Naturally, I believe that there is value in chiropractic patient education as well as chiropractic patient teaching. Education and teaching are the pairs of an afferent/efferent relationship. The purpose of these overtures is to give patients the appropriate meaning and context for your adjustments, the visit frequency you recommend and the expectations they can reasonably expect from their care.
Chiropractors do this every day. And based upon how it is done it can be more or less effective. Some chiropractors want a protocol that they can systematically implement that will consistently produce the patient enlightenment that these chiropractors desire. This linear, mechanistic approach doesn’t work, as many chiropractors have learned. When they make this realization, they respond in one of several ways. The most cynical abdicate their responsibility all together. Their practices degenerate into physical medicine pain relief centers. You can help a lot of people this way and it’s the perfect solution for chiropractors who prefer to avoid any form of conflict or confrontation. But is passes up a tremendous opportunity for creating significance.
If you see yourself as a true chiropracTOR and ascribe to the original orthodox principles of chiropracTIC you have a much more difficult assignment because…
…chiropracTIC makes most patients wrong.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys being wrong. In fact, most of us go through some rather tortured arguments in our minds to justify our points of view on religion, evolution, abortion, handguns, vaccination; you name it. Add to that the little lies some of us tell ourselves about smoking (“Cancer won’t happen to me”), an extra helping at dinner (“I won’t gain any weight”), not flossing before bedtime (“I’ll floss tomorrow”) and on and on it goes.
Ignore the social niceties and upon entering a chiropracTIC practice and a new patient is confronted with something like this: “Everything you know about health is wrong. Health care is actually sickness care. Chiropractic is about the nervous system, not the spine. Germs don’t cause disease. Vaccinations hurt more than they help. Drug companies are evil. Health has little to do with how you feel. Your DNA is not your destiny. Taking a multivitamin merely produces expensive urine. And the fascination with fat and cholesterol is just a hoax.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. Needless to say, this can be quite confronting to a patient who just thought they had a little spinal owey!
The question is, should you confront their wrongheaded ideas about health? And if so, how far should you go? And what’s the best way of doing it? Let me share one of the strategies I would use if I were in practice. I call it “planting your flag.”
You may recall 8th grade world history in which we learned about the various European explorers who arrived in the New World. What was the first thing they did upon wading ashore? Plant their flag. Same when we went to the moon. (Wonder if the 3’ X 5’ nylon flag is still standing, unfurled as if in a gale force wind?) Ignore the political implications for a moment and focus on the symbolism of using a flag in claiming one’s territory. Certainly you have every right to claim the “territory” of your chiropractic office! (I frequently do at speaking gigs.)
Imagine the headline: “What Dr. YourName Believes.” Then in short bullets you would list some of your core beliefs. It could be on an erasable white board, on clinic letterhead you hand out at the consultation, on your website or on an 11” X 17” poster you have printed at Kinko’s and framed.
The purpose of this is NOT to use your list of beliefs in any overt or covert attempt to get patients to believe what you believe. Let me repeat. Don’t use this “flag” of yours to beat patients over the head with and induce them to believe what you believe! One more time. Patients don’t have to believe what you believe to see you, receive care from you, be “good” patients or get wonderful results. All you’re doing is revealing your basis of reality.
Most patients will show polite interest, appearing to ignore your beliefs. (Don’t be fooled!) Others will be inclined, either now or in the future to ask questions about them. (When patients come to you like this I’m told it’s considerably more soul satisfying than ear raping each patient with the “table talk” subject of the day.) Still others will intellectually click their heals in delight over finding a like-minded soul mate. This is part of the art of seed planting. Some seeds will be eaten by the birds, others will fall on rocky soil, others will return a 10X, 30X or 100X return and still others won’t germinate for years. By having the courage to reveal your beliefs, you’re more likely to attract your tribe—putting an entirely different spin on the process of getting new patients!