How to create boundaries with nutrition clients
Due to the personal nature of nutrition counseling, it’s important to create boundaries with your clients so you can have a healthy working relationship with them. Here are some ways that you can set intentional boundaries with your clients.
As a nutrition professional, it’s important to create boundaries with your clients so you can maintain a healthy working relationship. Putting limits up also helps build trust with your clients and increases your comfort level while working with them.
However, if you’re not careful, the lines can become blurred and you may find yourself in a sticky situation. So, how can you create boundaries while still providing quality nutrition care to your clients?
Before discussing how to set boundaries, let’s examine their importance and where you should draw the line.
Importance of boundaries with nutrition clients
Boundaries are invisible limits that help your client understand what is normal behavior within your working relationship. This includes behavior both inside and outside of your nutrition sessions.
Boundaries start at the first encounter with your client and continue throughout the entire time you work with them. By setting limits, you will help protect against an inappropriate relationship that could be damaging to your professional career, while creating a safe space for your clients to turn to.
Tip: setting boundaries builds respect and trust, which means that your clients are more likely to refer you to other people. So, don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials to help boost your credibility.
Tips for how to create boundaries with nutrition clients
If you’re looking to create boundaries and have a healthy relationship with your clients, there’s no better time to start than now. Here are some steps to take so you can set intentional boundaries with your nutrition clients.
Think about past experiences
Think back to any situations where you may have felt uncomfortable and try to determine if there is any pattern. This could be clients contacting you on weekends or nights expecting answers, or a client asking you personal and unprecedented questions about yourself. Take time to think this over and make notes about where you want to draw the line when it comes to a dietitian-client relationship.
Set your priorities
Create clear and intentional priorities on the things that you are and are not willing to do with or for clients. For instance, if your priority is to have a better work-life balance, then you could set a precedence for no work-related calls or texts after 6 PM. While this may take some time to figure out, you should try and be thorough to determine where you want to draw the line.
Be firm but direct
When meeting with your clients, be sure to clearly lay out your boundaries so the expectations are set. For instance, if you’re meeting with a new client, you should inform them that you do not respond after 6 PM, but you will be available at any time during working hours. With existing clients, this could be simply informing them that you are no longer available after work hours, apologize for the inconvenience, and let them know you will respond during work hours for any questions they may have.
Of course, this will vary depending on your specific boundaries, but being direct will yield the best results and help with cultivating a healthy relationship with clients.
Don’t take anything personally
If some of your clients are upset or respond poorly to your boundaries, don’t take it too personally. While you can’t control their response (nor how they feel about the situation), you can control how you communicate your boundaries to them. To create the least amount of tension, try to be respectful when explaining these boundaries with your clients.
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What are some boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed?
While every boundary is individualistic, there are a few common boundaries that should never be crossed.
- Socializing with clients outside of work. This is a common boundary that gets blurred when a client feels too comfortable and you may feel guilty trying to shut them down. Whether you’re invited to meet them for a social coffee date or dinner with their family, this can begin to confuse both parties about the working relationship you have.
- Letting clients walk over you. If your client is upset or over-controlling, you may have a hard time not letting them walk all over you. Try your best to take control of the situation and let it be known that you’re in charge while still listening to their concerns and addressing any issues.
- Engaging in a personal relationship. While nutrition counseling is personal, the lines become more blurred if there is a physical attraction between you and the client. If this is the case, it’s highly advised to switch them to a different provider or limit your interaction with them.
- Making inappropriate comments. Unfortunately, clients may make inappropriate comments or use foul language to express themselves. While this can be challenging to deal with, it’s not appropriate, so you should effectively communicate that without offending or angering them.
Due to the personal nature of nutrition counseling, it’s important to create boundaries with your clients so you can have a healthy working relationship with them. However, if you’re not careful, the lines can become blurred and you may find yourself in a sticky situation.
By setting boundaries, you will be able to avoid any inappropriate behavior and lay the groundwork for a healthy dietitian-client relationship.
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