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Treat the whole person: Mind, Body, Emotions, Community Support.

Posted Sep 01 2011 12:00am

The more time that I spend in the clinic as a student clinician, the more that I realize the importance of meeting people where they are, in terms of their own health status healthcare. The word “naturopath” automatically comes with this unspoken meaning of extremely great health, which I would love to uphold. However, I am only human. I do like to drink coffee and ice cream and potato chips, and some times non-90%-dark chocolate. I do have an occasional glass of wine at night, and I cannot help myself when I am around baked goods. Okay, now you know my vices. Don’t judge me too much.

Or at least that’s sometimes the feeling that I get from patients. They come to the Naturopath to become healthy again, although they really may be sugar coating all the “bad” things they eat and do at home. Case and point: yesterday in clinic, I had a truly inspiring experience as a student clinician. A patient came in with a history of hypertension, type II diabetes mellitus, depression, and alopecia. This patient opened up the visit with a series of confessions: “I haven’t been checking my glucose levels, I haven’t been recording my blood pressure, I have not been eating the best that I could have, I have not been taking my supplements, and I have not been taking care of myself.”

Wow. What a scary and empowering way to open up a doctor’s visit. I could just see the relieve pour down the patient’s shoulders as she relaxed and was finally true to herself. She was not trying to pretend she was monitoring her blood sugar or heart rate or mood. She was not trying to pretend she ate an apple a day to keep the doctor away. She was just disinterested in taking care of herself the way that she has taken care of other people in the past. The primary student clinician, without a spec of judgement in her voice, asked, “Well, why do you consider that as being bad?” Which was a great way to open up the conversation of how this patient was taking care of herself.

As naturopaths, we are not here to judge. We are not here to make remarks on how erratically someone is taking care of themselves, because ultimately, it is their life and their body. We’re only here as facilitators. Which may be a more difficult role, in and of itself. How do you inspire someone to light that fire, to start exercising after 6 months of inactivity, to put down the oreo and pick up a carrot instead? To me, this means being human, and maybe having a “healthy” vice or two. Everything in moderation. Its fine to not eat organic everything 24/7. Eat a cookie, but in moderation. We are only human, and we are here to enjoy our lives.

I wrote this post because I was deeply inspired by my patient yesterday. She was true to herself, she was willing to look vulnerable in front of 2 student clinicians and a resident doctor, and she was willing to start making changes. I am thankful everyday that I get to experience such great patients in our teaching clinic. Each patient I see is truly inspiring to me to continue my hard work to help someone’s health and be that inspiration that they need in order to make great lifestyle changes and healthy choices later on.

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