July 12, 2013

Has your clinical work ever been questioned by another practitioner?

It’s hard not to get defensive when a client says, “My [other practitioner] thinks the recommendations you gave me aren’t what I need.”

My first thought is always, “Well, that other person clearly has no idea what she’s talking about. Where did SHE go to school?” <— Defense! Attack!

My second thought follows quickly: “Oh crap, did I make a mistake? Did I miss something?” I start looking for my liability policy, just in case.

Notice how these thoughts are both defensive and insecure? That’s just human nature, and very common.

Naturally I never say either of those thoughts aloud to the client. Instead, I try to see things from her perspective. Having two practitioners giving differing advice can feel confusing and even overwhelming.

The client may also feel frustrated, since she’s not sure who to trust. She may be taking hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements, not knowing which to start or stop. She also may be spending plenty of money on office visits, and the different recommendations she receives may be working against one another or canceling each other out.

In the end, the client is just trying to decide what’s best to do. By bringing this up with you, she’s actually asking for your help in choosing – and yes, maybe the other clinician might have some good advice.


Try these steps:

  1. Ask to communicate directly with the other practitioner. Secondhand communication via the client isn’t ideal, as she may not accurately understand either approach.
  2. Ask yourself if your treatment approach is significantly adding to the client’s care. Would she be better off working with the other practitioner? Are your modalities/approaches complementary? Or are you covering the same ground in different ways?
  3. If there is significant overlap, encourage the client to choose one direction to pursue. Maintain your professional demeanor and avoid negative comments about the other practitioner.
  4. If asked, give your objective opinion and provide support for each approach to help the client choose between them.
  5. Give the client the option to change her mind. If she chooses to pursue working with the other practitioner, she can come back to you later, in the event that she feels it’s not working well. If she chooses to work with you, give a specific timeline and say that if no progress is made by a certain date, she could try the other clinician’s approach.

Remember: this isn’t about you; it’s about the client. Remove the personal component, don’t get defensive and maintain professionalism. You’ll be better able to guide your client to an appropriate decision.

And by keeping the client’s best interests in mind, you’ll navigate the situation gracefully.

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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