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The Empathy Trap from Andrea Nakayama’s Field Guide to Functional Nutrition - Blog Image

The Empathy Trap from Andrea Nakayama’s Field Guide to Functional Nutrition

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2017-05-03

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 personally experienced it in practice, and I’ve seen it happen to the nutritionists in my clinic and the students I teach and mentor in Full Body Systems.

The Empathy Trap

You see, when you feel your client’s pain, you are no longer able to help them. When this is the case, you’ve fallen into the Empathy Trap, where your empathy works against you.

Contrary to what you may have discovered in your personal life, empathy doesn’t necessarily make you a better practitioner, render you more likable, or serve your practice. The wrong kind of empathy can cause you to become caught up in your client’s emotional state, let them lead the session, or give away your services for too little (or worse, for free) because you “just want to help.”

The art of empathy

There’s an art to practicing empathy in a way that serves both you and your client. It’s an aptitude that you can learn and practice to ensure the 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 you already possess is called Functional Empathy.

Functional Empathy for the Functional Nutrition Counselor

When we employ Functional Empathy in practice, we learn to hone that which comes instinctively. We are able to build the bridge instead of becoming the bridge. We use specific, functional questions to connect, gather and help our clients feel seen and heard. Those functional questions enable us to develop therapeutic partnerships with our clients. They enable us to understand context through story, uncover insights and answers, and get to better outcomes faster. With Functional Empathy, we actually provide more value and yet retain more energy and self-assurance. This is a win-win in the true sense of the word—where there’s no compromise needed for both parties to succeed. Everybody gets what they want and need.

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!)

Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

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.


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