Monday, March 11, 2013

Learning to build up a good relationship with our patients

Like all skills, we have to practise how to create a good relationship with our patients.  A successful relationship is one where we are able to match what we have to offer with what our patients need as smoothly as possible.  Here, of course, our knowledge of the elements will act as our guide, for what one person needs will differ very markedly from what somebody of a different element will need. Some people are lucky, and either by their nature or by the circumstance of their lives have an ability to empathize with other people that a fellow practitioner has first to learn, and all of us will find it easier dealing with some elements than with others.  Perhaps to some people’s surprise we are not necessarily most at our ease with those of our own element, because seeing our own needs reflected in a patient may make it difficult for us to maintain an appropriate distance.  The secret here is to recognise that we may always find relationships with patients of some elements more complex and difficult than others, and remain aware of this as we engage with these patients.

I will describe some of my own reactions and difficulties with patients of certain elements (see the following blogs). These are personal to me, and every other practitioner must study their own responses and learn from them.  But learn they must, otherwise they will not understand their patients’ needs.  More importantly their patients will not feel understood, and then their elements will take to hiding themselves away. How can a five element acupuncturist treat if we don’t know which element is crying out for help?

Nobody should think that this comes easily to any of us.  When I look back at my own practice, I can see many instances where I did not understand what a patient needed, and I offered my help in a way which was not wanted.  Inevitably it was these patients who decided quite quickly that I was not the practitioner for them.  And they were right!  How could I help somebody if I was misreading what they were asking of me?  It was as though I was talking in an emotional language foreign to these patients, or rather assuming that both of us were talking in the same language when we very obviously were not.  One way of looking at relationships with our patients is thus to see them as though they require us to learn to speak in an emotional language with which only our patient is familiar and at ease in.  We therefore need to learn to speak in a different emotional language for each patient.  And like learning any new language, this takes time and a good deal of practise.  

We all know the warm feeling we have when we have got it right with a patient.  It is those times when we know that we have not which we should accept as teaching us the most.  JR always said that it was far better if students observing him with patients did not get the elements he diagnosed right, because the only true learning is through our mistakes.  

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