The Art of Counseling Step 2: Recommend
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
By now you likely know how strongly I believe in the Functional model. I know practicing Functionally is the way we can change lives—both yours and the people you want to help!
Using the Functional lens is how you, as a practitioner committed to diet and lifestyle modification, can provide the service that is currently missing from our medical model. (And that means more, happy and healthy clients!)
In my 10 years of teaching thousands of practitioners, I’ve learned that there’s not only a science to Functional Nutrition, but an art too. And it’s this Art of Counseling that is both the most misunderstood and, when mastered, the secret sauce that can set you apart as a practitioner.
Last week I shared with you the first step in the art of counseling—the A in art—Assess.
The next step—the R—is something you’re likely very familiar with—Recommend. But before you dive in and start thinking about how and what to recommend, we need to spend a moment discussing WHEN.
Because if you get the WHEN wrong, then no matter how brilliant your recommendations are, they won’t work.
WHEN to make recommendations to your clients (and when not to)
Have you ever found yourself on a soapbox? You know, those times when you get so excited about a remedy or a suggested lifestyle change, that you just can’t help but go on and on about it?
I’ve certainly had times when I know there’s a way for someone to feel better—a shift in bedtime, the removal of an inflammatory substance, the addition of a nutrient…
But I hold my tongue.
Why? Because my recommendations are going to fall on deaf ears if I don’t have consent.
Consent may not be something that comes to mind when you’re working with clients because you may think they’ve already given their consent by asking you to help them.
Well…Yes. And no.
You have some level of consent from someone who has chosen to pay you for a consultation. You certainly have more consent from a client than you would from a stranger sitting at the table next to you who you really want to enlighten about the connection between sugar and inflammation (and how possibly the severe eczema on her forearm could be helped by consuming something other than the hot fudge sundae in front of her.)
But even with your clients who have consented to meet with you, you do not have carte blanche.
You see, it’s our job to determine not only WHAT to recommend, but also in what order and at what pace. This is part of the art of the practice as it involves a number of key factors that ultimately hone your clinical intuition.
Let’s think of it this way: If your client comes to you eating a Standard American Diet and has just received a diagnosis of cancer and is about to undergo chemotherapy, you will likely need to make your recommendations in a different order and at a different pace than if they come to you already eating a Specific Carbohydrate Diet and suffering from IBS.
I like to think of this as both Empathy (see the situation for all that it is and what is most clinically relevant), and Consent (get a read on how quickly they are going to be able to adopt new modifications in the sustainable way that will lead to results.)
When I’m teaching the practitioners in the Functional Nutrition Lab community about Consent, I usually liken the relationship to the traditional use of the topic…the one used in sexual relationships. I do this because it succinctly drives the message home.
Our inner values, as well as the current cultural climate, have brought our attention to the need for permission with regards to sexual interactions or even advancements, and yet, when we feel passionate about our services or methodologies of healing, we can easily bypass consent (or ignore dissent) in favor of sharing our best ideas and recommendations.
One of the ways I like to speak into the concept of consent is by sharing a popular youtube video on the subject (as it relates to sex.) I’m going to include that video for you here, but, please be warned, this video does include some profanities at the beginning. If that’s not your cup of tea (so to speak), please skip the video.
This video makes light of a serious topic so that it’s extremely clear. Nobody wants to be forced into a sexual activity and I know we can all relate to, and agree with, that statement.
And while preaching helpful dietary modifications certainly isn’t in the same realm of violation as unwanted sexual advances, we need to pay heed to the same principle…only move forward with consent.
The 3 Steps to the ART of Practicing Functionally:
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