Developing effective client relationships requires that you understand some basic principles about human interactions. Whenever a relationship is created between two parties, particularly in those relationships where one party is seeking help or advice from the other, each person assumes a role, either as the expert or as the subordinate, based on whether one is the person providing assistance or the person being assisted. This is a very important concept to understand, because the assumption of these roles has a direct impact on the behavior of each party and determines how you interact with your corrective exercise clients.
How Roles Affect Behavior in Developing Effective Client Relationships
People who assume the role of subordinates (i.e., clients) will do what an expert (corrective exercise specialist or trainer) tells them to do, generally without question. You may have noticed this when observing another professional working with a client. For example, you may have seen someone lift weights that are too heavy for them or perform exercises that are unsafe or beyond their abilities because their trainer instructed them to do so. This happens because the clients believe it is not their place to question the expert. They are only following instructions in order to avoid disappointing the expert and do not feel responsible for their own actions or the outcome. While you may wish to have your own clients follow your instructions without question, this kind of relationship means that if anything goes wrong, the clients will blame you. They will think you (as the expert) should have known better.
While you are a specialist in the area of musculoskeletal assessment and corrective exercise, immediately assuming the role of expert will reinforce clients’ perception that you (and you alone) are responsible for fixing their problems. This will hamper your ability to help your clients to learn and to gain self-confidence, because they are now relying on you to take control of every aspect of their program. In short, if clients view you as the expert with all the answers, your ability to encourage them to participate, learn, build confidence in themselves, and adhere to their programs is greatly diminished.
Develop a Teamwork Approach
To eliminate some of the problems associated with the expert-subordinate relationship encourage clients to offer problem-solving ideas for their own issues and participate in the program design process. For example:
- Begin each session by reviewing your clients corrective exercise homework so you can help them identify those behaviors they completed successfully on their own while working together to discover which elements they may need to still work on.
- When designing new homework use your clients words and feedback to write instructions for each new exercise. You can direct them about what is expected, but encourage them to find their own words that best trigger them to perform each movement correctly for homework. This will help them feel more involved in their program design process.
- Use simple, everyday language when introducing new concepts into their program. If you use overly technical terms your clients may become disinterested when you explain things, blame you when things are not working out as expected, and ultimately drop out of their program.
Strategies like the examples listed above shape client expectations and behaviors in a beneficial way by helping them to feel responsible for the success of their program. It also increases their adherence and motivation to the program ensuring that they reach their pain-reduction and movement goals.
Fitness, exercise and health professionals interesting in learning how to design effective corrective exercise programs should check out Module 5 (i.e., Corrective Exercise Program Design of The BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist certification program or by clicking on the link below.