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What’s So Different About Chiropractic?

apples-oranges.jpgVirtually all chiropractic practices are personality-driven small businesses. This begins to explain why a procedure, script or technology works for one chiropractor, but falls flat with another. While a cookie-cutter approach is often taught at practice management seminars, this overlooks the key distinction that success is always based on the “who” not the “do.”

This is also why chiropractic students who score well on tests and win the clinical awards often fail miserably in actual practice. Frequently, the introversion and analytical skills that make a good test taker, produce a “living-in-your-head” experience that patients find difficult to connect with or perceive as being aloof, judgmental or lacking confidence.

If you’re going to be successful connecting with and leading today’s patients, you’ll want to apply these five disciplines.

1. Reveal Yourself

Drop the persona and trying to play the role of a doctor. Show up authentically you. That’s where you have power. Trying to be someone you aren’t, or worse, trying to be someone you think patients will like, will never bring you the influence you want.

Remember, your patients complete you. If you show up dictatorial and dogmatic, you’ll tend to attract patients who want to be subjected to your nagging and parental micromanaging. Conversely, if you show up as a tentative people pleaser, you’re likely to attract the lost, the uncommitted and the least loyal patients.

Far too many chiropractors imagine that they would enjoy greater success if chiropractic had greater acceptance, usually by being more like medical doctors. This is a lie. By the time patients consult a chiropractor they’ve already exhausted the limitations of medicine and want something different.

2. Use a Specialized Language

Every discipline has its own language and vernacular. Chiropractors who are ashamed of the flamboyant history or philosophical “kookiness” of this profession’s past, are far too quick to jettison along with it, its unique language. Whether in an attempt to fit in, use the vocabulary of “real doctors” or find the patient explanations too burdensome, is hard to know. Either way, the effect is to remove the “salty-ness” and “spicy-ness” that make chiropractic mysterious, attractive and well, different.

What are these terms that help define the chiropractic difference? Here are a few:

Health. Let’s start here. The word has been hijacked by medicine and has degenerated to mere symptom treating, or at best, early detection. Most patients associate the word health with “feel good.” Instead, you might use the word “ease.”

Tone. Chiropractic was founded on the principle of tone. It’s especially relevant if you explain...

Stress. Most patients link stress to emotional stress. Help them recognize physical and chemical stress too.

Subluxation. In medicine a subluxation is far more drastic than the nuances recognized in chiropractic. That’s okay.

Adjustment. While some interchange manipulation with adjustment, they are two different things with two very different intentions.

3. Create Meaning

When patients determine that they lack the resources to deal with a particular ache or pain, there lies an opportunity to help assign a new meaning for the patient’s experience. Far too many chiropractors miss this opportunity in favor of what patients expect: treating their symptoms. Besides being the practice of medicine, this “first right answer” practically guarantees that the patient will discontinue care once they feel better, rarely adopting chiropractic as a long-term lifestyle adjunct as most chiropractors enjoy.

For most patients, creating new meaning may be as simple as helping patients embrace a new understanding of their body. That chiropractic is about integrity of the nervous system. That pain is a good thing alerting us that we have reached a limit or boundary. That fevers are a way our body fights disease. That germs don’t cause disease. That the nervous system is the master system that controls the whole show. That pain medication merely fools the body. The list is endless, and the real purpose of effective patient education.

4. Stand For Something

While some chiropractors show up as being anti-vaccination or anti-therapy or anti-first visit adjusting, you can’t win by being against. Witness the unsuccessful “war on drugs,” battle against cancer, muscular dystrophy and virtually any other anti-anything overture. To win, you must be “for” something. Such as being for trusting the body. Being for self-responsibility. Being for natural. Being for wellness.

When you stand for something, you must risk offending or polarizing those whom find fault with your stand. That’s the rub. Far too many are unwilling to take a stand because others might object, be offended, criticize or simply disagree. Those who have been deceived into believing that showing up beige, lukewarm and being all-things-to-all-people, take the safe path to mediocrity.

Avoid the temptation to remain under the radar. Playing small doesn’t grow you or your practice. Worse, it requires far too much tongue biting, political correctness and second-guessing your instincts. To attract your tribe you must repel others. Get used to it.

5. Have a Higher Purpose

Your purpose is not to survive. Surviving is only a symptom of providing a service that people want and value. And your purpose is not even to adjust as many patients as possible. Doing so may advance or help you fulfill your purpose, but it’s not your purpose.

This confusion is often accompanied by the wrongheaded notion shared by many graduates that since they borrowed all the money and put in the hard yards, that the world owes them a successful practice. Sadly, the folly of this belief is revealed far too late, usually after exhausting the generosity of relatives or squandering mom and dad’s retirement nest egg. Knowing what business you’re in and what your purpose for being in business are essential. Especially these days.

The practice of chiropractic is personal. It’s not medicine. It’s different. Be proud of this difference. Because patients want different. So be different. Be you!

Comments (5)

Americans like to pride ourselves as having the best healthcare system the world but unfortunately that is not the case. We have a medical care system, not a healthcare system. The current system of care focuses on disease treatment in which the Allopathic /Pharma / industrial food / insurance industry earmarks what research gets funded, and nobody really questions their premises, which are often dead wrong.
We need a change to a system that is focused on disease prevention and health promotion.
The best way to bring about the change is to do what we do best. Your five principles are KEY to being the best we can be!

Well-written Bill...too many Chiropractors are graduating with a 2nd class citizenship mindset.

David Boyd:

Bill, you are always on target with your observations and advice. Glad we have you!

Jennifer Cardinal:

I am always inspired by your words ... thank you for what you do for chiropractic and our profession ... your clarity and vision always hit home with me!

Jeff Robinson DC:

Wonderfully written Bill! You are a great inspiration!
J. Robinson

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From April 26, 2011 2:21 PM

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