Three Ways to Support Your Patient’s Autonomy While Sharing Information

By Mia Croyle, MA

During the behavior change process, a skillful practitioner does not rely solely on his or her authority, expertise and knowledge to provide the motivation for a patient to make changes. Rather, the practitioner holds back on theirown expertise, using it strategically and not before the patient is ready to receive it.

Here are some tips on how you, the practitioner, can tell when a patient is ready to receive information that you have to share and how to make sure the patient stays engaged and empowered while you share it.

  1. The person asks for the information – if the patient asks you for information, that is usually a clear and obvious sign that he/she is interested in hearing what you know. Be sure to provide the information in small, digestible bites and check in with the patient for his/her understanding and reactions to the information.
  2. You ask permission to share the information – permission asking allows us the check in with the patient in a transparent way and shows that you respect their autonomy. You’ll rarely get a “No,” but be prepared to respect it if you hear it.
    Can I share some information with you?
    Is it okay with you if I tell you what we know?
  3. You reinforce the patient’s autonomy in regards to how to respond to the information
    This may or may not work for you….
    What you decide to do with this information is up to you…

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