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Getting the Most from Your Practitioner / Patient Relationship

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By Sue Ingebretson • www.ProHealth.com • February 17, 2016


Getting the Most from Your Practitioner / Patient Relationship
By Sue Ingebretson

How do you approach a visit to your doctor? Do you feel like you’re going to a team staff meeting? Or, perhaps you feel as if you’ve been summoned to the principal’s office.

You may be surprised to learn that how you feel about your approach makes all the difference.

The role you play has powerful
influence over your successful outcome.

You’ve probably heard of the passive role that many of us play in our own health care. Some of us may wait for others to not only recommend, but also direct and even select treatment options for us.

After all, who are we to make these important decisions? We’re not medical authorities, and that’s why we defer to the expertise of others. That’s been the standard for the traditional medical model for the past several decades.  

That model of healthcare is broken, and the proliferation of chronic health illnesses is proof.

How can we repair this malfunctioning system?

Some say that becoming an aggressive force in your own care is the solution, but there are inherent problems when the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction. Instead, I find there are plenty of solutions that can be found comfortably in the middle.

The most important concept to adopt is how you view your medical practitioners. Envision them as being part of your health care tribe. Your visits provide you with the opportunity to collect information from them to support YOU and your specific needs.

Below, you’ll find suggestions on how to make the most of three distinct types of medical practitioners. Don’t miss the last segment as the tips you find there may surprise you the most!

Doctor Trip Tips
Let’s start with preparing for the next visit to your general practitioner or specialist. Here are a few tips to keep in mind. They may help you to streamline and maximize your results.
  • Bring a list of questions you want to ask, including any new and uncomfortable symptoms. Write them down whether or not you feel they’re related to your particular diagnosis. You never know what tidbit of information your doctor may need to fine-tune his or her recommendations for you.

  • Take a list of the medications you’re currently taking – including prescribed and over the counter medications.

  • Take a list of the supplements, herbal remedies, and/or natural treatments you’re currently using.

  • Take a list of the treatments and protocols you’re currently trying, as well as ones you’ve tried in the past. Include practices such as chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, massage, etc.

  • Take a list of treatment ideas or suggestions that you’d like to ask your doctor for feedback.

  • If possible, take another person with you. Another objective person will remember things differently, bring up subjects you may forget, and may provide feedback on topics that you might not consider.

  • Be sure to bring up any stressful or anxiety-inducing situation that could be negatively impacting your health. You don’t have to go into detail, but letting your practitioner know that you’re under undue pressure is important.

  • Don’t raise a “doorknob issue” (waiting until the doctor is ready to leave the room before bringing up a question). It doesn’t give adequate attention to the question and is discourteous to the practitioner.

You may or may not get to all of your questions at your visit, but having this information at the ready helps to put the odds in your favor.

Alternative Practitioner Trip Tips
What about other health care practitioners? Are their visits any different?

Most of the tips given in section ONE above also apply to visits to health care providers such as holistic nutritionists, chiropractors, naturopaths, etc.

In addition, you may also find the following tips useful.
  • Bring along containers of nutraceuticals, supplements, and packaging for protein mixes or nutrition products that you use frequently. Most holistic practitioners can take a look at the labels to help you do some detective work to figure out any possible connections to your symptoms.

  • Depending on the practitioner you’re seeing, it may be helpful to bring along copies of recent medical test results for standard blood work, thyroid, allergy, hormone, vitamin D levels, and others.

  • Be sure to inform your alternative care practitioners of pharmaceutical and over the counter medications that you’re taking (even if you feel they’re not related to the reason for your visit).

  • Be sure to inform your alternative care practitioners of any natural remedies you may be using (that they may be unaware of).

  • Depending on the practitioner and your intended work together, you may wish to bring a food diary listing what you’ve eaten in the past week or so.

  • Additionally, your practitioner may have you track digestive troubles, bowel movements, sleep patterns, and more. 

Working with a Health Coach
In some ways, seeing a personal health coach is very much like a visit to your doctor. It’s important to share the information listed above, and your coach will let you know if there’s anything additional needed.

