Practitioner Development Strategies

Sep 19, 2017

By by Gayathri Shylesh

"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit"
-- E.E. Cummings
Like many of you, my initial foray into a BodyTalk practice came with many questions: Now what? What should I call my practice? How will clients find me? Who should I work on? Do I know enough? Is there another course that will help? The questions multiplied along the way and came with a lot of self-doubt that blurred my vision. I had no execution or business plan.
Many practitioners notice shifts and swings in their existing client practice, and most simply struggle with launching out of the gate. I see practitioners who struggle to find themselves in the process. While having many credentials may seem to be one alternative, there is nothing that beats a sound business strategy and a commitment to your own personal development. An execution plan with a strategy for your business accompanied by a continuous improvement process plan serves you well.

My own enthusiasm for BodyTalk propelled me into taking more courses to advance myself as a knowledgeable practitioner. While these courses provided insights and perspectives, I was still challenged with creating, managing and maintaining a client practice. While some clients shifted rapidly, others had no sustainable changes. I wanted a variety of clients and not just repeats. With no manager to provide feedback, I had to learn how to self-manage and rely on my clients for feedback. Each client then became a teacher, a practical learning tool, a case study through which I refined my practice.
Keen observation and listening to the tone and quality of a client's voice as well as what was unsaid--body language, eye movement, worry lines, gait, posture--all conveyed specific emotional and mental states. This gave me insights into the nuances of my client's world. Through self-enquiry, I was better prepared to be an observer and gain clarity into myself; this enabled me to be more present and ask clear questions that not only informed me but also got the client to focus on their issues and take responsibility for their health process.
In the beginning, I didn't know much more beyond Fundamentals. Learning and memorizing the protocol chart and the techniques was still far off from understanding it in terms of the real application for every client. My perspectives expanded as I carefully observed formulas that came up. The adage "we can't see the forest for the trees" holds true for the client and ourselves. It simply means that we cannot see the situation as it really is while we are in the midst of it. We lose perspective when we are too heavily invested in a particular agenda, outcome, approach.
The rigors of maintaining a credible client practice meant that I had to keep careful client records, payment records, expense records, time records. You build a practice, one client at a time. Records allow you to see facts and monitor progress--the return on investment for your education, time and energy. You are then able to make better decisions and course corrections in your practice. It is equally important to routinely receive sessions on your business and yourself.
Most of us don't know how to manage a clinically-based client practice. Self-imposed discipline and rigor serve you with practice management skills. Along with record-keeping, an ongoing review process is key. Successful business leaders set goals and objectives and have an evolving strategy to achieve intended outcomes in a dynamic environment. Having a professional office space and website is a small part of the equation. Getting new clients to walk through your door, establishing client rapport, getting results and having new client referrals are important criteria in developing a successful business practice. This requires refining your client interaction skills. If you engage in self-doubt then your clients will not have a sense of confidence in you. And conversely, displaying too much "head" knowledge intimidates clients and hinders heart-based resonance.
Clients come to us because they are looking for a different perspective into their imbalance. Hence, one of the big roles we play is as a health educator. Profound shifts occur when the client has an "Aha" moment. Learning to communicate this is an art and often requires personal insight into oneself. Connecting and partnering with other practitioners who practice differently than you also helps provide different perspectives. Be willing to ask and receive feedback and input. In many traditional crafts and healing systems, students are required to be apprenticed to a master healer for years if not decades before they qualify to see clients clinically or teach. There is wisdom in this tradition, and while modern day life doesn't quite lend itself to this age-old system, we can all avail of this tradition in a modified way through a self-imposed apprenticeship to the discipline of the science and art of client practice. Technology and social media resources provide limitless options to share and gain understanding.
As practitioners, it is not always easy to see ourselves objectively and this prevents us from observing our clients objectively. A BodyTalk community or a partner system can be valuable to help develop and refine the art of being a practitioner.
Be honest with yourself about your level of proficiency, knowledge and skill sets, and your commitment to a successful client practice. Very often it's easy to look at other successful practitioners as achievers while your own practice waxes and wanes. Ultimately, it is your client interaction skills and results that matter the most. Learning from other's insights and perspectives allowed me to see what I wasn't seeing before.
There is an advantage in academia in being subject to the scrutiny of a peer review process. This methodology can help you standardize and elevate the quality of work you deliver. This can be applied in your own practice by setting up post-client session surveys, one-on-one reviews with a skilled and insightful practitioner, or a group of practitioners more experienced than yourself. As I embarked on my "continuous improvement" plan, my clientele shifted as well. They now include complex and chronic health issues, cases with a poor prognosis by the medical system, practitioners from other medical systems, and more.
What follows is a list of the development strategies that served to mature, strengthen and grow my own practice:

