It’s disheartening when one of your greatest assets—your empathy for seeing and caring for patients with deep compassion—actually works against you.

I know this because I’ve experienced it myself, but moreso because I see it happening for the nutritionists in my own clinic and those that I teach and mentor in Functional Nutrition Lab.

You see, when you feel your client’s pain, you are no longer able to help her.

When this is the case, you’ve fallen into the Empathy Trap.

Contrary to what you may have discovered in your personal life, it actually doesn’t make you a better practitioner, render you more likeable, or serve your practice to get caught up in your client’s emotional state, to let her lead the session, or to give away your services for too little (or for free) because you “just want to help.”

There’s an art to practicing empathy in a way that serves both you and your client.

It’s an aptitude that you have to learn and practice if that empathy that you naturally possess is going to work for and not against you in your interactions with clients.

It starts with making a compassionate connection while staying objective. It’s about being able to keep your clinical mindset intact, while appreciating, but not experiencing your client’s pain and suffering.

The skillset and framework that I’d like to present to you that will help you climb out of the Empathy Trap with the grace that you already possess is called Functional Empathy.

When we employ Functional Empathy in practice, we learn to hone that which comes instinctively. We become able to build the bridge instead of becoming the bridge.

[bctt tweet=”When we employ #FunctionalEmpathy, we build the bridge instead of being the bridge.” username=”AndreaNakayama”]

We use specific, functional questions to connect, gather and help our client to feel seen and heard. We actually give more value and yet retain more energy and self-assurance.

Those functional questions help you to develop a partnership with your client through her story, enable you to uncover answers, and create a therapeutic partnership, where you get better results, your clients comply, and they feel better faster.

This is a win-win in the true sense of the word—where there is no compromise needed for both parties to succeed. Everybody gets what they want.

What’s in it for you when you step out of the Empathy Trap and learn to practice Functional Empathy:

✓less drain
✓more confidence
✓more composure
✓more client compliance
✓(bonus: better boundaries that will help you in your practice, your personal life and even with your health!)


Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.