NDIS: A guide to choosing the right therapist

Finding and selecting a therapist to help your child, yourself, and/or your family is an important decision, particularly with the roll-out of the NDIS.  The following tips make reference to choosing an Occupational Therapist (OT) however they are equally applicable when choosing a physiotherapist, speech therapist or other health professional.

Like all health professionals, OTs differ in training, experience, and personality. The best choice is an OT who has the skills and expertise to meet your needs and requirements and is a good “fit” – someone you and/or your family member likes and with whom you feel connected.

Importantly, not all Occupational Therapists have experience working with people with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability. Although an OT may possess excellent skills and expertise – some of which is transferable – it takes many years of experience working with permanently disabled clients to provide best practice intervention. It is therefore important that you request a provider to demonstrate their skills and experience, particularly as it relates to your needs and requirements.

The following summary is aimed at helping you to make an informed decision when choosing an Occupational Therapist.

Some questions you could ask are:

Are you registered?

As with other health professionals, Occupational Therapists must be registered in Australia with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). You can check a provider’s registration at www.ahpra.gov.au.

How much will it cost?

For NDIS participants, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the NDIS price guide as at 1 July 2016 for your home state. It outlines the prescribed rates that a provider can charge a participant. It ensures that NDIS pricing is sustainable, balancing the needs of participants while recognising the skills and expertise of experienced health professionals. Providers are not allowed to charge higher than the prescribed rate however, they can charge less.

Reputable providers with extensive skills and experience in disability will normally charge the prescribed rate. In South Australia, this is currently $175.57 per hour which is the cost used by the NDIA when formalising your plan and associated funding.

Have you had experience working with clients with a permanent disability?

Working with clients with a disability requires a very high level of skill, experience and ongoing professional development to keep abreast of best practice intervention. It is therefore important for the OT to have extensive experience of at least 5-10 years plus working with clients with a permanent disability.

Some additional questions you can ask are:

1. How long have you been working with clients with a permanent disability?

2. How often do you work with clients with a permanent disability? This helps to clarify whether the OT specialises in disability or if it is something they do from time to time. Ask the provider to demonstrate their experience.

3. Can you demonstrate that you have seen a client with this particular need before?

4. Have you done any further training in disability and/or have additional accreditation as a result of your work with disabled clients?

5. Will you talk to other people such as our doctor, teacher and other therapists and take a holistic approach to your intervention?

Where and how often will you provide therapy intervention?

It is important for the OT to visit the client in their home environment as well as places they frequently go. This ensures that any intervention undertaken (eg prescription of equipment or home modifications) is customised to the individual and how they interact with it within their environment.

Some additional questions you can ask are:

1. Do you do home and/or community visits?

2. How will you make sure that what you do will work everywhere the client goes? An experienced OT will ensure that all intervention is informed through assessment, observation and consultation with the client, carers and/or family.

3. How long do you think you will need to provide intervention? A reputable OT will not try to estimate the intervention required without first seeing the client. This is because everyone is different, as are their needs and requirements. An experienced OT will normally advise that, after an initial assessment, they will then be able to outline their proposed recommendations relating to further intervention and seek your approval to proceed. The establishment of service agreements between NDIS participants and providers will also help to formalise this process.

Will you set therapy goals with us?

It is important for you and the OT to set goals together. A good OT will always ensure that any intervention undertaken is informed by client goals that meet their needs and requirements.

Some additional questions you can ask are:

1. How and when will we set the goals?

2. What will I need to do?

3. How will you know when we reach the goals?

Do you use interventions that are shown to work?

It is important for an occupational therapist to explain to you what they are going to do and why.

Some additional questions you can ask are:

1. Why do you think this intervention is going to work?

2. Is there any evidence you can show me?

3. Have you had other clients where you have done this intervention previously? Was it successful?

A final piece of advice…….

Selecting an Occupational Therapist, or indeed any health professional, is an important decision. Choosing an experienced OT who is a good fit and is prepared to work with you to meet your needs and requirements, will vastly increase your chances of getting a positive outcome.

It also helps to mitigate the associated risks of engaging an OT who is ill-equipped to deal with the increased complexities of those with a permanent disability.  This often then leads to a negative client experience, poor outcomes and increased costs associated with additional intervention required to resolve outstanding issues and ultimately meet the needs of the client.

Feel free to email any questions you might have, use our enquiry form or post a question on our facebook page.

 

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