A Full Circle Experience

Sometimes it’s funny how life comes full circle, isn’t it?

I received an email this morning from a therapist I met in Jacksonville during last month’s Annual Meeting. It’s an email I, myself, have written hundreds of times to people I admire and trust; an email asking for help, guidance, and maybe even a little encouragement.  Now it’s my turn to respond. Here’s a small excerpt:

“…when I made a mistake with a patient.  The mom got really upset and accused me of not know what I was doing in front of her son and other patients. Then she called the doctor that night and asked to have her son see the other therapist in the office due to my ‘incompetence’.  My doctor talked to me about it the next morning and I admitted my mistake, and didn’t say anything except told me to move the patient to (the other therapist’s) schedule.”

Let me begin by saying there are no three people in the world who are harder on themselves than I am.  My internal dialogue often includes analysis and re-analysis, moments of self-deprecation, and at times, some fairly harsh criticism. Cognitively, I know perfection is not reasonable or even attainable, but those thoughts do not stop me from chasing it.  I am just wired to seem improvement – constantly. Be it in my parenting, in my interpersonal communication, and even in my Vision Therapy room, I’m always looking for ways to make things better, easier, and more effective. So, I understand being rattled. This is a tough one to swallow.

With that, I will share in our Vision Therapy room there are two fundamental rules. Rule Number One is nobody bleeds (as in, if you’re about to cause bodily harm, it’s time to re-think it), and Rule Number Two is as long as we follow Rule Number One, there’s no mistake we cannot fix.  Without divulging more of the email, let me assure you, neither rule was violated by my new friend. Not by a long shot.

When we are doing our best for someone else, as I’m positive was the case here, it’s hard to not become personally and emotionally invested in the patient and the process. In fact, the really good Vision Therapists in the world who I’ve met all welcome this investment and make it fully.  It’s part of the job and it’s what makes the good therapists the good therapists. Sure, we can go through the motions and probably achieve pretty good results, but if your heart is not in it, the patients can tell.  So, I don’t fault the feeling of disappointment; not at all. Yes, this is just your job, but it’s also someone else’s life we’re trying to impact, and I completely respect and admire it not being taken lightly. Had it been an error due to apathy, that would be a different story, but it wasn’t.  Secondly, there are moments, hours, days, and weeks where we will ALL make mistakes; it’s just part of being human. After 18 years in VT, I’m usually two or three steps ahead of my patients in my head and sometimes forget to let them catch up. The result is usually not what was intended.  It happens.  But you have to take the negative experience and turn it into a positive lesson for next time. Ask yourself what you’ll do differently given the same situation. Develop a strategy for yourself so you’re prepared.  Maybe even talk it out with your doctor or others in your office. That’s how we grow and become better therapists.  Even now, I have my sounding boards for when things go sideways. There’s always another perspective we can learn from!

So as the weekend nears, try to remember, we’ve all been there. It’s important we simply do the best we can, and when it doesn’t work out, it’s an opportunity to learn something new and be better tomorrow than we are today. And if someone complains, take it seriously but don’t take it personally.  It’s not a personal attack, it’s a serious concern. Does it suck? Yes, it does.  But don’t forget the sun will still come up tomorrow and your patients will still need you.

Life is a learning curve.


Posted on May 12, 2017, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. So wonderful Robert that you brought this topic up as part of next week’s education for our office team (for vision therapists, patient care coordinators and doctors), is on the book, The Four Agreements. The books was given to me by a wonderful colleague. The agreements are: to be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best! Can we make the 4 agreements with ourselves? Can our team make these 4 agreements as a team? With growth mindset we know that we can only learn by making mistakes – that is how we grow! We don’t want to make the same mistakes over and over. I hope that all vision therapy teams can be supportive and grow while giving the best care to our individual team and our patients. Thank you Robert!


  2. I don’t know if this is the case here, but as usual I will add my 2 cents. I have been a COVT for 40+ years and I still make mistakes or find myself in “over my head.” I have learned to call for help when I am aware of this, but sometimes I am just not aware – at least not at first. But sometimes it happens that a therapist is matched up with a patient that he/she should not be matched up with. In the office I work in, one therapist is a true STAR working with certain patients diagnosed with certain specific syndromes. My ego would like me to think I am pretty good, but the comparison of her to me when working with these patients is not even close. I think this may be a good time to also take a look at the matching up – or assigning of – patients to therapists in the office. How does it happen? Are you just looking to fill in an empty appointment slot, or to think about what the patient needs, and who has the experience, skills, personality, perceptual style, etc to best work with that patient? If a patient has certain needs or would be best served by a particular therapist, every effort should IMO be made to make this happen. Perhaps the therapist with less experience could “shadow” the one with more experience.


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