Monday, August 26, 2013

These Are Not the Clients You're Looking For

I'm getting closer and closer to starting my own private practice.  I've registered my practice name as a DBA (Doing Business As), I've got insurance coverage for my practicd and I'm zeroing in on an office space.  I will only start seeing clients on a part-time basis because I still need to keep my full-time job but things are moving quickly.

As I'm starting this new journey, some acquaintances have referred some friends or family that they'd like me to see.  One such referral was for someone who was looking to lose weight because they were interested in joining a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.  In case you did not know, each branch of the service has their own weight requirements and everyone who enlists must be below the maximum allowable weight or they are not allowed in.

From what I could gather, my client's date to enroll was getting close and needed to jumpstart their weight loss plan and they were looking to me for guidance. I thought long and hard about whether I should take this client.  Just like I tell my clients to do when they embark on making changes, I weighed the pros and cons of taking the client.  After some time I made a decision not to take this client on.  In the end my decision came down to this:

  1. As a believer in Intuitive Eating, I don't subscribe to meal-plans for weight loss.  They are useful in some situations but when it comes to really embracing Intuitive Eating, a meal plan gets in the way of listening to and honoring your body's cravings.  
  2. By helping this client lose weight with a calorie budget and meal plan, would I be starting them on a cycle of dieting?  So let's say they meet their goal with me...they enlist in the military and then sometime after basic training or somewhere down the road they start to gain weight.  Once this weight gain occurs will they fall back on that familiar meal plan and continue to ignore their own intuitive signals?
  3. The fact that it ssemed to be an urgent need to lose weight concerned me. This is not the kind of work that I'd like to do since the focus on just the number on the scale ignores so many other factors that determine our overall health.n I'd rather focus my efforts on health and not just a number. 
  4. Although I can not change the military, this notion that anyone outside of their silly weight requirements can not perform as a soldier is absurd. It spits in the face of the whole Healthy at Every Size® movement which I so firmly believe in.  
I really struggled with this decision.  As I'm starting to make a name for myself in the private practice world, I was essentially throwing away money by rejecting this client.  Could I have helped them meet their goal?  You bet I could have.  I'm sure I could have helped them learn how to count calories and plan some meals that would help shed the pounds but at the end of the day, I don't think that's why I'm starting a private practice.  If I took this client, I was starting down a slippery slope and eventually I'd be seeing clients who came to me only for quick-fix weight loss plans.

So my question is this: Do you think I made the right decision?  Should I stick to my beliefs or should I not turn away any possible client as I get my practice started?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Also, be sure to stay tuned to hear more exciting news about my private practice.


5 comments:

  1. I absolutely think you made the right decision. BTW, I'm also in the process of gearing up to start a private practice in the Pasadena area.

    I'd love to chat with you some time to see what you might recommend and to see if we can't be a referral system for one another since I'm planning to only see women (perinatal focus).

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  2. It is not that simple. You are not necessarily selling out your principles by taking on a difficult case. Nor do you have to accept any and all clients seeking your guidance to jump start your business. The question is whether you can adhere to your methods with a difficult goal to reach. Obviously, this person has a clear objective for what appears to be a legitimate reason. Do you turn your back on someone that may need your advice the most just because he/she does not fit your ideal profile. I would think that someone who is joining the military would be most in need of your expertise. For this prospective client, his challenge (goal) is there whether you help him or not. Do you turn your back on him?

    In my field, I find the most challenging cases are the most professionally rewarding. Moreover, it is these difficult cases that allows me to cultivate my skills most effectively. Sometimes, being selective in clients can keep you on the path of least-resistance and stymy professional growth. Take the difficult case, and disclose your reservations to your client. Define the scope of your work given your methods and the goal to be achieved. You will broaden your own perspective from the experience.

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  3. Intuitive eating is definitely not a lose weight by a certain deadline approach. Sounds like you made the right decision.

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  4. I would have taken on the client, both to build a business and to learn how to put a client's needs first while still sharing knowledge about intuitive eating.

    Although you have an overriding philosophy and this person's specific requests might not have meshed with it, you still could have made a difference. Why not help the person meet the deadline while still planting the seeds of a more global solution to weight issues? You could make the case that, although dieting might work in the short-term, it is not a path to long-term success. For every calorie-counting activity, pair an intuitive eating activity. Make it clear upfront that you are opposed to fast weight loss, but support the person's goal and are willing to help as long as they agree to let you provide better solutions along the way.

    Everyone knows people who have lost weight and gained it back. This person may even be one of them. But once they get to boot camp, gaining weight will not be an option. If they have intuitive eating tools, they can survive the inability to binge eat through the lessons you have taught.

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