Why Reaching Out to Fellow Caregivers is Good for You (and Your Practice)
Holistic healthcare is pioneering work. Today, thousands of people across New England practice independently a variety of powerful approaches to healing, from acupuncture to zero balancing. But being a pioneer can be a lonely undertaking at times. Most of us who work in the alternative health field are not members of large, well-organized, and handsomely funded professions like in conventional medicine. We tend to work on our own or in small groups of practitioners, with few regular professional contacts.
Combating isolation is sufficient reason enough to connect with other caregivers whose work you respect. I know of many holistic professionals who routinely meet up to socialize or to exchange treatments with one another.
Here are some more reasons for making case that getting more connected to other healthcare practitioners is to everyone’s benefit:
Working together is good for your practice. Agreeing with another healthcare professional to refer clients to one other is a simple and classic way to work together for mutual benefit. So is saving money by sharing office space or advertising space. Are there other caregivers out there who want to cut their costs and expand their marketing in these ways? You bet. Start by getting to know the caregivers who work near you, and exploring simple ways you can support each other’s businesses. You can find them through your local Chamber of Commerce, or they may be advertising in this magazine or other holistic publications.
Working together is good for your clients. It may not be obvious, but you and the other caregivers whom a client of yours regularly sees (be they conventional or alternative) are all members of your client’s “healing community”. And if you want to be good community members and provide the best care possible to your client, you ought to be talking to each other, or at least aware of the role that each of you plays in helping your client on their wellness path. Making sure you’re working as a team and not at cross-purposes is particularly important when your client is faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition. With your client’s permission, you can mail your “colleagues in healing” your practice information, and follow up with a friendly phone call to see if working more closely together might benefit everyone.
Working together is good for your professional development. You can learn much about healing by connecting with caregivers who have a different background than your own. Like the fable of the blind men who only understand the different parts of the elephant and fail to grasp its wholeness, it is easy for alternative therapists practicing on their own to comfortably lose themselves in their own worldviews. Sharing your thoughts—and sometimes disagreeing—with other caregivers of different backgrounds is a great way to test your assumptions, help your clients with the hardest-to-treat conditions, and see your work in a broader and fuller context. Much common ground exists among healers of any background who work with compassion and are willing to listen. This common ground is the heart of healing. A local organization dedicated to exploring this common ground is the Integrative Medicine Alliance (www.IntegrativeMedAlliance.org). The IMA hosts discussions and networking gatherings, and invites caregivers of all backgrounds to attend (full disclosure: I founded the organization).
Working together combats the myth of scarcity. All too often, holistic caregivers fall into the trap of fearing that if they work together they will lose clients to one another. This impoverished mindset is unhealthy and self-fulfilling. Given the extent of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering inhabiting our world today, it’s obvious to me that holistic caregivers are needed like never before. The real scarcity out there is in our capacity to imagine ways of helping our clients understand how important our services can be in improving their quality of life. One of the best ways to practice the truth of abundance is by promoting the caregivers whose work you respect. The universe will notice the favor you are doing and will return it, in its fashion.
Remember, there are people, businesses and networks out there that want to know you and want your practice to flourish—they just have to be asked. By reaching out to the right people, you can advance your professional goals, grow your practice with greater ease, reinvigorate your skills and sense of purpose, and feel part of a larger whole.
First published in Boston Natural Awakenings magazine's February 2006 "Ask Karlo" column.
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