Beyond the Box

Professional Types

By: Kerry Wiley, MSW

Our current health systems, while gradually changing, have taught numerous professionals, in my opinion, to think in boxes, to categorize by labels and diagnoses rather than look at the sum of the whole. As a child, I remember hearing very technical and medical terms like “spastic diplegia” (the type of cerebral palsy that generally affects both legs) or “spasticity” (involuntary movement which can include stiffening of muscles). I knew that I was the subject of discussion but did not understand what was being said. All I knew was people were touching me, prodding me, tapping me with instruments to test reflexes and other functions, and that the results ended up being written in folders with my name on them. I felt like a science experiment.
Over the years, I have encountered professionals with various types of work styles, including:

Professional 1: The Explorer/Scientist/Mechanic

  • “Kerry’s Hamstrings don’t work… Her hamstrings and gastrocnemius muscles are tight."
  • Kerry is the experiment/project in the room – What can “we” do to get her to be like the image of function we know? What can we do to “correct” the anomaly…?”

Professional 2: The Realist

  • “What is, is… She has x and y capability… that is all there is. Maintaining function is the ‘best’ that can be gained.”

Professional 3: The Drill Sergeant

  • “We have a set program for Kerry; we are going to push her. She is going to achieve the defined goal.”

Professional 4: The Maverick 

 Kerry Wiley working with movement specialist, James R. House, III
Kerry Wiley working with movement specialist, James R. House, III

  • The Maverick is the out-of-the-box thinker who recognizes the need for a different lens and has the willingness and ability to try different approaches to accomplish what needs to be accomplished (see photo).

All of these work styles illustrate varying levels of expertise, comfort, and awareness. In each case, a role is created where I must be a student and a teacher to level the playing field. I often sat on the treatment mat or table watching while discussions were occurring about me, feeling isolated, very small, and compartmentalized.

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