide equality pelvic physical therapy treatment for all.
Dr. Colleen Gest, PT, DPT, WCS
403 W. Birch Ave. #1
Flagstaff, AZ 86001