By James Governale
Say it with me: C O N T E M P L A T I O N. Doesn't have as much flare as A-C-T-I-O-N - action! Does it now? You may have noticed, it's very common for practitioners in the health and wellness industry to focus messaging toward taking action. But what if I were to remind you that action is just one of several stages according to popular behavior change theory.
Before any action is taken, there comes other stages. One of those stages revolves around contemplation. In a nutshell, this is the period in which the client is predominately engaging in a thought-process regarding whatever goal they are considering. If you've read my other article about goal-setting, then those within a contemplation stage could benefit from some explicit process-oriented goals. It would appear that they are "being" rather than "doing." This part of the process is just as valid, and the service you could provide here could be vital to a client's future success.
If you sense that you have a client that spends a lot of time in a contemplation stage, there are certainly tactics that you can take to help them move through it. Guiding them through it - not pushing them out of it! (ha, pushing is an action now, isn't it!) This is the delicate nature of the contemplation stage. It's an opportunity for you to get inside the mind of the client. There will be a lot of questions and answers, a lot of talking through definition of terms as the clients sees it - not necessary how you or society may define things. As the health practitioner, at this stage you play a role as an investigator, allowing the client to articulate his thoughts to your careful prodding.
The client has an awareness of what concerns exist and you will aid in fleshing them out. You will be there to support and motivate the client as he comes to the understanding that his behavior will need to change to meet the desired results of his choosing. You can be a sounding board for the client to make comparisons with previous health concerns that were handled successfully. Providing patience and validation for the client to feel secure in moving toward the next steps.
There is much bubbling under the surface during the contemplation stage! The client is allowing himself to entertain thoughts about the realm of possibility that can arise from putting focus on this health concern. He ponders how this could fit into his lifestyle relative to his other priorities. He gains encouragement to embrace an additional facet that will improve his quality of life. This can be an exciting place for you to share your wisdom as a health practitioner!
Hopefully this gives you something to contemplate! Do your services call for you to work with clients who are contemplative? Or are they more suited toward working with those who are already taking action? The choice is yours! Just remember, there is a large segment of the population who needs assistance working through the contemplative stage toward their health goals. You could be just what they're looking for!