• Fresh Views

    Doing things differently: Using solution focused questions to build a therapeutic alliance

    Tami’s photos from the Chihuly glass sculptures exhibit at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. She did things differently by not only viewing the exhibit in the daylight, but also after dark, and got an entirely different perspective.

    Doing things differently leads to something exceptional. – Anonymous

    We’re just returning home from the fantastic #AADE19 Annual Meeting and look forward to sharing some new information next week. Today enjoy an encore post from this past march where we discussed the concept of a Therapeutic Alliance!

    The strength in a therapeutic alliance

    As you may know, we strongly believe in the concept of a “therapeutic alliance” (which you may also know as the “helping alliance” or the “working alliance”). This alliance refers to the relationship between a healthcare professional and the person with diabetes by which they engage with each other to bring about beneficial change for that person with diabetes. This relationship is a most important component.

    The power of language

    It’s near to impossible to create those connections and build that alliance without focusing on language. Language and word choice is one of the most powerful choices we have. Words can demonstrate respect, empowerment and support or words can shame and blame. Respecting the expertise and experience of the person living with diabetes is essential to develop a strong therapeutic alliance.

    Focusing on solutions, not problems

    You also probably know that we are using solutions focused brief therapy (SFBT) and coaching in our work. SFBT is a questioning approach with conversation focusing on the client’s vision and how he/she identifies potential solutions. The questions asked during the interaction focus on a desired future state, and on what is already working well for that individual in the present. We acknowledge that the client has all the skills necessary to achieve their goals. As we mentioned last week, our goal, through incorporating principles of SFBT and coaching in diabetes care and education, is to change the conversation, the interaction and the experience of the diabetes community to improve health.

    10 questions practitioners can use to build a therapeutic alliance

    If you are a healthcare practitioner, we want to share 10 questions that you might find useful when engaging in discussions with patients or clients to acknowledge and build the therapeutic alliance. These questions reinforce the human side of both parties. They demonstrate that you care about the person sitting with you and that the relationship between you is important. Moreso, the word choices and body language during the interaction can go a long way towards creating a relationship of mutual respect.

    1. Thank you for coming in. Tell me what’s been going on. What can I help you with today?
    2. What do you wish to achieve or learn by the end of this session so that you can say you’re glad that you were here?
    3. What is the best way for me to work with you? (For example, do you prefer talking on the phone or text messages?)
    4. So that I can learn more about you, what do you consider your assets and strengths?
    5. Is there anything else you’d like to share that I should know?
    6. When you are at your best, what does that look like? How is that different from the way things are now?
    7. How can you do more of what is making things go well?
    8. If we created a plan, what would you consider a start to your being on the right track? And what else?
    9. What can you take from this session that can help you in the coming weeks?
    10. What will you be doing differently after the visit?

    Here are 3 additional questions that can be used to glean insight and feedback on the interaction:

    1. What feedback would you like to give me about today’s session?
    2. On a scale of 0-10, to what extent did you feel heard, understood, and respected during this session? 0 being you did not feel heard, understood or respected at all.
    3. On a scale of 0-10, to what extent did we talk about and work on the things that are important to you during this session? 0 being not at all.

    If you try incorporating some of these questions, we’d love to hear from you about your experiences and if you felt differently during your client visits. We leave you with 3 things to consider:  

    • Do you feel more present and “conscious” during the visit?
    • Do you feel like a “human” first and a practitioner second?
    • Do you notice that your clients are achieving their goals, and most importantly, are they feeling more confident in their ability to live well while managing diabetes?

    Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @AFreshPOVforYou.

    Disclaimer: A Fresh POV for You is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

  • Fresh Views

    Going off the beaten path


    From our off the beaten path adventure to  Ireland’s rugged West Coast

    Life throws challenges and every challenge comes with rainbows and lights to conquer it. –  Amit Ray

    With St. Patrick’s Day a few days away, memories of a trip we took to Ireland 4 years ago come flooding back into our minds. We and our husbands, along with two other couples, each of us from a different part of the US, convened for what became a trip of a lifetime.

