Yesterday I had a conversation with another practitioner, and she was sharing with me the change she has personally made away from ineffective practitioners to good ones, and how this has fuelled her to improve her own practices with clients to ensure she is one of the goodies. Right on.

I too, have far too many experiences with practitioners who are falling short in their manner, and that’s the crucial point I’d like to bring your attention to. Skill gaps are one thing and can be forgiven in the right circumstances, but manner is another ball game altogether.

One thing that shits me to tears is a practitioner who omits building their manner and rapport with a patient or client because they believe their skill set is so important and reliable that they don’t need anything else. Get off it! Imagine how amazing they would be if they made you feel as amazing as their experience is?!

YOU DESERVE BETTER

Experience or skills are not an excuse to be treated like you’re invisible or a number.

I speak from a psychotherapist perspective – these are what to look for when you are seeking out or working with a therapist of any kind, and I would suggest that you look to have these met when working with any type of practitioner.

Upon your first meeting, it is ideal the practitioner has some background about you; they’ve read a referral letter or have pre-read your history form. Generally, it is ideal if they have educated themselves somewhat about you before you arrive rather than playing serious catch up right in front of you while the consultation fee clock is ticking.

If you’re regularly left in the waiting room because they are running grossly overtime, then that’s just poor time management and boundary setting on their behalf.  Your time is as important. You’ve chosen that time to fit in with your schedule and that time is allocated to you, therefore you should be provided with that time, not another one an hour later. Personally, I schedule time between clients as a buffer so if I do run slightly over, it doesn’t impact the next client. It also provides time for me to take a short break, to review the next client, and to be refreshed and ready for when they arrive.

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

You are the centre point of each and every appointment. Not the practitioner.

I once attended a psychologist appointment with a client I worked with in community mental health. The psychologist was running 10 minutes late which was excusable until she bowled into reception, addressed the client and then told her she was just ducking out to get a coffee and asked our client if she would like one. I was mortified, and what’s worse, our client wasn’t.

PREVENTION

First and foremost, to the best of their ability, your practitioner should prevent inflicting further harm on you. As a psychotherapist, we are taught and have this very concept drilled in to us. Humans are vulnerable, and we become even more vulnerable when we are not feeling good and when we are seeking support. There’s a natural power imbalance in therapeutic relationships that the psychotherapist must always minimize and respect. The same goes for any client/practitioner relationship.

The client I sat with in the waiting room experienced long term major depression, suicide ideation and self-harm. Her self respect and self worth was extremely low and this psychologist was reinforcing that by disrespecting the clients time because she was putting her own personal needs first. That coffee was a personal want, not a need or requirement to perform her role. It says to the client “my coffee and my comfort are more important than your comfort, time and wellbeing”. No, no, no. This is so very damaging.

The client was used to not being seen or put equal or as a priority through her own upbringing, so although it was as clear as day to me, the client just accepts that behaviour as normal without consciously realizing it is causing her further harm.

THE POWER TO HARM OR HEAL

That therapeutic relationship is powerful to either harm or heal, and in this instance, it is the very reason why the client was not recovering, was getting worse and was perpetually held in therapy. Never put your power in the practitioner’s hands. Get expert advice, yes, but do not hand over agency to them. You must always be in the drivers seat with your hands firmly on the steering wheel. The practitioner can suggest direction for you, but ultimately it is you who decides which road you take, what speed you take it at and whether you keep going or stop.

HOW DO THEY MAKE YOU FEEL?

Psychotherapists in particular, should be attuned to you. There’s no good reason this wouldn’t relate to a nutritionist or GP or gastroenterologist or massage therapist or any other practitioner. How can you tell if they are?

  • They build rapport
  • They listen well, without judgment
  • They ask questions
  • They set and maintain clear boundaries
  • They are reliable
  • They are observant
  • They see you as whole, not a separate body part
  • They empower you
  • They utilise your strengths
  • They respect your human rights and don’t discriminate
  • They respect your privacy and confidentiality
  • They use appropriate tone of voice and body language
  • They speak in your language
  • They foster a sense of safety and trust
  • They reflect on their own work
  • They work within their skill set and limits
  • They don’t attempt to be everything to you
  • They aren’t your friend

GOOD OR BAD FIT?

In psychology, there’s a concept called “Goodness of fit”. It’s a relationship that fosters healthy psychological development and positive self-esteem and is based on the temperament and personality of each person in the relationship. This is what you want to look and feel for when choosing a practitioner, and why it can be helpful to trial that practitioner by having 1-2 appointments to get a feel for the fit before committing. And it’s absolutely OK to let the practitioner know on booking that this is your intention. If the practitioner is funny about it then that’s your first sign of an incompatibility.

At the end of the day, if it doesn’t feel right then it’s not right. Intuition and instinct are an absolutely trustworthy best friend.

About the author

Michelle White offers 8 years of clinical experience in gut focused therapy and gut directed hypnotherapy through Happy Inside; the program, iPhone app and podcast.