Mind-Body Medicine: Developing a more Effective Style of Practicing by Employing Psychological Skills

One of the most common mistakes we make when practicing medicine of any kind, is that we take a system that operates as a whole unit and we separate it into parts, and then proceed to treat only one part as if it’s independent of the system itself. We separate the mind from the body and approach the physical ailment in purely material terms without any awareness of what psychological and emotional effect we’re creating through our attitude and approach. Yet, just as all “behavior” comes as the product of emotions and thoughts, all biological processes and activities are also produced and influenced by the mind that serves to operate the body and give it life. Nowhere is this more readily demonstrated than in what we call the “placebo effect” which has been employed in numerous different ways and clearly demonstrates the power of the mind as beliefs has in producing distinct and specific effects in the body.

Another fundamental error we make in how we approach things tends to come from our own belief-system and paradigm in terms of healing itself, and what our true capabilities are and role is as doctors and practitioners. There’s a distinct difference between the idea of “healing” as opposed to curing, managing symptoms, medicating, repairing and fixing, and removing or replacing parts. True healing is when the body heals itself and is a function of how the mind works to naturally direct and instruct the body to perform and produce natural biological processes. In this sense, all “healing” is a form of “self-healing”, and only the patient can heal themselves. As practitioners however, we can identify and help remove whatever is acting to cause the problem, and employ psychological skills along with medical knowledge to help facilitate a process as an “experience” that will work subliminally with the mind of the patient to help engage them in the mental process necessary for healing themselves. This ability requires a different type of skill and can be “performed” through our normal demeanor and way of talking with someone. As with all things, it’s all about how we enter into relationship with others and act to directly influence them as a result.

In order to create the proper experience necessary to be effective, every aspect of the process a patient undergoes has to be taken into consideration. In this article however, I’m only going to address the actual interaction and experience with the doctor or Practitioner. You have to always keep in mind that the outcome produced in any situation comes as the result of constant impressions the patient is forming as they go along that they use as the means of drawing their conclusions as well as provides them with ideas that are “designed to convince”. A convincer is whatever provides a form of evidence as to the credibility and competency of the doctor that gives and instills the firm impression that we know what we’re doing and can be trusted to help them in whatever way they need help. People are always making constant mental and emotional evaluations as they go along in an experience, and the more congruent and consistent the overall experience is, the more faith is created in the competency of the doctors and the establishment as an organization.

The most fundamental way to work with someone psychologically is by creating the proper relationship as an emotional state that establishes trust, while planting the proper thoughts and suggestions for them to develop by continuing to think about them, which work together to form a belief about what’s going to happen and why. Our beliefs shape our perception and experience of reality, and serve to produce the physical equivalent as an analogy and correspondence of the belief. This is clearly demonstrated in various applications of a placebo of some kind where the mind produces the physical effect of whatever it believes the placebo will produce. This process and effect is greatly enhanced by explaining in detail what effect they can expect from something, which is really providing them with instructions on “what to create”.

What the placebo experiments have also shown is that they’re much more effective when the Practitioner also believes in the placebo, or believes that whatever they’re telling the patient is true and correct. This is because we’re always producing body language and subtleties in our tone of voice and how we’re saying things that the patient picks up on subconsciously and knows we’re not being truthful, lack confidence in what we’re saying, or aren’t sincere somehow. What this means is that you have to first of all realize the power of the mind to direct and heal the body, and develop a true knowledge and practical understanding of psychological principles and how they work in order to skillfully employ them as part of your style and in a convincing manner.

If you honestly feel that you’re doing something wrong in what you’re saying or how you’re being, it’ll show, and you won’t be effective in using it. Just as the placebo requires belief in order to work, so does our performance that’s acting to instill the belief in someone else. We’re always working by way of the same psychological principles in everything that we do and say, whether we’re instilling negative ideas or positive ones. The only difference is whether or not we’re conscious and aware of what we’re doing, or if we’re doing it in an unconscious and haphazard way. Whether we’re simply “giving” our beliefs to another as a form of diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, or if we’re changing our language and how we say things in order to produce the most positive mind-set possible in effectively dealing with any situation.

Employing psychological skill always comes through the relationship we form and how we communicate or express ourselves and ideas within the context of that relationship, and what outcome we’re trying to intentionally create. Communication isn’t just verbally through the words we’re speaking, but something we do with our whole presence and body. It’s something that comes by way of a performance with our “state of mind” and how we’re being, with our body language and gestures, the tone and quality of our voice, the rate and rhythm of “how” we’re saying something, and the actual words we’re using. The words we use when talking to someone tend to form the basis for the reality as internal representations they form in their mind, which acts to elicit an equivalent emotional response that forms the “meaning” the idea has, which form the basis for how they experience it. The meaning things have and the experience they create are what provide the basis as a form of instructions for the subconscious mind to create as a physical equivalent. If they belief that healing is going to take place as the result of your consultation and guidance, then there’s an excellent and greatly increased possibility that it will.

