There are a lot of things I don’t know about you, but since you’re here, reading this now, I do know this:
And you know—either from your own health challenges, from working with others who are not feeling their best, or from your keen understanding of health and healing—that one-size-never-fits-all. That’s why, we as practitioners who really want to serve the mission to help people feel better, need to continually hone in on clinical ways to honor the individuality of each client.
Bioindividuality is one of my favorite concepts. Not only do I love it in principle, but also in practice. This is because it’s our guide to uncovering what’s clinically necessary to achieve results.
Bioindividuality states that each person’s physiology is as unique as their fingerprint, and that treatment plans need to pay heed to that in myriad ways.
The problem with bioindividuality comes in the application of the concept.
HOW can we as practitioners create tailored treatment plans that work without burning ourselves out by re-inventing the wheel with each and every client or patient?
The answer, just like your client’s health or dis-ease, is multifactorial.
There are 8 elements to Practitioner Mastery, which is more than I can share in one blog post, but I can give you the first key element!
As I shared in a recent post, the first step in the Art of Counseling is to assess. We cannot give sound bioindividual advice if we don’t have a clear understanding of the myriad factors that have contributed to the symptoms our client is coming to us with.
It makes logical sense that we need some hard data in order to move on to the second step—recommend—with professional integrity.
But if all you do is collect data on your client—which foods exacerbate her symptoms, what supplements she’s tried in the past, what her menstrual cycle is like—you’re missing a crucial piece in the puzzle.
We also need what might be considered soft data. Without it, our recommendations won’t be bioindividual, they won’t be Functional, and they likely won’t work.
So what is this soft data?
Take a moment to think about the things that matter most to you right now, and you’ll begin to understand this mountain of misunderstood (and often dismissed) information.
This mountain is composed of things like family, home, love, spiritual and cultural connections, and your current circumstances (whatever has your attention and energy right now.)
The 43-year-old woman with 3 kids who’s going through a heart-wrenching divorce needs different care than the 17-year-old who’s up at night worrying about whether he’ll get into college.
The devout Hindu who keeps a strict vegetarian diet based on her religious beliefs won’t listen with the same attentiveness as an omnivorous triathlete when you begin to tout the benefits of fermented cod liver oil.
The middle-aged man who’s reduced his dietary intake to avoid painful GI symptoms isn’t going to adhere to an elimination diet in the same way that a young woman preparing for her wedding day in 3 months will.
Bioindividuality is more than a list of statistics. And it’s more than a detailed history. It’s more, even, than a completed Functional Nutrition Matrix and Timeline.
Who you’re speaking to matters, at the deepest and most basic level.
Mastering this forgotten skill is truly one key element in becoming a Functional Nutrition Master. It’s the foundation upon which all the other skills are built.
I call it Functional Empathy, because it’s using empathy in a way that works.
Functional Empathy doesn’t cause you to feel your client’s pain, or to end up fatigued at the end of the day. It doesn’t cause you to give away your services or to get so emotionally involved in your client’s case that you lose the objectivity you need to help her get better.
Instead, Functional Empathy uses a system that guides you to ask the critical questions that nobody has likely asked before.
It’s a framework that reminds you to make inquiries in your client sessions such as:
Check out the graphic below to see the full Empathy Matrix, complete with the 8 different elements of Functional Empathy. It’s this level of understanding that we must overlay atop the clinical details in order to design (with Functional Empathy) the plan that will truly work for each individual.
Show up with Functional Empathy in your next client session and see what it can do for your practice.
Functional nutritionist and educator Andrea Nakayama (FNLP, MSN, CNC, CNE, CHHC) is leading patients and practitioners around the world in a revolution to reclaim ownership over our own health. Her passion for food as personalized medicine was born from the loss of her young husband to a brain tumor in 2002. She’s now regularly consulted as the nutrition expert for the toughest clinical cases in the practices of many world-renowned doctors, and trains a thousand practitioners online each year in her methodologies at Functional Nutrition Lab. Learn more about Andrea here.