Help Your Clients Through First-Class Referrals
Healthcare Practitioners: What do you do when you can’t help your clients? Here are some suggestions that I hope can help you.
As much as we want to help everyone who comes to us for care, we know we cannot help all of them in all ways. Sometimes our clients present an ailment whose cure lies out our scope of practice or expertise, and we need to recommend them to a professional peer or to suggest a different form of healthcare altogether.
As an integrative healthcare consultant, I get calls from other healthcare practitioners who have run out of suggestions for a client under their care who is suffering from a difficult or chronic illness. My expertise is in helping people discover paths to healing that are right for them, and in recommending high-quality caregivers to help them on their way. I have always loved bringing people together, so this work suits me well.
Healthcare, of course, used to be much more straightforward. Fifty years ago, if you got sick you’d typically go see a doctor, plain and simple. If the doctor couldn’t help you he’d refer you perhaps to a specialist, or you might be informed “it’s old age” and/or “you’ll just have to put up with it”.
Thanks to the gradual mainstreaming of holistic therapies, we now have many more courses of action we can consider before we “just put up with it”. We now can define healthcare as simply “that which heals,” and are free to consider any therapy or healing approach that falls into that category, whether it comes from a doctor, a shaman, or your grandmother.
So what is it that which heals? Just about everything! I once wrote down every form of healing I had ever encountered through my years of work coordinating the Integrative Medicine Alliance. I stopped at about 300, and every month I hear of still more and more emerging modalities. From high-tech methods such as radiology, to body-based therapies such as Rolfing, to mind-body approaches such as breathwork, to the world’s alternative health systems such as ayurveda, to spiritual healing traditions throughout the world, to the very simplest ways we can heal such as eating a healthier diet—in the space of 50 years we’ve gone from having too little healthcare choices to having more than we can ever imagine! So as responsible healthcare practitioners faced with a client we cannot fully help, where should we best point them?
I present four guidelines I use in my work with individuals who are seeking excellent and appropriate care. These guidelines provide me with a compass for navigating among the hundreds of healing modalities and practitioners I could suggest to a particular person. I encourage you to use these guidelines as well:
1. Clients are more motivated by healing approaches that support their values and beliefs. Think twice before recommending shamanic healing to a strict Catholic, a massage at a pricey day spa to someone who is under financial stress, or a novel therapy “unproven” by clinical trials to a skeptic. The power of your clients’ belief and interest in the efficacy of a particular healing approach will help them follow through with your advice and can help them get the most out of their healing experience.
2. The choice of modality is sometimes not as important as the quality of the caregiver. Yes, our society now has an overflowing toolbox of therapies with which we can heal ourselves and others. But it is how these tools are applied that really counts. The practitioners I most highly recommend to my clients are both knowledgable and wise. They are the ones who can be fully present in a healing relationship with those under their care. They are the best of the best, and have great healing powers—whether they have MD, DC, RN, Lic.Ac., LMT, or Reiki Master after their names is sometimes of little consequence.
3. Great healthcare practitioners know other great healthcare practitioners. This guideline is not news to anyone who works in mainstream medicine, and I have found it applies to CAM as well. If you want to find a great caregiver for your clients, ask a caregiver whose work you highly respect. I have made it my business to know who are the best holistic or integrative healthcare practitioners in New England, and I have noticed that they are praised time and again by other practitioners.
4. There are many paths to healing, so suggest multiple options that address body, mind, and spirit, and let them choose the ones that seem right for them. In my consulting practice, I present clients a diverse set of recommendations that collectively work on the levels of body, mind and spirit. Some are simple, some are more complex; some cost money, others are free. For example, for a client living in Cambridge, Massachusetts who wishes to get recharged and renewed for the spring, I might recommend a particular health club that suits her temperament, taking a springtime walk in nearby Mt. Auburn Cemetery, a highly affordable series of decent student massage treatments at the local Cortiva Institute, a nutritional consultation with a naturopathic doctor I know who specializes in these, a discount weekend retreat at Kripalu in the Berkshires, a de-cluttering of her home, or simply renewing a friendship. All these approaches can heal, all have the power to renew her on various levels. But one or more of these options might truly speak to that client, and those are the ones I believe she should pursue, and with vigor.
Have faith in your client’s innate ability to heal, and in their ability to make the right choices for healing when presented with a set of paths that speak to who they are. Who knows, maybe the very empowerment you can offer to your clients to make the choices that are right for them will be a deciding factor in their healing experience.
First published in the February 2005 issue of the Integrative Medicine Alliance Newsletter.
Contact Whole Health Solutions for help finding holistic or integrative healthcare solutions for your patients' health needs.