Health coaches work in general ways to bring together a big picture of their client’s entire health concerns. From this larger picture perspective, they’re able to pinpoint problematic areas of concern and then narrow their work to these specific areas.

Health coaches collect a lot of information from their clients, and it’s not unusual to spend the entire first session (or even the first several sessions) discussing health issues and challenges. The health coach may ask standard typical health questions as well as ask for detailed background information on lifestyle, relationships, work, financial concerns and anything else that may contribute to the current health picture of the client.

Health coaches also specialize in different fields depending on their expertise. Some work mainly with clients who have challenges with diabetes, autoimmune conditions, stress management, fitness goals, sleep disorders, digestive dysfunction, and more. Based on their educational and experience backgrounds, health coaches may recommend their preferred healing modalities including nutrition, supplements, fitness programs, mindfulness practices, stress management tools, and more.

Now, here are a few ways where seeing a health coach is different from a visit with your traditional medical doctor.
  • You’ll spend quite a bit of time talking about your concerns. Depending on the relationship and reason for your hiring a coach, it may surprise you to find that you discuss worries or fears with your practitioner that you don’t in other areas of your life.

  • You’ll discuss topics of concern regarding your health that need improvement. This is about what YOU want. Together with the coach, you’ll establish your own personalized goals.

  • The scope of work is designed to work with your unique body. Your specific nutritional, physical, and emotional needs will all be taken into consideration.

  • You’ll likely choose to work with your coach for a period of weeks or months so that personalized assessments can be made, and change has time to develop. 

  • Your relationship with your coach may feel like having coffee or tea with a friend. But keep in mind that your coach is always hearing what you say from a perspective of “How can I help and facilitate change for the client.”

  • The coach will likely assign tasks, personalized tracking, or other “homework” to be completed between visits.

Once your overall health information has been collected, you’ve shared your health concerns, and your needs have been assessed, your health coach will devise a plan to move you away from the symptoms or challenges that you don’t want and toward the improvements that you do want.

On your own – between visits – it’s your responsibility to apply what you’re learning or doing, put it into practice, and pay attention to changes that may happen. The more you put into the implementation of your program with a health coach, the more you get out of it.

Working with a health coach is
an active, not a passive, relationship.

Why is this beneficial?

When you put your coach’s suggestions into practice, you’ll gain insights that only you can have. They’ll be important to you in ways that no one else could “manufacture” for you. No one can “give” you insight.

Here’s an illustration. Let’s say that your health coach makes note of your low-fiber, low nutrient, and highly processed food diet. She may encourage you to simply include veggies in your meals and provide you with suggestions on how to do so.

At first, you’re consuming the veggies because you’re following directions. But as you continue the practice, you notice how simple it is to make it a daily habit. Then you’re surprised to find physical benefits such as improved mental clarity, regular digestive function, and a reduction in swelling of your hands and feet.

You’ll make the connection between your behavior and your results, which gives you insight into the greater benefits of the assigned task. 

At your next visit with your health coach, you’ll discuss your homework assignments and share what went well and what may not have gone as well. These further insights and discoveries will help your practitioner craft the next steps along the way.

Making Change Work for YOU
Change is never a straight path from one circumstance to the next. Rather, it’s an organic shift and flow that gets its direction from the discoveries you make along the way.

While many health coaches work with a generic schedule of what they typically do with clients, most of them keep wiggle room in the process to adapt and change to what’s going on throughout their work together.

The rule of thumb when working with a health coach is to share your concerns with honesty. It doesn’t benefit either party to keep vital information hidden such as unhealthy behaviors, environments, or addictions.

And, lastly – don’t be afraid to share results with your health coach that are less than stellar. Sometimes, things simply don’t turn out as planned. The feedback process is very important and working within your specific experiences is how forward progress is made.

“Progress is impossible without change.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Are you ready to make the most of your visits with ALL of your health practitioners?

Consider them your tribe.

Your practitioners are there to help you achieve your ultimate health goals. Apply the tips provided in this article to your next visit and change your approach to wellness.


Sue Ingebretson is the Natural Healing Editor for ProHealth.com as well as a frequent contributor to ProHealth's Fibromyalgia site. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com

Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue's free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.



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