Raise the Bar: Manage and Motivate Your Health and Wellness Clients

June 16, 2016


The outcome of health and wellness treatments depends on the client’s expectations and the work they’re willing to do. Imagine you see a particular client every three weeks for a deep tissue massage. They start off every visit complaining how they’re still sore, sheepishly admitting they haven’t done the exercises you’ve prescribed.

This is a familiar story for many health professionals: clients come expecting a dramatic transformation in the early days of your relationship, but aren’t willing to do their homework. While this may reflect our quick-fix culture, it isn’t how you envision growing your client base or making a real difference in people’s lives. Ultimately, the situation can be disheartening for both you and your client.

Finding ways to manage your client expectations and to motivate them to play an active role in their treatment will lead to positive results. It’s a win-win relationship. They will benefit from your services and tell their friends and family about the effective work you do, building your reputation. Here are the top strategies to manage expectations and ensure your clients’ success:

1. Establish Yourself as an Expert in Health and Wellness

Although the client may have sought out your services, they may still need reassurance that you’re the right person. Putting credentials and testimonials on display in your workspace will help establish credibility. Adding autobiographical information to your website will also build trust with prospective clients (especially those who find you through search).

Health and wellness can be intimidating for many people, so include your headshot and a personal mission statement that encapsulates your passion. A sentence or two can make an impact and resonate with people. Another tip is to post a short video on your site as a personable introduction to you and your services. These little extras add up to reinforce your brand as an expert in your field and to make you accessible.

When you greet your client for the first time, take a moment to introduce yourself and to talk about your background. Inspiring them to “sign up” for the work ahead by speaking passionately—but realistically—about your work. You want to build trust, develop a personable rapport and get clients to buy into the treatment plan.

Related: How Online Reviews Can Help Grow Your Small Business

2. Set Goals and Point to These Goals at the Beginning of Every Session

Setting realistic expectations from the outset is crucial. It should be no surprise that the best health and wellness therapists are excellent communicators: they ask the right questions, diagnose an underlying problem or condition, outline a solution in words that can be easily understood, and inspire patients to follow through.

First, set goals that both you and your client agree on. Look at each goal and make sure it’s clear, realistic and achievable. Make the goal specific enough that you will both agree when it has been achieved. Do they want to lose 50 pounds in three months, for example, and keep the weight off for good? Be a voice of reason: make sure you’re honest, but always kind, when you nail down these goals. Remember that setting a client up for failure by marking an unrealistic goal will hurt you both in the long-term.

Keep in mind that some clients have a difficult time articulating what they want to achieve or symptoms they may be experiencing. Your intuition and listening skills are important when identifying the important information they’re trying to tell you. To make sure all is clear, a good rule of thumb is to repeat what you have heard and ask them to confirm the accuracy of key points, which will ultimately impact expectations.

Once the client’s goals are established, they should be a regular touchstone. Expect them to evolve as you progress and make sure to keep them current.

3. Create a Treatment Plan

While you likely have a standard model or method for treatment as a base, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. If you involve your client in the treatment plan, they not only buy into it, but take ownership of the strategy, goals and timelines. Remember, clients are looking to you as the expert, but they also want to feel heard. This kind of buy-in will help motivate them to follow your directions for work at home.

If you have a custom plan for a client that outlines the program details and costs involved, this will go a long way to help clarify expectations and hopefully eliminate a difficult conversation later on.

4. Consider Offering Additional Services to Help Clients Achieve Their Goals

Some practitioners use social media to provide support, tools and tips to help clients feel more engaged between visits. This type of contact can motivate clients to stay on track with their treatment plan.

If you’re a dietitian who is helping a client improve their diet, for example, can they reach out to you if they’re following a recipe and unsure about one of the ingredients? Or perhaps you’re a personal trainer and you want to share a motivational morning quote.

Is there an additional service that would complement your business? Some personal trainers are also certified in nutrition counselling, so they can offer clients with specific fitness goals some counselling on how to improve their health with better nutrition.

Depending on your services, you might orient your clients to your website or blog for further guidance and tips. Also, provide a hardcopy handout at some visits to give them something to refer to for guidance and motivation. You want to make the homework as easy to follow and manage for them as you can, so they’ll be more likely to do the work.

Social media and custom apps can be great strategies for building a rapport with clients, marketing your expertise and growing your business.

5. Build a Relationship for the Long-term

Unhealthy habits, whether it’s portion control or sitting at a computer all day, are difficult to change. And it’s even more difficult to make change on your own. Statistics suggest that 95 percent of diets fail. Research shows that having a workout partner (or trainer) heightens the success rate of maintaining an exercise routine and seeing results. As the expert, you can offer the personal support that clients need (whether they realize it or not).

When you offer your client advice, direction and input, you become a valuable partner in their health and well-being. You provide them with the objective opinion they’re looking for. This style of open dialogue helps to establish the respect necessary to better manage their expectations. In addition, ask for feedback. It can help make you be better at your job, and empower the client by letting them know you value their opinion and are invested in their success.

People like working with people they not only respect, but also personally like. That holds true for the health and wellness therapies people pursue. When you’re paying for a service and confiding your personal health details and concerns, you want to feel comfortable. You want to trust them and enjoy your time with them. This is especially important if you’re asking them to push beyond their limits, like rigorous exercise or eliminating sugar from their diet.

By developing a personal relationship, you’re building an overall stronger working relationship with your client. They’ll be more inclined to take ownership of their health and do the necessary work. Another positive spinoff is they won’t want to work with someone else, so you’re building loyalty and long-term relationship. They’ll also likely tell others about your health and wellness services, and word of mouth builds your client base.

So get to know the client’s family situation, their interests and, most importantly, what motivates them. When you understand what makes them tick, you can better manage their expectations.

Related: 11 Ways to Attract New Clients


about the author

Freelance Contributor Karen Hawthorne worked for six years as a digital editor for the National Post, contributing articles on business, food, culture and travel for affiliated newspapers across Canada. She now writes from her home office in Toronto as a freelancer, and takes breaks to bounce with her son on the backyard trampoline. Connect with her on LinkedIn.