One reason chiropractic care is not embraced by some patients as a long-term lifestyle adjunct is because many would rather avoid the responsibility that chiropractic imposes on patients accustomed to delegating their health to drugs and doctors.
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When you have a plumbing, electrical or roofing problem, you want the licensed professional you hire to take on your problem and assume responsibility for getting things turned around. Which you can actually agree to do when you’re dealing with an inanimate system such as plumbing, electrical circuits or the structural integrity of a roof. But not so with the human body. And herein lies the rub.
The responsibility for one’s health is not something that can be given away, delegated or assumed by another.
But that doesn’t stop some chiropractors from trying! They may show up as spine fixers or headache removers or even curve restorers. And while “success” is common, from time to time they fail. Not because of poor intentions. But because they are attempting to be responsible for something for which they are unable to control. Yet, even with occasional failures, many chiropractors still attempt to take on the health burden of patients.
Why does this co-dependency exist in chiropractic? Because of the experience patients have had with the medical profession.
Don’t fall for it. That headache is theirs. Their body is merely attempting to communicate with its owner. Don’t steal the lesson like their medical doctor who is quick to prescribe a drug to fool the body into not feeling the symptom and in the process obscuring its message!
Yet, if you have clarity about what is your responsibility and what is the patient’s, and have certainty about what you do and what you don’t do, you have another problem: explaining it to patients and managing their expectations. Because if you’re practicing chiropractic, your explanation is sure to run counter to the expectations they bring with them from a lifetime of consulting medical practitioners.
The fact is, whoever has greater certainty about their “story” or representation of the world, wins. So, if a chiropractor is a bit shaky about his or her identity or responsibilities or simply prefers to take the path of least resistance, it’s easy to be overpowered by a patient determined to have you treat her headaches with adjustments whose “dosage” is three visits a week. In the process, you’ve morphed into the practice of chiropractic medicine.
This foray into practicing chiropractic medicine, instead of chiropractic, probably seems harmless; even expedient. After all, that’s what their insurance carrier is expecting. That’s probably why so many chiropractors do it. However, the real cost shows up later as a growing dependency upon a constant stream of pain relief patients—without a viable marketing strategy to produce them.
If you find yourself in this predicament, extricating yourself will take ample doses of self-reflection, courage and time.
Self-reflection – It’s time for some critical thinking about your identity. Chances are if you graduated from a chiropractic college within the last 20 years, your education was so medically focused that the basics of a chiropractic worldview were either non-existent or quickly brushed aside after the first quarter. The result is a generation of chiropractors reluctant to depend solely on the wisdom of the patient’s body. Subsequently, many were seduced into adding adjunctive procedures for their moneymaking potential, further obscuring chiropractic principles. You may need to study some green books, attend a James Sigafoose seminar or repeatedly listen to a Reggie Gold recording.
Courage – Scaling back and relying solely on the chiropractic adjustment and Vulcan mind-meld levels of patient communications will require a new, higher level of faith. Like when your dad took the training wheels off your bicycle. In fact, the prospect of establishing clearer “terms of engagement” with patients and asking them to agree to a chiropractic covenant instead of their medical doctor covenant is a big ask. Contemplating this emotional component to abandoning the practice of chiropractic medicine in favor of practicing chiropractic will dissuade many.
Time – Vow to begin the practice of chiropractic and you’ll find yourself reinventing your practice. That’s because many, if not most, of the patients in your practice now think you’ve assumed responsibility for their recovery. (“And hurry up already!”) So, to avoid putting your practice into shock, you may decide to continue the charade with them and wisely choose to begin your new way of being with the next new patient. Excellent! Careful. With new patients being so scarce, are sure you want to risk it?
Perhaps this notion of practicing pure chiropractic seems obvious to me because I’ve been involved in some form of marketing communications for the last 40 years. So here’s the bottom line. You want to be real clear about your USP, that is, what is your Unique Selling Proposition. What makes you different? Drug free? Great. All natural? Terrific. No side effects other than positive effects? Super. So take it to the next level and enjoy real freedom: make sure every patient knows that they’re doing the healing, not you. And that you can’t predict what chiropractic care will do anymore than you can lose weight for them or stop smoking for them. Healing is an inside job. Always has been. Aligning your practice and your patient communications with this principle is the access to greater impact and more freedom.