The Science of Coaching - How to Be a More Effective Practitioner
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
As many practitioners can attest to, clients and patients can seem ready and raring to go, only to drop off after a few sessions or cancel appointments without a word of explanation. This can lead to frustration, gaps in our schedules and a general concern for the people who have disappeared. People that we genuinely wanted to help. While it may be easiest to blame the client for not being ready, not having enough time, or any other excuse we can insert here, it’s also on us as practitioners to assess how ready this client or patient is to make change. This is what we call the science of coaching, which relies on basic psychology.
By understanding where our client is at, in terms of their readiness to make change and their day to day routine, we can create plans and protocols that fit into their lifestyle. When we create protocols this way, rather than asking them to make overwhelming and drastic changes- client compliance increases. As practitioners, we have to assess if we are having unrealistic expectations about how much they are ready to take on. Here are a few things to consider.
Current Lifestyle Habits
Understanding a client or patient’s lifestyle is integral to creating a plan that fits. This can be frustrating as a practitioner at times. We have the ability to zoom out and see the problem staring us in the face (heavy smoker, drinker, late nights, daily visits to the drive through etc), when our clients may not. But the reality is that we as practitioners need to have flexibility in our protocol framework to adapt to our clients current day to day habits. It is up to us to discern what is feasible for them to take on and give up. We assess the situation, the person and set the appropriate cadence for our clients trajectory and adjust accordingly.
The analogy I share with both students and clients is this: If you decide you’re going to run a marathon, you would never start by running 42km outright. You would start by walking, running small distances and learning the ins and outs of the movements and accessory lifestyle habits necessary to accomplish your dream of running a marathon one day. For some, they may have previous experience with running or training, making it easier for them to get to their goal faster. For others, they may need more time, education and understanding before reaching the finish line.
Keeping this in mind when you are preparing a plan can not only reduce client / patient drop off, but also increase the likelihood of this person feeling empowered and excited to keep progressing.
Time, availability and commitments
Another aspect we often forget about as practitioners is time constraints and life commitments. Just because we may live and breathe health and wellness, from the daily movement practices that we have to the nutritious meals we make for ourselves, doesn’t mean that others live by the same principles. And, we need to honour that. Asking your clients / patients about their daily routines (work schedule, exercise, extra curricular activities, kid duties etc) can give you an idea of how much they have on their daily plate. You can also simply ask them, how much time do you have to invest in meal prep, cooking or activities for your health and wellness. If the answer is “not much”, work together to find a first step to help them, be it by suggesting a meal prep service, healthier lunch options near their work, you name it.
Knowledge of nutrition and wellness
Gauging your client’s / patient’s knowledge and understanding of nutrition is also a key factor that can be overlooked. This can be determined through discussion during an intake, food logs / lifestyle logs or even through information written on intake forms prior to meeting the client.
By understanding the level of knowledge this person possesses around the topic of nutrition, one can make better informed decisions around the type of vocabulary used during the session and the explanations given to the client about their situation.
Another point to consider is how much knowledge the client wants - some prefer more information, while others simply want answers to their questions and a plan to follow.
Desire and readiness to make change
Finally, determining client readiness will allow you to have a better picture of what this client / patient is ready to do, right now. Depending on someone’s readiness to make change, they may be at a point where they desire action, like working through the plan you prepare for them, or they may be at a point where they are simply looking to gather information, be it by perusing your website, going through a discovery session or even coming to an intake session to learn more about their options.
What we often forget as practitioners is that sometimes someone’s words may not align with their actions. Looking towards models like the Stages of Change can be helpful when you are trying to figure out where this person is at.
Being able to determine someone’s placement in the Stages of Change model will allow you to make better decisions when it comes to program planning, but will also allow you to take client drop offs less personally. Same when someone books a discovery call, and doesn’t follow through, or sends you an email and then fails to respond to your detailed reply about your services. You may also notice less drop off and more bookings when you are able to pinpoint which stage this person may be in, so you can better serve them.
By working with psychology, helping clients find success becomes easier. This approach to client care brings a certain flow to your practice, empowering clients to make change and sustain it. All while providing you with a sense of confidence and understanding around how to build plans that fit your clients’ needs, while creating a welcoming environment during sessions.
If you want to deep dive into these concepts to provide your clients with sessions that truly move the needle on their health goals, increase your confidence as a practitioner and more importantly- scale your nutrition business through expanding your referral reach, check out our newest online course, The Confident Nutritionist: transform your nutrition practice into a profitable business that you love. It's self-pace but registration is only open until Sept. 24th!
Author, Sidney Shindle, Co-Founder, Fiore Health