  1. BE CURIOUS. Engage in discovery and a better understanding of your client and each session. Start noticing a pattern in your client's sessions, responses, intake and monitoring. How are they taking responsibility for their healing? Dive deep into an anatomy, physiology or consciousness concept every day. Commitment to an ongoing learning process is key.

  2. "You don't know what you don't know. And you will never know what you don't allow yourself to see." Stay humble to the fact that you cannot know everything about a client. It can also be self-defeating if we get into the "I don't know enough; maybe I should take this new course" cycle. Allow a bake-in practice period with what you know and dive deep.

  3. Study/Trade groups. Connect with other practitioners in the classes you attend to form study groups and trade groups. Create an agenda and schedule to meet and stick to it diligently. Share your client cases and your assessments while carefully listening to other perspectives and viewpoints. Offer community clinics with other practitioners.

  4. Continuous Improvement Process. Engage in ongoing self-review. Set up a feedback system with clients. How do you show up in the world and your client practice? Don't be afraid to admit/face your challenges; instead, leverage them as opportunities for practice. How comfortable are you explaining BodyTalk in a 30-second sales pitch to varying audiences? Do their eyes glaze over with your narrative? If they are still listening and asking more questions, then you have won them over.

  5. Practitioner partnerships. Partner with other BodyTalk practitioners, physical therapists, yoga teachers, holistic practitioners, acupuncturists, chiropractors, herbalists or naturopaths. Offer trades. Form your own community of professionals. Consider partnering with someone whose style is in contrast to yours. Consider partnering on specific client cases for 1 or 2 sessions. Offer splitting a session fee with another practitioner or set up a referral system. Reciprocate when they refer clients to you.

  6. Case-study hour. Do a peer review and present your client cases with specifics where you are challenged so that you can learn from others. This can be as simple as a weekly BodyTalk buddy chat over coffee or Facetime. Very often, simply bringing contrasting observations to a tough client case brings about radical shifts in subsequent client visits.

  7. Community hour. Get together once a quarter and offer sessions in a community clinic format. Offer free 10-minute sessions to your yoga community, the senior-retired community, homebound community, daycare, natural health food stores, libraries. Partnering with other practitioners helps.

  8. Client demographics. Who is your ideal client? Who do you wish to serve or who do you attract? Are you the occasional practitioner who likes to work on house pets, do you prefer to work on just family and friends, are you a solo professional or in a community of practitioners? These are all vastly different skill sets. "It is important to know what type of person has the disease rather than knowing what type of disease the person has." Understanding the client's lifestyle, environment, beliefs and attitudes that created and locked certain disease patterns into place has served me well. We now know that this forms the basis of epigenetics.

  9. Session retrospectives. Notice what issues you tend to work on. In contrast, what do you dislike working on? Do your sessions often have a specific theme? What sections of the protocol do you go to mostly and what do you stay away from? Do your client sessions resonate with your own life experiences and perspectives? How do you limit your client interactions to hold on to your beliefs and attitudes firmly? Will you refuse to work on someone with opposing or radical viewpoints vastly different from your own? What type of clients trigger you? Is there shared common ground with them? Is there something that you may be unwilling to see about yourself that is reflected in your client's coping mechanisms. Our clients are sometimes our greatest mirrors for our own issues.

  10. Daily mindfulness practice. For some, this is exercise, running or yoga practice. Simply being and observing can help hone new observation skills and adds value to your client practice daily. This is perhaps the most important part of my practice and can be as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day or upwards of an hour a day.

  11. Business health reviews. What is the state of your business? Are you making money or do you spend more than you save? Do a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat analysis on yourself. Work on the W, O, T. Address these in your peer review groups. Your practice changes every day, month, quarter and year. Be willing to do a retrospective to align your changing practice as your life and perspectives change. Measure your outcomes, and change your strategy dynamically. A successful practice is a combination of attitude, perseverance, skill, wisdom of experience, and a disciplined approach on your part to commit to your craft as a skilled practitioner.

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