    While the trip began in Dublin, the real adventure started when we got off the beaten path. When we got away from touristy spots, outside our comfort zone, and took a cross country road trip to the Western rugged coast of Ireland. The picture you see above with the rainbow was taken from the back yard as we were “imprinting” and savoring our last view at the end of the trip. This trip truly turned out to be our proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  On this journey not only did we see magnificent castles, abbeys, history galore, sheep galore, glorious green like we’ve never seen, and breathtaking views, we laughed A LOT. We strengthened friendships, we made new lifelong friends in Ireland, but most importantly we learned that when you go off the beaten path (so to speak), good things can happen. You get a different view. You gain a different perspective. You get a different experience. (And yes these experiences are in our gratitude journals and brought us great joy! If you’ve been reading our blogs you’ll know how we embrace expressing gratitude and finding joy in life).

    The majesty of the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

    Reflecting and bringing these experiences back to our practices leads us to ask: What if you went off the beaten path so to speak, and rather than focusing on the things in life when managing diabetes that are NOT going the way you want, instead, focus on the things that ARE going well? In our experience, so often we see that healthcare professionals and those living with diabetes alike, fixate on things that are not as desired – whether its an out of range blood glucose, a high A1C, or frequent hypoglycemia. That can leave you burnt out, and frankly beat down. What if instead you get a whole different experience by taking the road less traveled? Focusing on what you are doing well and how you can achieve or do that more.

    This next week we challenge you (whether you live with diabetes or not) to identify at least 1 thing that’s gone well. Is it possible to repeat what you did to lead to more “positive” experiences and days?

    In closing, returning to the our Irish adventure. The four couples deeply bonded on this trip. We valued the time spent together. It  made us realize we wanted to spend more time together over similar shared experiences. So, we are in fact planning another “off the beaten path” adventure across the South of France this summer. Adventuring through life experiences worked for us. It brings us joy. So we are going to do it again. We are sure to have some new perspectives, new learnings and beautiful views to share with you!

    Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @AFreshPOVforYou.  

  • Fresh Views

    Doing things differently: Using solution focused questions to build a therapeutic alliance


    Tami’s photos from the Chihuly glass sculptures exhibit at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. She did things differently by not only viewing the exhibit in the daylight, but also after dark, and got an entirely different perspective.

    Doing things differently leads to something exceptional. – Anonymous

    Our blog last week focused on being a human first.  There was so much information in that one blog post that we decided to highlight and reinforce a few concepts today. So here we go!

    The strength in a therapeutic alliance

    As you may know, we strongly believe in the concept of a “therapeutic alliance” (which you may also know as the “helping alliance” or the “working alliance”). This alliance refers to the relationship between a healthcare professional and the person with diabetes by which they engage with each other to bring about beneficial change for that person with diabetes. This relationship is a most important component.

    The power of language

    It’s near to impossible to create those connections and build that alliance without focusing on language. Language and word choice is one of the most powerful choices we have. Words can demonstrate respect, empowerment and support or words can shame and blame. Respecting the expertise and experience of the person living with diabetes is essential to develop a strong therapeutic alliance.

    Focusing on solutions, not problems

    You also probably know that we are using solutions focused brief therapy (SFBT) and coaching in our work. SFBT is a questioning approach with conversation focusing on the client’s vision and how he/she identifies potential solutions. The questions asked during the interaction focus on a desired future state, and on what is already working well for that individual in the present. We acknowledge that the client has all the skills necessary to achieve their goals. As we mentioned last week, our goal, through incorporating principles of SFBT and coaching in diabetes care and education, is to change the conversation, the interaction and the experience of the diabetes community to improve health.

