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Do Patients Want a Coach?

coach.jpgOne of the more common personas that many chiropractors seem inclined to assume, other than the “Fixer,” is that of the “Coach.” Apparently, so the thinking goes, showing up as the patient’s health care coach grants them the opportunity to employ whatever means necessary to “motivate” patients to do the right thing to regain and enhance their health.

Clearly, this stretches the social contract under which patients show up in your office. Foisting this role onto patients leaves a trail of patient misunderstanding and shame that often precludes future referrals (even after obtaining great results) and practically guarantees that there won’t be a reactivation when their problem returns.

If you show up as the Coach, you’re likely to find it difficult to populate a complete team. Your “scouts” must constantly find new players to fill the void created by a practice of “free agents” who immediately leave once they feel better. That’s because showing up as the coach, selfishly makes the relationship about you, not them.

The social contract under which patients show up and agree to participate in your care recommendations is largely based on their previous experiences with medical doctors—who are rarely coaches!

Take an inventory of how many prospects call your office, asking your front desk assistant for a coaching relationship. “I’m calling to see if the chiropractor there will take me on as a coaching client. I know that I could have much better health if I just had a coach. So I’m looking for an accountability partner to nag me, yell at me and use whatever means possible to get me to do the things that would help me manifest my true health potential. Does your chiropractor do that sort of thing?”

My guess is that you don’t get calls like that.

So, unless you specifically reveal your desire to be their coach, explain what that means and ask for their permission to be their coach, you’re overstepping your bounds. It may be a way to justify your emotional investment in their recovery and micromanaging their recovery, but it actually reveals a fundamental mistrust of patients!

Extending the metaphor further, patients would more likely prefer that you show up as a cheerleader, not a coach. The distinction is profound.

Cheerleaders remain on the sidelines. Cheerleaders don’t go onto the field. They know their place, respect boundaries and conduct themselves in such a way as not to interfere with the game.

Cheerleaders don’t play the game. In the same way doctors don’t heal, the players on the court are the heroes. Careful your ego, technique or reputation doesn’t become the focus of the game! It’s not about you.

Cheerleaders monitor the game. While it’s tempting to get distracted by fumbles, fouls or errors, cheerleaders acknowledge that they’re not the ones out on the field. Show up interested in the patient’s life, not merely their symptoms. How often do you enter the adjusting room and ask patients “What’s changed?” or “What’s worth celebrating since I saw you last?”

Cheerleaders provide encouragement. When the team is down (slow recovery), they keep the energy positive. When the team suffers a setback (relapse), they remain upbeat. No half-time shouting, expressions of disappointment or guilt-ridden, “Make me proud out there!”

Cheerleaders are eternally optimistic. It’s not over until it’s over. There’s always the rematch, or even next season (reactivation). Cheerleaders are masters of state management, remaining hopeful and positive. If the team loses, they know it isn’t a personal reflection on their cheerleading technique.

If you want to be the coach, go for it. Just remember, when the team doesn’t win the division, the cup, the pennant or the trophy, they fire the coach, not the cheerleaders!

Comments (3)

Yohann Stoycheff:

I believe you're right on - again. Yet we disagree on the terms. Let's say what you describe is bad coaching. Guilt coaching. Some sport coaches are like that, they bully you to do something you don't want to do. Great coach inspire you to be more than you currently believe you can. They do that by not pushing, not showing off, not using force. Instead, they come from power: I know who I am, I know what I'm made of, I know why I'm here. And you feel inspired by their "under the radar" leadership. You naturally want to follow such leaders. Then, people then don't know they have a coach. Such a coach doesn't say he/she's one. Such a coach is merely a leader everyone gladly follows, because they're attracted. You're such a leader to me Bill. And I aspire to become a better one to the people I inspire every day.

Bob Wagner:


Without naming the names you just described chiropractic management groups: Singer, Madeira, Markson, Mertz, etc. Please keep preaching the gospel of organic growth. If you let your practice grow on its own then you have a practice. Force it down their throats and you will have an unsustainable business. You have a business to run as a chiropractor, remember that. Bill is the only voice of common sense out there for the chiropractor so take heed!


Bob Wagner

Tony Russo:

Bravo Bill,
I never thought of it that way, never. Even though I do it that way. Excellent point. So if medical doctors are neither coach nor cheerleaders, why are they busier than us?

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From November 12, 2008 6:39 AM

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