We were at the end of our first session together. Sarah [not her real name] had poured her heart out to me: a story of years of infertility, several miscarriages, and then finally twin daughters! Her guilt over feeling so tired and wanting to take care of herself, and worry that she was being selfish and ungrateful now that she finally had the children she’d spent so many years longing for. The bone-deep fatigue, a gut that couldn’t seem to handle any food no matter how healthy it was, the impatient husband, the stubborn weight.
“I barely recognize myself when I look in the mirror,” she said. “And I am ashamed to say that I hate what I see. I feel ungrateful and guilty that I’m even talking about these things with you.”
Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Sarah,” I said. “Let’s pretend for just a few moments that we dive in and do this work together. That money is not an issue and you have all the support you need – emotionally and logistically – so that you can prioritize your health and self-care. Let’s say we’ve done amazing work together, and project ourselves six months out. You’re looking back on this time together, and you feel like a whole new woman. What would outstanding success look like for you?”
She took a deep breath, gathered herself, and said, “Well, I’d have my life back! I’d be able to eat a beautiful salad without crippling pain in my stomach and having to lie down from it. I’d have healthy, regular poops every day. I’d fall asleep ‘happy tired’ at night, sleep deeply, and wake up feeling amazing. I’d feel good in my body – I could move easily, play with my kids, have energy left over to do a workout or go for a run. I wouldn’t be in pain any longer or afraid to move for fear of hurting myself…”
The tears came back, really flowing now. She kept going.
“I’d feel strong. I’d feel vital again. I’d feel attractive. I’d feel like myself… the person I’ve forgotten how to be.”
I love this moment: the moment where a client who has lost faith, who has lost hope in ever feeling good again, starts to see a glimmer of hope and is so moved by the enormity of possibility, their emotions overflow.
I smiled at Sarah, and read her back the list. “Let me make sure I’ve got this down properly. This work has been an outstanding success and you have your life back. You’re able to eat beautiful salads and have a happy, pain free gut afterwards. You’re having easy poops every day…”
I went through the whole list, point by point, stating it as if it was a done deal. Because in my mind, it is.
“This is all possible for you, Sarah. And if it feels too far out of reach for you right now to believe me, I’m going to hold this vision for both of us. I’ve already got some very good ideas on how we can get you to this place, and I want you to know that every single recommendation I make from here on out is to help you achieve these goals.”
One of the biggest and strongest things we can provide our clients isn’t just great dietary strategies or supplement protocols. It’s not just about how well we interpret labs or utilize our clinical toolkit. Yes, those things are critically important, but just as vital is our ability to believe that healing can happen. To hold the vision of what’s possible for our clients, to be the beacon of light in a dark and scary world where they fear they’ve run out of options.
When clients come to us, many of them – especially those who have been sick for years – feel desperate and hopeless. One of the biggest gifts we can give them is the possibility of healing. I often say that what I’m really selling isn’t nutritional counseling, it’s hope. As Lewis B. Smedes says, “Hope is to our spirits, what oxygen is to our lungs.”
Helping a client find a renewed hope also connects them to that big picture of WHY they are doing this work to begin with – an essential ingredient of success with this work. Yes, we’re resolving physical symptoms, but our clients want those symptoms resolved so that they can live their lives to the fullest.
Here are three ways you can help your client regain hope:
- At the end of your initial session, help them paint a picture of what healing looks like. Help them get as granular and graphic with the details as possible. You’re helping them to see, feel, and taste what true health looks like!
- Restate your client’s goals to them as though they’ve been realized. You’re both confirming that you heard them correctly and powerfully planting the seed of hope as you speak aloud this future vision as though it has already happened.
- Reinforce your commitment to helping them achieve these goals by clearly stating how every single recommendation you make will be to move them closer to realizing this vision of their health.
We’re not giving false hope or promising more than we can deliver. This is about energetically aligning ourselves with the client’s outcome rather than getting caught up in their current struggle. When we can see a clear path to their true health and wellbeing, when we hold a vision of them as healthy, vibrant, and living life to its fullest, we create a faster pathway to bring that vision into reality.