    10 questions practitioners can use to build a therapeutic alliance

    If you are a healthcare practitioner, we want to share 10 questions that you might find useful when engaging in discussions with patients or clients to acknowledge and build the therapeutic alliance. These questions reinforce the human side of both parties. They demonstrate that you care about the person sitting with you and that the relationship between you is important. Moreso, the word choices and body language during the interaction can go a long way towards creating a relationship of mutual respect.

    1. Thank you for coming in. Tell me what’s been going on. What can I help you with today?
    2. What do you wish to achieve or learn by the end of this session so that you can say you’re glad that you were here?
    3. What is the best way for me to work with you? (For example, do you prefer talking on the phone or text messages?)
    4. So that I can learn more about you, what do you consider your assets and strengths?
    5. Is there anything else you’d like to share that I should know?
    6. When you are at your best, what does that look like? How is that different from the way things are now?
    7. How can you do more of what is making things go well?
    8. If we created a plan, what would you consider a start to your being on the right track? And what else?
    9. What can you take from this session that can help you in the coming weeks?
    10. What will you be doing differently after this visit?

    Here are 3 additional questions that can be used to glean insight and feedback on the interaction:

    1. What feedback would you like to give me about today’s session?
    2. On a scale of 0-10, to what extent did you feel heard, understood, and respected during this session? 0 being you did not feel heard, understood or respected at all.
    3. On a scale of 0-10, to what extent did we talk about and work on the things that are important to you during this session? 0 being not at all.

    If you try incorporating some of these questions, we’d love to hear from you about your experiences and if you felt differently during your client visits. We leave you with 3 things to consider:  

    • Do you feel more present and “conscious” during the visit?
    • Do you feel like a “human” first and a practitioner second?
    • Do you notice that your clients are achieving their goals, and most importantly, are they feeling more confident in their ability to live well while managing their diabetes?

    Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @AFreshPOVforYou.

  • Fresh Views

    Being human first: Perspectives around optimizing healthcare interactions


    Tami and Deb enjoying fresh views in Chicago, finding freedom and joy in life.
    T

    Of course different people fulfill different functions in this world. It cannot be otherwise. As far as intellectual or physical abilities are concerned – knowledge, skills, talents, and energy levels – human beings differ widely. What really matters is not what function you fulfill in this world, but whether you identify with your function to such an extent that it takes you over and becomes a role that you play. When you play roles, you are unconscious.“   – Eckhart Tolle

    Deb’s been listening to an Oprah’s Book Club book on Audible, Eckhart Tolle A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. While Deb has found the book deep, and a challenging “read”, she’s found that it creates an opportunity to take an introspective look at the way we engage in the world. Tolle believes everyone can find “the freedom and joy of life” if they live in the present moment.

    Deb has also been listening to Oprah’s weekly Super Soul Conversations Podcast to review each chapter of the book, typically while taking her daily walk (and it’s helping a lot to understand and internalize the concepts). During a recent podcast there was discussion between Oprah and Tolle about roles people play and how roles inhibit thinking.  In applying some of Tolle’s principles to our mission and vision here @AFreshPOVforYOU, there was an “a ha” moment for Deb around how the #languagematters movement in healthcare needs to expand to include not just the words we use, but also how we implement person first language. (check out our November blog on why language matters here)  To really put the person (not the “patient”) first, there needs to be a “person” on both sides of the interaction for true person centered care.

    One section of Oprah’s weekly podcast addressed healthcare and how when a healthcare professional “plays the role of healthcare professional”, he or she may become “unconscious” of the fact he or she is a human person while embracing their “healthcare role”. And, that the “patient” across from them is also a person. Something vital is then missing. And as a result, the person (“patient) may end up feeling disconnected and dismissed.

    The discussion brought to mind a recent #DSMA Twitter chat that @AFreshPOVforYou joined a couple of weeks ago. One question asked during the chat was: “How can healthcare practitioners facilitate more empowering or effective communication with patients or vise versa?”  One enlightened participant, the incredible behavioral and data scientist Dr. Chandra Osborn replied, “Be a human first – a practitioner second.”  

