Setting Professional Boundaries With Clients

Learn how to set professional boundaries with clients at Healthie. Find out how client boundaries benefit nutrition counseling sessions.

Nutrition counseling is personal — there are no two ways about it. When you dive deep into one of the most private aspects of someone’s life (what they eat), there will be times you receive personal questions in return. How you handle these instances is completely up to you. We suggest, however, that you think about these circumstances before they occur so you’re fully prepared.

Even more than the personal questions you receive, there’s the matter of creating boundaries to respect your time and business.

Here are a few reasons why creating boundaries in your private practice is essential:

  • Time is an important asset to business owners; there are only so many hours in a day!
  • It’s OK to have responsibilities outside of your business that are just as (if not more) important.
  • Establishing a reasonable work/life balance prevents burnout as an entrepreneur.
  • Holding true to your policies presents yourself as consistent and professional, thus earning the respect of your clients.
  • Setting expectations and boundaries can save you time and energy down the road, avoiding the potential for any problematic situations.

Now that you know why you establishing boundaries is important, how do you go about doing so?

Follow these tips to set boundaries with your wellness clients:

1 . Set Expectations Upfront

Setting expectations early on in your relationship with your clients helps establish reasonable boundaries and ensures your success. We know you want to be there for your clients, but having policies in place is common practice and expected by your clients. We suggest notifying your clients of your policies from day 1.

It is considered best practice to include your office policies in your intake paperwork. With Healthie, you can automatically send policy forms to your clients as part of your “intake flow.”

We also suggest setting expectations upfront for your use of technology in practice, such as Healthie’s client-friendly mobile app. Food logging and messaging makes it’s easier than ever to stay connected to your clients. This boosts their accountability and success, but it’s important to let your clients know how often you check-in with their logs or messages. Again, state your policy early.

2. Create a Cancellation Policy

Last minute cancellations are frustrating, time-consuming, and costly. Establishing a cancellation policy protects your business from these obstacles.

We understand that enforcing a cancellation policy may be uncomfortable, however, a part of setting boundaries in your practice is respecting your time. Many like-minded professionals have well-established cancellation policies too. Fitness classes, physicians, dentists, therapists, and more are all known to enforce their cancellation policies.

Having a cancellation policy in place demonstrates to clients that your time is valuable. In fact, having a cancellation policy may actually prevent you from ever having to use it!

Of course, exceptions and extenuating circumstances occur. However, if a client repeatedly cancels and disrespects your time, charging them, in accordance to your policy, will demonstrate that you take your time seriously and they should too!

To be able to enforce your cancellation policy, we suggest having a credit card on file for all clients, even if you accept insurance. In Healthie, you can securely file your client’s credit card information and charge them for a late cancellation, per your policy.

3. Start and End Counseling Sessions On Time

Consistent with respecting your time, it’s important to set boundaries with your clients by starting and ending counseling sessions on time.

First of all, no one likes to be kept waiting! If you allow 1 appointment to roll over, unless you have a large buffer window in between appointments, it will likely throw off your schedule for the remainder of your day.

Additionally, respecting the scheduled time of your appointments lets your clients see that you are organized, professional, and prompt. These are valuable qualities in a healthcare provider.

Here are some tips to run your counseling sessions on schedule:

  • Keep small talk to a minimum to maximize your session for your client’s advantage.
  • Be confident in redirecting your conversation, if needed. You may want to role play with a colleague, family member, or friend if you think this is something you struggle with.
  • Towards the end of your session, remind your client that the session is coming to a close soon.
  • Have clear goals of what you want to accomplish at each appointment.
  • Be flexible. There are always exceptions to the rule that you cannot always control.
  • Know that it is acceptable to say, “we will cover that next session,” if a question requires a particularly long response or further probing.

4. Stick to the Availability That You Set

We often hear nutrition professionals say they’re tired of working early mornings, evenings, and weekends. We completely understand your frustration! It’s acceptable to set your weekly availability and honor it. People make time for doctor’s appointments around their work or child care schedule. Likewise, your clients should value your work together to do the same.

However, we understand that this can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. Many providers to grow their clientele while still working at another job full-time or part-time. This often means the only time you have to see clients in the evenings or weekends. As your practice expands, and you have more time to work the 9 to 5 hours, feel empowered to stick to the availability that you set.

If you’d like to accommodate clients who really cannot meet during your typical office hours, you can dedicate 1 or 2 early mornings or late nights each week to see clients. This way, you can respect your personal time outside of the office, while still accommodating your clientele.

Another great way you can expand your reach within normal business hours is by including telehealth services. If you don’t want to run a completely virtual practice, you may consider adopting video conferencing as a convenient way to schedule follow up appointments within office hours. Usually, people can squeeze in a 30 minute call during their lunch hour.

Sometimes all it takes is giving yourself permission to establish boundaries in your private practice. If you have any questions about office policies and best practices, we’d love to hear from you! Comment below to share how you create boundaries in your private practice.

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