When I was studying my under-graduate I imagined my clinic was going to be full of them: well patients wanting to maintain or even improve upon their wellness. Turns out…not so much…all the really really sick people have taken their spots and the former has been listed as an endangered species. But I do catch glimpses of them, as I am sure we all do, in their natural habitat, with over-flowing baskets at the organic grocery store or farmer’s market, routinely up the front of the pilates class and also sometimes in our clinics. So now that naturopathy, by consumer demand, not practitioner intent, has transitioned so much into the ‘unwellness space’, do we know anymore what to do with the well ones??
I heard some great talks at the NHAA conference recently. One, in particular, was by my stellar colleague, Liza Oates, who observed that contemporary naturopaths tend to respond to these clients in 1 of 2 ways:
a) Unaccustomed to a patient who eats, exercises, sleeps and balances their work & non-work worlds better than themselves…PANIC…
b) Dig deep back through the dusty archives of their personal & family medical history until they FIND A PROBLEM THEY CAN TREAT!!! such as, ‘Once I was constipated for a couple of days’ or, ‘Once I took a course of antibiotics’.
I know…we’re hilarious…we have to laugh at ourselves 😉 Liza offered up some great ideas about how to approach our consults with these patients. Many of her tips, however, could be applied to the rest of our patients as well to gather some really valuable insights. And it’s always great to hear from someone who has been seeing patients over decades…there’s so much to be gained from those who’ve gone before us (or alongside us…in my case!) and can speak to these firsthand lessons. Here are just a few of her pearls
The ‘not stressed’ patient
We encounter a lot of people who can misreport their stress levels, not because they are trying to lead us astray but that’s that slippery slope of self-reporting & the possibility that someone has normalised their ‘load’. Liza says she likes to step away from that potential trigger word, ‘stress’ and instead ask, ” What are your tell-tale signs when the demands exceed your capacity?”
This is not so that we can fulfil option b) mentioned at the beginning…digging desperately to find some unwellness to treat – but rather as an aid for both practitioner and patient alike to understand better that individual’s response to their psychosocial environment.
Ask them to design their own health retreat
If they reply, “I would start every day with a little meditation and yoga, a chai and then a healthy hot meal”, then these can be translated into little goals we can set to bring some of their ‘best self ‘ into their every day. It also helps to better understand their values, individualised self-soothing and self-care & great prescriptions to begin with, given they’re telling you they are already at contemplation in terms of their readiness for behavioural change. They’re not going to require too much convincing – they’re already converts they just need permission and support to implement.
And if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, ‘Hey! These are exactly the patients I want my clinic full of”…then to hear more of Liza & Greg Connolly’s commentary and insights about how the wellness space has been hijacked by others and how naturopathy needs to move centre-stage in this increasingly popular trend, take a listen to this interview they recorded at the conference.
This UU30 recording from our back catalogue on the behavioural change model and how it impacts patients’ response to our advice is a key element in developing a professional approach that actually works. Unless practitioners are aware of the way that patients approach changing their dietary behaviour or exercise regimes, they the mystery of non-compliance will never be solved!