Who really needs a doctor anyway?

Let’s get practical today and do some self-care strategizing!  (I love this kind of stuff!)

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from the women in my private practice is that their healthcare provider either doesn’t listen or doesn’t hear what they’re saying.  It’s almost like the provider already knows what is wrong and has decided on a treatment plan before the patient has said one word about what’s going on.

There is such power in our stories – whether it’s just a chapter of a life being told or as much of a lifetime as you’re willing to share.  Our stories create our reality and have significant effects on our health.  Were you the kid that always got sick on the first day of school because of the stress of a new year?  Maybe you always got sick during the first few days of vacation because you could finally relax a bit.  For some, going to visit a particular family member may cause physical symptoms because of the history and story there. 

It’s all intertwined.  To really pursue improvements in your health, I believe you also need to be able to embrace your entire story – the good, the bad and the mediocre. 

(A quick aside here – embracing your entire story doesn’t mean that we are condoning inappropriate or abusive behaviors from others.  This is about putting all of the different pieces of your life experience together in context and seeing how it all has created the amazing and resilient individual who is reading this right now.)

The thing about stories is that they need to be shared.  That definitely doesn’t mean you need to write and publish a biography with every detail, but there should be individuals in your life with whom you can safely and confidently share chapters of your story.  One of those people should be your healthcare provider.

The issue then becomes many physicians and other providers are being pushed to see more and more folks in a day – they are effectively making widgets which are counted and used as an evaluation of that provider.  Ultimately, we can likely agree that our healthcare system needs some remodeling.  We can all influence those changes, but that’s not the goal today. 

What we can control is our expectations. 

When looking for someone who is qualified to listen to your story and support you in creating your best self physically, mentally, emotionally and in all of the other aspects of life, you need to know something about the different service providers out there so you can make a more informed decision about your partners in this adventure for better health and a better life. 

And that’s where Self-Care Strategy comes into play!  My hope is that if you see any one of these providers, they will refer you to one of the others if it serves you well.  (After all, you are the most critical part of this puzzle!)  Just in case my perfect little dream doesn’t happen, here is some basic information about general providers that may help you decide on the best partner for your situation. 

Self-Care Strategy

Which health service provider is most suited to your needs?  Of course, it is important to keep in mind that each provider is also an individual with their own unique strengths, skills and interests.  Always use a first visit as an interview to improve the chances of good compatibility with your provider. 

Please note – this list is not comprehensive.  Do not assume my professional or personal opinion about providers listed or not listed here.  Health and wellness require multiple team members and approaches; we all have a role.

Primary Care Provider, MD, DO, NP or PA: These licensed providers are the ones you likely consider “regular” healthcare providers.  They may or may not believe in alternative or complementary (also known as integrative) therapies.  They may or may not talk about supplements and herbs, but they can and will write you a prescription for any medication that is indicated based on what they learn about you during a history and physical.  These are the providers that work in just about any hospital, clinic or urgent care; they are the backbone of our health system.

One additional tidbit here – a DO is a doctor of osteopathic medicine.  They are trained, vetted and licensed just like MDs and function in exactly the same manner, although they are also trained in manual medicine techniques.  DOs may or may not be more holistically minded than MDs.  It really depends on the individual physician, whether MD or DO. 

Integrative or Functional medicine MD, DO, NP or PA: These licensed providers are trained in conventional medicine but then have also pursued additional training in either functional or integrative medicine.  Both of these subspecialties focus on finding the root cause of symptoms and illnesses and supporting the body with evidence-based (there is research to support a claim) nutrition (whole food and supplements), stress management and integrative therapies.  They will discuss supplements and herbs, and they are able to write for prescription medications if and when it is indicated by your story and symptoms, as well as your goals and values.  These providers are most commonly found in private clinics, although more and more health systems are hiring them to provide services requested by their communities. 

Counselor or Therapist: Counselors are licensed in all states.  Therapists may or may not be licensed.  Both of these professional groups focus on mental health and can support an individual going through a wide variety of life experiences – grief, abuse, addiction, marital issues, etc.  Within their respective scope of practice, they are skilled at listening, using tools and techniques to process emotion and memory, and they can act as a coach, as described below.  These providers are commonly in solo or small group practices or programs, but may also be part of a larger health system.

Health Coach: These non-licensed professionals focus on supporting an individual move toward and achieve a particular health or wellness goal, like increasing physical activity or making lasting change in food choices.  Health coaches offer accountability.  They cannot diagnose or “treat” any individual or condition, but well-trained health coaches know enough about major health conditions that they can responsibly guide an individual through lifestyle change and refer to licensed providers when necessary.  Increasingly, health coaches are being hired into doctor’s offices to help patients achieve health-related changes in their lives.

Alrighty!  There is your first lesson in Self-Care Strategy…which all comes down to making sure you have the information you need to make really well-informed decisions for and about your own health.  More to come!!

And if you would like this practical info to come straight to your inbox every Sunday morning, just scroll down and sign up for Postcards.  See you next week!


Expectations, Self-Care Strategy, Your Story

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