How to deal with an unmotivated client
Whether you’re just beginning or are an experienced professional, you’re bound to have an unmotivated client (or two). So, what can you do to overcome these obstacles? Here are 8 tips for dealing with unmotivated clients.
Have you ever had a nutrition client suddenly lose interest, stop communicating, or ignore a meal plan? You’re not alone! All nutrition professionals will encounter an unmotivated client (or two) at some point in their careers. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to deal with.
While it can be challenging to work with these clients, you need to understand why they have a lack of motivation. Only by understanding this can you can address these issues and help them overcome any obstacles. But how can you achieve this without having the client churn? Here are 8 tips for dealing with an unmotivated client.
1. Readiness to change
If a client is referred to you by other healthcare professionals, they may be resistant, unmotivated, or unsure of the need to make changes. While this can seem frustrating at first, you can utilize the “Stages of Change” theory. It can offer insight and perspective on your client’s needs and their desire for change. The stages include:
- Pre-contemplation. Clients who are in this stage don’t believe a problem exists. They feel there is no need to find a solution.
- Contemplation. In this stage, clients are aware there is a problem and are considering ways to make a change.
- Preparation. At this stage, clients are committed to correcting problems and are motivated to get started.
- Action. In this stage, clients gain confidence as they start to believe they can make a change.
- Maintenance. In this final stage, clients have grown confident in their abilities to sustain the positive lifestyle changes. They are less fearful of relapsing.
Knowing where your client falls on the scale will serve as a guide to the recommendations or tools you offer.
2. Follow the 3 R’s
You probably already have certain techniques that usually work. But it’s possible that you’ll have to take a different approach when working with an unmotivated client. As such, you can follow the 3 R’s to facilitate constructive conversations:
- Reflective listening. Repeating what the client is saying shows that you are engaged and listening.
- Rephrasing. Changing your client’s statements to include feeling words allows them to connect with their emotions.
- Reframing. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective. By seeing things from another viewpoint, your clients can see how a solution can be possible for them.
3. Let them lead
It may seem especially helpful to “sell” your sessions to an unmotivated client, but that approach may backfire. For clients who are resistant to accepting your help, be patient and let them take the lead in your sessions. You can also practice active listening and gentle encouragement. This will build their confidence and trust in you and can help them be more receptive to your guidance.
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4. Find the root cause
It can be confusing if you see a shift from motivated to unmotivated in clients. Instead of getting frustrated, try to understand what caused a shift in behavior. In some cases, there may have been a life event or stressful situation that has caused your client to lose momentum. When this happens, your support and understanding may be all that your client needs to start moving forward again.
Once again, listening is a critical component of nutrition counseling. It is important to validate their feelings and create a safe space free from judgment. When a client feels heard and understood, they are more willing to follow your advice and not churn.
Tip: here are some other ways to improve client retention.
5. Re-evaluate goals
Personal goals and needs are always evolving and changing. If your clients start to lack motivation, it could be that their goals have shifted. As such, it’s important to re-evaluate their goals to see if you need to adjust your nutritional guidance. Here are some questions to ask if you feel your clients have different goals than when they started with you:
- Is there something that is more important to you at this time?
- Is there a new health concern that needs to be addressed?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed with the current plan?
It’s perfectly normal that your client’s goals shift. In this case, be sure to stay flexible and move in a direction that will better suit their needs.
6. Hit the refresh button
Changes in motivation can also be caused by frustration. If clients are not seeing the results they expected, they may start to lose their will to continue.
Sometimes the best way to help a client rediscover their motivations to make a change is to start from the beginning. Just as you would with a new client, be sure to cover basic skills and education. This helps build confidence in themselves and sets them up for success.
7. Change directions
If you still feel like your client is unresponsive to these conversations, it may be time to change directions. Try to research new counseling techniques or behavioral change theories. Not only can this benefit your current client, but it can also sharpen your counseling skills for future clients.
8. Consult with other professionals
When in doubt, reach out! Talking with a mentor or other dietitians can be helpful when dealing with unmotivated clients. These professionals can provide useful insight on how you can support your client and guide them to success.
It can be frustrating when a nutrition client suddenly loses interest, stops communicating, or ignores a meal plan. While it can be challenging to work with these clients, you need to understand why they have a lack of motivation. Only then you can address these issues and help them overcome any obstacles.
You can help your clients overcome a lack of motivation and head down the road to success. By listening to their needs, supporting their goals, and re-examining your counseling methods, you can help them change.
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