This article was originally written for an audience of bodyworkers, but the principles may be applied to any healthcare professional.
Did you ever notice how much your clients don’t know about what’s going on in their own bodies? Once, after one of my clients had surgery, I asked her, “What did they do in the procedure?” She looked at me blankly. She had no idea. She’d put her complete trust in the Doctor to take care of her and fix whatever was wrong. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t trust western medical doctors. What I’m saying is that it’s up to each and every one of us to take responsibility for our health and to teach our clients to do the same.
The key to taking responsibility for your health is education. Thankfully, there are many resources available today to help you in this endeavor, many of them free: books, magazines, newspapers, professional associations, classes, newsletters, ebooks, blogs, online research portals, podcasts, webinars, videos, your local library and many many more. Read on a regular basis. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal to learn more about bodywork techniques, anatomy, health and wellness, current research and new developments in your field. Don’t hesitate to pursue continuing education. Building your knowledge base will add more practice tools to your toolbox, sharpen your skills and increase your value to clients.
Then – make it a point to teach something new to each client that comes into your office, at every session. Have a client with Type II Diabetes? As you’re working, share with them something you learned about the circulatory system and its importance to cardiovascular health. Depression? Talk about how 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced and stored in the digestive tract, and that what they’re eating could be affecting their health. Educate your clients about cortisol, the stress hormone, and what they can do (in addition to bodywork) to reduce their stress levels on a daily basis. Sharing interesting health information and pointing a client toward resources is educational, and within even the most limited of scopes (i.e. those who cannot diagnose or prescribe).
If a client has more issues than your training or scope can address, refer them to other health and medical professionals. After reading Wheat Belly (a book about gluten allergies/ intolerance), I realized that one of my clients had a pattern of symptoms that had been specifically described in the book. I referred him to a naturopath and suggested he inquire about food allergy testing. I didn’t tell him that he had a food allergy (I don’t know if he did). I simply relayed the info from the book and asked him to consider if it applied to him, and if so, to seek out additional resources to help him restore his health.
Consider it your right and your duty to teach clients about their bodies, one bit at a time. Each appointment, send them home with a new piece of information about themselves and how their body and its systems work. They will not only value you as a practitioner, they will consider you a health expert.