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Hints for Health Practitioners

Doctor Coaching


Some Unasked-For Suggestions 

"Not only is example the best way to teach, it is the only way." 
(Dr. Albert Schweitzer )

There are two kinds of patients. Those who will listen politely, nod their head, write down what you say... and not do it.  The others will be discouraged, skeptical, and a just a little bit desperate. Those people are actually more likely to do what you say, and get better.


Quoting Michael Ash, M.D. of Cornwall, England"All my patients die. The question is, When?" 


Here is an assortment of suggestions I would like to submit to all experienced or up-and-coming doctors. 


Motivation and Communication

Richard Simmons' most profound moment is when he asked himself, and others: "Y R U FAT?"  It made a good license plate, too. So do not hesitate to come right out and ask, "Why are you sick?  What are you willing to do to get well?" 


Most of those who want to, can and will, improve their health GIVEN THE KNOWLEDGE to do so. Those who don't want to, won't. That's about it... unless you can help them want to! THAT is indeed the art of healing. At least a third of my work as a consultant is motivation. 


I think counseling skills greatly help the practitioner. NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) is a good example of a helpful communications tool. From the limited amount of knowledge I have of NLP, I can confirm that people can best be communicated with by way of their natural preferred route or access. 


When you have a conversation with a visual individual, they tend to look up and away. To access a visual person, use visual words. Phrases like LOOKS GOOD, WATCH THIS, GET THE PICTURE, or SEE WHAT I'M SAYING can help. 


An auditory person tends to look straight at you or perhaps to the side and needs you to use auditory phrases like HEAR ME, SOUNDS LIKE, SOUNDS GOOD, and LISTEN TO THIS. (The entire US Navy is obviously audio: "NOW HEAR THIS; NOW HEAR THIS...") 


A kinesthetic individual tends to look down and away. To be reached, they will need expressions such as FEELS GOOD, GRASP OF IT, HANDLE ON IT, PUT IN TOUCH, and GET THIS. Kinesthetic people may be the arm-touchers-while they-talk-to-you people. So pat their shoulder or shake their hand. If this feels awkward to you, remember that you are doing it for the patient's comfort, not yours. 


So at its simplest, successful communication involves using the form(s) of access most suited to whom you are communicating with. This is far from superfluous. After all, if you know something, there is no point in failing to get it across. 


Other resources include Dale Carnegie's too-frequently passed over masterpiece How To Win Friends and Influence People. This is a very practical, compassionate, and inexpensive book.  I recommend reading an older edition from a library's used-book shop. It is closer to Mr. Carnegie's original writing and is better off for lack of revision or "modernization." 


Between Parent and Child (H. Ginnott) is very good for helping you communicate with kids. Of course there is the necessary sequel, Between Parent and Teenager. I recommend both without reservation. 


You do not need to be an ex-Hippie to genuinely benefit from the books or tapes by Ram Dass (Richard Alpert, Ph.D). Grist For The Mill and Be Here Now  are especially good.


Most everybody has forgotten Elmer Wheeler, the author of How I Mastered My Fear of Public Speaking. This long out of print little volume is one of the great books on communication. Try your luck at the library.


Stress and Consciousness 

Organized forms of deep rest, such as Transcendental Meditation, seem to have a very positive effect on self-image and health improvement. Literally hundreds of supporting references are provided in Research on Transcendental Meditation: Collected Papers, vol 1-5, and in Perfect Health, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. Comparative studies at Harvard have shown that TM is the most effective of all stress-reduction techniques available. The best technique is, of course, the one that your patient will be most comfortable with and actually DO! 


Diet and Nutrition 

All health care providers should check what their patients are eating presently. This goes for optometrists, neurosurgeons, dentists, psychologists, nurses and chiropractors, as well as medical doctors. Are your patients eating a really off-the-wall diet? If so, you may have a "junk food junkie," or even a "pudding vegetarian" on your hands (A pudding vegetarian, by the way, is someone who doesn't eat meat... but doesn't eat much else, either.) Do not hesitate to urge common sense eating even if it means reminding them of the "four (now five) food groups." I am not knocking vegetarianism, for I strongly support it. My concern is that you watch for vegetarian failures:  the ones most likely to be seeking medical attention. Successful vegetarians, and there are at least 12 million of them in America, generally use the medical system far less than most people do. 


When you see a sick person in your office, check their food PHILOSOPHY. For example, a strict vegetarian (vegan) may need B-12 and perhaps more protein or calcium. This is especially likely with the children of vegan parents. Recommending seafood, dairy products, or ox bile to these folks is inappropriate and is also unnecessary. Of course you can be a healthy vegan! For animal-free complete nutrition, remember the simple rules: 


1. Legumes (peas, beans and lentils) should be eaten frequently. With grains, and preferably squash, they form complete meatless protein. 


2. In addition to all dairy products, vitamin B-12 may be obtained from nutritional yeast, tempeh, tofu, miso, spirulina, bee pollen, and probably intestinal synthesis in a healthy vegetarian's bowel. (After all, that's how cattle get their B-12.) 


3. In my opinion, if a vegan doesn't follow rules 1 and 2, s/he is in real trouble, philosophy notwithstanding. I care very little about philosophy; I'm interested only in results. If you are going to eat a meatless diet, then you have to do it right. I know: my kids were raised as vegetarians. Had they NOT been healthy, the state and the school board would have been on our backs instantly. 

Even Mahatma Ghandi ate dairy products, and Jesus ate fish. Your patients can therefore relax a bit if you recommend these foods, or perhaps yogurt to their kids for extra calcium, protein, and B-12. There is no need to make an issue out of it. 


Patient Words to Help Make Patients More Patient 

 * Daily health progress may fluctuate or plateau; relax and stay with it. Sometimes it is useful to be reminded that "We are not in a hurry. After all, how long did it take to GET in this condition in the first place?" 


* People may lose confidence in their ability to break a habit or lose confidence in getting better. They may quit and not return. 


* You might wish to tell patients: "I'd rather you do most of what I suggest for a year than do all of what I suggest for a week." 


* Each patient needs to learn NOT to be a patient, but rather, to be their own doctor. On the road to self-reliance, family support sure is nice to have, but neither require it nor count on it. 


* People often need to cry: tell patients if you see their pain... and have Kleenex handy. Do not be afraid of their silence, frustration, anger, or tears.  Let it be released; then you can go on. 


* If your patient is a minor, treat her/him like a major. I will never forget the YMCA director that let me, the ten-year-old Houdini, "levitate" him in my magic act on parents' night. He treated me like an equal. Kids love dignity. 


* For that matter, who doesn't? All professional healing relationships need an adult-to-adult basis. This is no secret, but it is often ignored as if it were. 

Copyright  C  1999 and prior years Andrew W. Saul. 

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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