The first thing we need to decide in any situation is what our intention is, what outcome we have a desire to produce, and what the purpose of our communication is. Then we ask ourselves how do we need to “become” and “how do we need to say” whatever it is we’re going to say in order to influence and lead them to that as a natural conclusion? In the case of setting an intention of helping facilitate a natural process of healing as a belief that healing is possible and going to take place as a result of our interaction with them, then providing them with the proper thoughts, emotions, and instructions, we have to formulate a kind of plan for what would produce the necessary effect. We’re always working in any situation through a relationship of “cause and effect”, or stimulus that produces a like response in everything we think, say, and do. So what relationship do we need to form to produce a natural effect? What’s the best possible way for us to approach a situation in order to produce the most positive, appropriate, and beneficial outcome for the patient?

The basic principles that are involved in giving a person “suggestions” by how we communicate with them, that serve to plant the proper idea in their mind that they will continue to think about and develop long after our encounter, is to first create a relaxed and receptive state as an atmosphere of trust and safety, achieved through rapport as a feeling of infinity by becoming “like them” in personality and demeanor, and talk to them in a way that forms the desired ideas in their mind. By educating and instructing them on what to do and why, while constantly checking to make sure they understand what you mean, and then recap and summarize as a means of concluding, we can greatly increase compliance through a willing cooperation. Always present everything in as positive terms as possible while placing a special emphasis on “what to do” as actions for them to take, instead of only telling them what “not to do”. The subconscious mind doesn’t know how to process a “negative idea”, because it works only by forming a picture in the mind of what you’re saying, and the picture formed “is” the instructions as to what to do or what idea to produce as an experience. If you tell them not to do something, they have to picture what it is they’re not supposed to do, which serves as directive to the subconscious.

Don’t ever “diagnose” or give a condition a name or label unless you have to, because they’ll research it as soon as they leave, find out all about it and produce the symptoms involved even when they didn’t originally have them. They’ll literally manifest the disease through their belief that they have it. A diagnosis is the most prominent way we create a belief in the patient where they begin to systematically produce new symptoms because of it. There have been cases where people were “misdiagnosed” for some reason, who literally went on to produce the disease they were misdiagnosed with. There have been similar cases where patients were misdiagnosed with a terminal illness and told how long they had to live, and died on the very day they were told they would, only to find out afterwards that their diagnosis was a mistake, and they never had the disease until they were “told” they did. It was the diagnosis that “gave them” the disease as a belief in it. These cases are classic examples of the power of belief to manifest the physical conditions of the belief.

The Process for Employing Psychological Skill in Communicating:

Keep in mind that every aspect of the whole process as an “overall experience” is creating an “impression” of some kind that your patient is using as the means of evaluating and assessing the situation to draw a final conclusion as a summation that creates their belief about you, your staff, and your organization. That the outcome produced and the effectiveness of any treatment, procedure, or process is based primarily on the “relationship” formed between patient and doctor. This will not only increase your effectiveness considerably in truly helping people heal, while building your reputation as a doctor, but will also create patient loyalty and referrals. There’s no better way to grow your Practice than through long-term relationships build on successful cases and the Patient referrals that come as a result. As a professional your reputation is everything.

Self-Preparation:

  • Set your intention for a desired outcome firmly in your mind as the basis for the rest of the process which will come as a synchronized series of correspondences.
  • Realize the “state of mind” or mood you need to embody as the nature and quality of your “energy”, and intentionally form it. The number one way we influence anyone is through our “presence” and they “feel” being around us. The minute you walk into the room you create a “first impression” that’s sets the pace for the rest of the experience.
  • Develop professional etiquette that has a personalized quality to it. Demonstrate manners, be courteous and kind, and always convey a sense of sincerity and true concern, while also being professional in your demeanor and general behavior.
  • Always dress in a professional yet casual manner that conveys professionalism, intelligence, a sense of authority, well-groomed in every way, and where your patients are able to easily establish you from the rest of your staff. First impressions are nearly always formed on appearance and presence alone before you even open your mouth to speak.

Creating the Proper State as the Basis for the Experience:

  • The most direct means you have of influencing the patients “state” is through your own presence. The minute you walk into the room they’re “reading” your energy as a form of anticipation of what’s to come.
  • By helping them to relax and feel comfortable with us we create a feeling of trust and safety, which is necessary in order for them to be receptive to us. By being cordial and friendly we make a personal connection with them that sets the foundation for the rest of the interaction.

