Bridging the gap between Conventional and Complementary Holistic Therapy
by Susan Pash
Taking Networking to Another Level
Like many therapists I came to complementary therapy because of my own health issues. Now in my early 50’s, I am healthier than I was when I was a “You-Name-It-I’ve–Probably-Tried-It” Diet Veteran in my early 40’s.
As a dieter, I remember the daily weighing, a day completely ruined if a pound had crept on, foods that were “bad” but I deserved because I’d had a stressful day so that made it temporarily “good.” A really bad day meant I deserved even more… I look back and cringe about the catalogue of irrational behaviour caused by dieting, which finally led, ten years ago, to my saying ‘enough is enough’ when with horror I realised what I was role modelling and mirroring my then three year old daughter.
My philosophy since has become that I have a greater responsibility to my children to mirror that in real life women are all shapes and sizes, that being skinny doesn’t necessarily make people healthy, or happy, and that self-esteem doesn’t depend on size or the numbers on the scales.
And now as a therapist…
Whatever therapies we practice, we often see clients who have health problems associated with their weight, and many will be Diet Veterans. Other clients may be new to the dieting treadmill, perhaps because menopause or aging generally is causing unexpected changes to body composition. But Diet Veteran or Diet Rookie, the bottom line is that the success rate for dieting is as miserable as it usually makes us!
When it comes to losing weight, I think of it in terms of three general categories. On one side of the page is otherwise healthy people looking for the “quick fix” to get into the ‘little black dress’’ because an important event is coming up. Over on the other side are those who have diagnosed medical conditions (such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease) who are receiving ongoing conventional treatment and medication.
But there seems to be a growing number who occupy the ‘middle ground,’ with problems not severe enough to get full support from an already overstretched health system, but who aren’t comfortable with a commercial diet plan based on the myths of the cosmetic ideal. They are aware of the issues, or know from past experience, that the ‘quick fix’ or ‘one-size fits all’ diets not only don’t work, but could make their health deteriorate at a much faster pace. Also within this ‘middle ground’ are those who say they don’t need a doctor to tell them what they already know (that they are overweight) and they fear that they will be prescribed medication for the rest of their lives. Or those who view with horror the idea of going to a weekly slimming club, to be weighed (which they can do themselves) or be ‘motivated’ to lose as much weight as possible in as short a time as possible, to prove the success of the system, possibly at the expense of their long term health.
So the ‘middle ground’ client could be one whose excess weight is putting strain on an arthritic joint, or who has been told by their doctor to try and lose some weight. Or an individual who needs to slim down in advance of surgery. Or the currently reasonably healthy client concerned about the location of the pounds slowly creeping on, i.e. their abdominal fat is increasing, an indicator for increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future. Or the client who doesn’t want to continue with the trap of joining and rejoining a slimming club for years, as their weight goes up and down.
These clients are usually very knowledgeable about nutrition, but are looking for help to ‘fine tune’ their preferred way of eating, rather than be asked to make major changes (such as becoming vegetarian, or eating lots of raw food, or eating a completely different diet to the rest of the family).
To be sustained in the longer term, what a client wants to achieve has to be looked at in the wider context of their lives. Asking a client to give the household’s typical day’s preferred eating habits, and initially making simple changes within that framework, with a brief explanation of the benefits, usually makes the transition much easier.
What has this to do with networking?
I have networked with other complementary/holistic therapists for several years, but found that the “middle ground” client needs a little more in terms of health monitoring when it comes to losing weight than most therapists are able to offer. A client who hasn’t seen a doctor for several years may, on a case history, seem the ideal candidate for a weight control plan, but may be unaware for example that they have high blood pressure.
Many people are reassured by having a few simple checks done to assess that they are well enough and that any medication they are on will be taken into account, and any self-prescribed supplements reviewed. To cover the areas I cannot offer, I therefore extended my networking to make up a separate team of three therapists, one of whom is also a nurse, to jointly work with weight loss clients.
A therapist/nurse colleague does most of the initial one-to-one assessments, (referring the client back to their doctor if something flags up). Using the information gained, if there is no client preference for a particular therapist then the team decides who take will the case, depending on the circumstances, and who has a session at a time most convenient for a client. Sometimes if someone is already an existing client of a therapist the plan can become an ‘add on’ to their usually booked treatment, such as Aromatherapy massage, or Indian Head Massage. If someone has a need no-one in the team can fulfill, (for example EFT or hypnotherapy) we still have other therapists to network with on an as and when basis.
Another route into the plan is through Iridology, which draws clients from a different market, and the assessment process is different. Whichever way the client reaches us, the whole concept relies on us as team members using the assessment information gained to explain both the results and any subsequent ‘fine tuning’ of an abundance focused plan for the individual client, rather than hand out a one-size fits all diet sheet.
After the initial assessment, within reason appointments can be spaced to suit, which makes half hour follow up one-to-one sessions compare favourably with weekly slimming groups.
Looking at the wider issues of a client’s life, such as family commitments, mobility problems or what they want to mirror to their own children or grandchildren whilst still achieving their goals is just as important as what they choose to eat. Apart from nutrition and iridology, my dieting disaster experience has been drawn on by the team and is being used as an asset to this part of my practice rather than the liability I thought it was.
I know firsthand that calling any diet a ‘healthy eating plan’ doesn’t wash if, at a cellular level, my body can’t tell the difference between the chosen plan and a ‘famine’. With that in mind, as a team we share the vision to work with clients to help them provide their own cells with the foods that say nourishment and abundance. If, instead the result of our ongoing support signals famine or deprivation to the client’s cells, the client’s metabolism will respond, signalling the fat cells into storage mode, whatever the short term gain on the scale. Only when we help our clients view their fat cells as an altruistic, survival supporting system within the whole body, rather than the enemy to be defeated at all costs, can we help them make peace both with their fat cells, and themselves during this period of transition, with the intention of providing the window of opportunity for healing, of which healthy weight loss is a part.
The idea has taken my networking to another level by bridging the gap between conventional and complementary, and drawing new clients from both. The client benefits from both philosophies, and having more choices, and as a therapist it encourages me to keep up with the latest research on healthy weight loss and to continue to update my skills, whilst being able to draw on the expertise of colleagues. We have assessed what our typical client is likely to be looking for. The typical client doesn’t want to be given a list of what to eat, and doesn’t want to weigh or count anything. Nor do they want expensive appointments that rule them out of the programme. They also don’t want to be reliant on supplements, or exotic or difficult to source foods to maintain weight loss in the long term. They also do not want to attend indefinitely.
The programme is usually a maximum of 10 appointments, often less, during which time the client integrates the changes slowly, understanding why a change has been made. If a change cannot be made at a particular time, it can be left until later in the programme. The focus is on what can be achieved, rather than what can’t, working at a pace to suit the client. Depending on which of us has the case, we can also integrate the plan into an appointment that uses our existing individual skills such as massage, or stress management, or colour therapy.
In essence, the vision is to provide a service that I wish had been available to me during my dieting years.
Its early days yet, but the signs are very promising. The New Year often brings clients using a New Year resolution to motivate themselves to weight control. As a network, we hope to extend our workshop portfolio in the future so that the concept can reach a wider therapist audience.
Whether it’s with other complementary therapists, or bridging the gap between the conventional and the complementary.
Please follow my links below, to learn more about how this new plan is very much a part of Networking for my clients and maybe for you too.