Typically, health coaching is treated as an “add-on” in functional medicine clinics. The doctor winds up having to sell the patient on coaching. But with patients already investing in out-of-pocket labs, supplements, and their provider’s time, people don’t want to spend the extra money. They say things like, “Why do I need to do the coaching? Why is that important? I just want to see you, doctor.”
That means most people never meet with a health coach… and that leads us right back to the problem. Patients come into the functional medicine system unprepared to make the lifestyle changes and implement protocols and therapies, with unrealistic expectations, and often overwhelmed.
That’s why there is no negotiation around health coaching in my proactive strategy model for functional medicine practices. Functional medicine’s success is determined by how well the patient can implement lifestyle changes; therefore, behavior change must be addressed as the foundation of root-cause medicine. We need medical providers to encourage coaching to guide patients to prioritize establishing a strong foundation via behavior change to allow for more advanced medical interventions (killing and detoxing) to be successful.
We must do a better job of guiding patients on their functional medicine path of transformation.
I was coaching a family who had seen numerous allopathic and integrative practitioners. Their autistic daughter was so constipated she was living on her GI specialist’s clean-out formula —Gatorade and Mirlax. The family decided to do a pantry cleanout in our foundation coaching call. They removed everything dairy from the entire family’s diet as well as all the ‘gluten-free crap trap’ packaged items like GF Oreos. They added one PEA supplement the provider recommended in a starter kit. Their daughter’s behaviors escalated for a few days, which the family was prepared for! Their daughter began eliminating regularly! When the family met with the functional medicine provider, they were ready to get started with restoring deeper core clinical imbalances.
Health coaching is the missing piece in your practice
It’s a little unconventional, but when you start with health coaching, your patients see right from the beginning that you have their best interest in mind and aren’t just looking to sell them on the next thing. It increases loyalty, commitment, and trust. It makes Your job easier.
But even more importantly, it gives your practice an advantage since the patient is welcomed into the functional medicine perspective and, from step one, aligns their beliefs and values with their healing process and decision-making, not their illness.
As you become the best practitioner you can be and evolve your dynamic practice, opening your mind to new ways of thinking about the structure of your practice is a necessity. We can not continue to practice functional medicine the way we have been doing it for the past 10 years and expect patient retention to improve suddenly.
Therapeutic Partnerships Roadmap Course
The Therapeutic Partnerships Roadmap is a course for functional medicine providers opening or enhancing a private practice’s acquisition, patient activation, and retention, thus reducing everyone’s overwhelm! Since functional medicine is practiced within the therapeutic partnership, orienting the partners on collaborating most effectively from the beginning is advisable.