Establishing Rapport:

  • The most natural form of “trance induction” there is that we engage in routinely without being aware of it comes through establishing “rapport” with someone. Rapport is also a form of what we call “charisma”, which is a magnetic type of energy that naturally engages people and causes them to feel attracted to us.
  • Rapport is established by mirroring or “becoming like” the other person in nature. Synchronizing with them as a form of entrainment, where we take on the same type of body posture, demeanor, language, and basic personality. We don’t need to do this in an exact way, but more in a general way where we seem familiar to them and they can easily relate to us, which helps them “like us” and feel relaxed and comfortable in dealing with us. Again, familiarity breeds comfort and trust. We like and trust people who are like us.

Formulating Suggestions as Education and Instructions:

  • You want to gear all communication to “normal language” and use layman terms. Avoid using medical terminology that only you understand. Use analogies and metaphors to explain ideas, compare ideas to everyday ideas that are of a similar nature, and use visuals or models of some kind if necessary or appropriate. Patients can only participate in a cooperative manner if they understand, if they feel confused they won’t know what to do or what it means exactly, and so they won’t be able to fully cooperate.
  • Anytime that you’re having them change something, or stop doing something, discuss and establish with them what to replace it with or what to do instead. We don’t ever really break habits, but rather we transform them into new habits that produce new results that are more beneficial in nature.
  • Explain to them what the thing you want them to stop is doing to harm them, and how they’ll benefit by doing whatever it is you’re recommending with relative detail. This helps them to imagine and think about things in a way that make the change easy. As we “explain things” we are literally teaching them how to think about them in the proper way in terms of the benefits and results it’ll produce, and giving them a form of “instructions” on what to create through the belief it forms in their mind. Placebos are always much more effective when we tell people what they’ll produce. The subconscious mind doesn’t have the ability to discriminate or make decisions, so it has to be given instructions on what to do and how to do it in order to create it as a natural outcome.
  • Formulate a plan for transformation from the current state to the desired state through what the patient is willing to do and can do within their current lifestyle and situation. Always customize plans to the unique needs and preferences of the patient to reduce resistance, ensure compliance and elicit full participation.

Check for Understanding:

  • Frequently ask if they have any questions.
  • Have them recap the plan of action and what you decided together to ensure that they understand it as a step-by-step plan and remember what was said.

Summarize and Conclude:

  • Briefly explain what you “expect to see” on their next visit in terms of progress based on the agreed changes and faithful implementation of the plan you formed together. This reestablishes the results it will produce and puts it within a time-frame. Expectation is a form of belief as to what will occur and become established through the process implied.
  • If appropriate, briefly describe what the “healing process will look like” in terms of time-frames and the stages involved in healing.
  • Thank them and conclude in a friendly and personable way that’s sincere.

Follow-up Visits:

  • You want to begin any follow-up or continuing visits for the same problem by briefly going over what you had agreed to last time and ask them “how did it go?” Hear what they have to say about the progress made and if they encountered any problems and have any questions. Discuss and answer all of these before performing the new exam.

It can also be very beneficial to simply learn how to change our language regarding things. I’ve heard doctors often make comments like “there is no cure” for this problem or disease, which sets the belief in the patient that there’s no hope or nothing they can do, and of course isn’t an entirely accurate statement no matter what it’s in reference to. We could just as easily reframe that by saying “we haven’t found a cure for this yet, but we’re working on it and making new discoveries everyday”, which is not only a more accurate statement, but gives the patient a sense of hope that a cure does exist and may be discovered at any time. Hope is a very important key to ensure active and enthusiastic participation. You can also follow that up by saying, “but here’s what we do know about it that helps . . . . “, or “here are some things you can do that will help  . . . “, then explain what those things are and describe in what way they will help or what they’ll help with (pain, slow the progress, remedy a symptom, etc.).

By learning psychological principles and how to utilize them through our style of performance and communication, we can develop effective ways to work the patient’s own mind to help them heal themselves naturally. We can provide them with the means for producing necessary lifestyle changes. We can learn how to work with the “whole person” instead of fragmented parts of them. Many illnesses and diseases have healed mysteriously in a spontaneous manner, and many cancers go into spontaneous remission for no apparent reason. Most illnesses, disease, and cancers are psychosomatic in nature and have an emotional, psychological, and spiritual component to them which is actually “causal” in nature. Many physical ailments are due to lifestyle issues and habitual behaviors of some kind that are ultimately emotionally and psychologically driven. By working with the whole person instead of just the physical aspect we can help set the premise for changing habits and transforming areas of their life that are producing health problems of various sorts. We don’t need to be both a Physician and Psychologist in order to do this, we simply have to have a good understanding of the psychological principles involved and how to apply them in a practical way to our enhance our personal style for practicing medicine.

Dr. Linda Gadbois

Professional Development and Entrepreneurial Consultant

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