    Her reply really struck a chord, and aligns with the closing words in Tolle’s quote above, “When you play roles, you are unconscious.“ Let’s repeat that…..”When you play roles, you are unconscious”. How can there be empowering or effective communication if people are not “present” and if they are “unconscious”?

    Along those lines, We @AFreshPOVforYOU have experienced this first hand.

    Deb’s experience…

    Deb recalls a visit with her daughter to the pediatrician where they never once made eye contact. The doctor typed on the computer the whole time, asking impersonal questions and fulfilling her role. They did not feel like they were part of the conversation.

    Tami’s experience…

    Tami remembers a similar scenario while sitting alongside her mom at hospital discharge following her mom’s knee surgery. The healthcare team was talking all “around” both of them, talking to each other, asking questions, giving a multitude of instructions, rarely looking at them or expressing interest in their point of view or concerns. They did not feel like they were part of the conversation either.

    We’ve heard many similar stories from people with diabetes – how at times the relationship with their healthcare provider was not ideal. Some have stated they cancelled an appointment because they didn’t want to be scolded for an A1C value that was higher than expected. Or because their weight was up a few pounds.

    In traditional healthcare people with diabetes are expected to play the role of patient and clinicians play the role of doctor, nurse, dietitian etc.  Yet this type of engagement does not promote healthy communications and relationships. As Tolle recounts, “Authentic human interactions become impossible when you lose yourself in a role.”

    We’ve experienced being on both sides of this equation.  As diabetes educators, we are always striving to improve, but we are not perfect. We’ve made our share of mistakes, but we’ve grown and learned from them. Deb recalls one client she saw years ago that was very frustrated with her because she was following the “assigned content” for the appointment per the prescribed healthcare provider orders, and at the end of the visit the client said, “we didn’t have time for any of my questions!”  That meeting really left an impact on her, she was playing the “role” of a diabetes educator and she never made that mistake again. Fast forward to a more recent experience when she received a call from a healthcare provider who referred his patient to her.  The doctor said, “I’m not quite sure what you did, but Mr. Jones is never satisfied with anything  or anyone, but he could not stop talking about how his appointment with you was the best diabetes visit he’s ever had.”  You know what she did? She started by asking him about his family and recent vacation, and then asked what was going well with his diabetes management?  She was being a human first and he was treated like a person.

    If you follow our blog, you know that we are advocates of solution focused therapy. In the context of solution focused therapy, the client/person with diabetes is viewed as the expert and the most important element is the “therapeutic alliance” between the client and the practitioner.  The relationship is the key to being able to work together. And to build a relationship it requires being present, being conscious of one’s own behaviors, use of language, and body language which all tell a story. We believe it’s critical to enter healthcare exchanges as a human first- not playing a role – with each party recognizing their part in the conversation/interaction as valuable.

    Our goal, through incorporating principles of solutions focused therapy and coaching in diabetes care and education, is to change the conversation, the interaction and the experience of the diabetes community to improve health.  As Eckhart Tolle says, we need to “become conscious of being conscious.”  We need to work as a team, be present in all of our interactions and most of all be human.

    In closing, we leave you with a few thoughts on what you can do when you engage in a healthcare interaction.

    If you are a healthcare provider:

    1. Be human first
    2. Check your ego at the door
    3. Appreciate that the person in front of you is as an expert on their condition
    4. Listen carefully before speaking
    5. When possible, sit on the same side of the table
    6. Understand the burden associated with living with a chronic condition

    If you are a person living with a chronic condition:

    1. Be human first
    2. Actively participate in your medical appointments and your self-management to the best of your ability
    3. Work in partnership with your care team
    4. Be honest about your capabilities

    Subscribe to our blog and we’ll email you when a new post is published!

    Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @AFreshPOVforYou.  

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