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One of my favorite tenets of the Functional Medicine model is that of the therapeutic partnership—a constructive relationship established between patient and practitioner.
Yet my concern with the common interpretation of this term is that we continue to put pressures and expectations on the practitioner to walk over hot coals or extend herself beyond reason, without a full understanding of what a therapeutic partnership actually entails.
It’s not one where you become the servant to your client’s every whim. Nor is it one where your client simply listens to your wisdom (without sharing her own) and takes orders.
So, what is a real therapeutic partnership?
The therapeutic partnership is one where both you, the practitioner, and your client are open and vulnerable to the insights revealed by the clinical process.
You’re vulnerable, not because you share your own life saga, but because you freely admit that you do not have a quick-fix.
Because you two are just getting to know each other, it’s not assumed (or it shouldn’t be) that you’d have all the answers to their every problem from the first encounter. (How could you?)
You do not have a magic pill or a silver bullet solution. What you do have is time, dedication, attention, physiological comprehension, and trustworthy frameworks that will help guide you towards the answers your client needs.
A therapeutic partnership is a relationship where history is established and connections are made that enable the clinician to see the appropriate path more clearly and the patient to make incremental and meaningful changes.
The therapeutic partnership slowly but surely changes the terrain for your client (which is where the healing really happens). Their internal terrain makes a shift through the diet, lifestyle and therapeutic interventions you employ, and the healing terrain (and potential) shift because the relationship itself changes the hormonal milieu.
Did you catch that last part? It’s so important, I’ll say it again:
The healing potential of your client will shift in response to your interactions with her because the relationship itself changes the hormonal milieu.
Trust and empathy lead to a chemical environment that induces the healing potential. You have the opportunity to activate the transformation from stuck to healing with the practice of Functional empathy.
When both you and your client have the opportunity to be vulnerable in a way that only you can provide, two magical things happen:
The problem you’re facing in your practice today could be anything from noncompliance, to not finding resolution (root cause) for your clients, to feeling like your clients are holding back information or emotions, to feeling like you just don’t know enough to help them.
The solution is the therapeutic partnership. It’s the terrain in which healing happens.
How to make empathy an asset instead of a liability in your practice
Part 1: What’s Functional and what’s not
Part 2: What’s Functional and what’s not
Part 3: What’s Functional and what’s not
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.