Monday, March 18, 2013

4 tips for addressing health concerns with friends and family

TALK IT OUT: Tips for addressing health concerns with
friends and family
It can be difficult to speak with a friend or family member who is facing an issue that impacts their physical or emotional health, so when approaching them about it, it’s important to have an open conversation, not a confrontation. One of our new Health Programs faculty members and health professional, Kate Watson, often speaks about how to effectively communicate when dealing with difficult situations.

She has found that people often don’t like to be told what to do. So if you’re concerned about someone in your life who is struggling with a health issue -- such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol heavily, or eating poorly -- a confrontation might only build up more resistance from them.

What should you do instead? Try listening for what they need, rather than telling them what you think. For instance:
  1. Avoid judging the person who is facing the issue. We all have behaviors that we would like to change, and we all struggle with improving our health.
  2. Instead, listen to that person, and give them the support they need.
  3. Avoid harshly confronting the person—it could make them defensive.
  4. Instead, approach the situation gently. Open the conversation up and let them tell you how to move forward.
  5. Avoid losing your patience. Behavior change takes time and people might not move as quickly as you’d like.
  6. Instead, act as a support system. Encourage them when they need it, give them a shoulder to lean on, and be understanding.
  7. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. Sometimes people just want to be heard, and your advice, while well-intentioned, might turn them off from the conversation.
  8. Instead, ask for permission before giving advice. If the person agrees, then feel free to proceed.
Kate recently discussed this advice with medical students at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, focusing on effective communication strategies for addressing health concerns with patients. Her lecture was recorded for a DVD to be completed this spring.

We’re proud that Kate is now a member of our team. She has a strong background in healthcare that began in mental health services, where she worked as a clinician in substance abuse, domestic violence, and general counseling. Kate has seen patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including crisis stabilization units and community mental healthcare.

She received her degree in Psychology from Towson University, and earned her graduate degree in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University in New York. Kate is currently completing her doctorate in Health Policy and Social Justice at Drexel’s School of Public Health. In addition to her time at Peirce, Kate works as a therapist in the emergency department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on a consulting basis, and she owns her own wellness consulting company.

Welcome to the Peirce family, Kate! Thanks for sharing these tips, and we look forward to hearing more from you in classes and here on the blog in the coming months.